January 15

Happy New Integration Guide: VMware Horizon, App Volues and UEM/DEM

Happy New Year! 

Happy New Integration Guide!

Late last year I spent time showing how Droplet Computing can run in the context of VMware Horizon Virtual Desktop as well as VMware Horizon Application Pools. I went on to show how you can leverage VMwareApp Volumes to deploy our software to a virtualized environment and use VMware  User/Dynamic Environment Management. It was nice to refresh my knowledge of VMware EUC offering as its been some time since I wrote my book about VMware VIew (that was back in version 4/5!). I was suitably impressed by the Instant Clones option which is a marked improvement on Linked Clones of old….

You can read our integration guide here:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/VMware-Horizon-Integration-Guide.pdf

 

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December 10

Bizzy Little Bee…

I’ve been a bizzy little bee of late, in fact, everyone has at Droplet Computing – and I’ve been neglectful in reflecting that here on my personal blog. So this blog is a really a big summary of what’s been going down at Chez Droplet.

As you probably guess I’ve been bizzy on the documentation front – writing a number of integration guides that explain how we work in harmony with common strategic application delivery technologies. So we have integration guides on:

Amazon WorkSpaces

Amazon AppStream

Citrix Virtual Applications and Desktops

Other integration guides are due – today I submitted by guide to VMware Horizon View, VMware App Volumes and VMware User Environment Manager (aka Dynamic Environment Manager) for “peer review” before being thoroughly proof-read (thanks Janine!). A sneak preview of that was recently released in this blogpost wot I wrote:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/2019/11/18/integrating-droplet-computing-containers-with-vmware-app-volumes-uem-and-jmp/

On the cards in the New Year there will be guides on Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop, FSLogix, and Liquidware’s FlexApp and Profile Unity and I think my CTO will probably write up his experiences of integrating with iGEL sometime soon.

My CTO, Peter has been busy refreshing all our admin guides to be OS-specific – rather than one admin guide to rule them all – as this was getting a tad unwieldy. These Droplet Computing Application getting started admin guides can all be found here:

https://www.dropletcomputing.com/product-guides-documentation/ along with their respective videos authored by yours truly – https://www.dropletcomputing.com/videos/

And Finally… to round off an eventful 5 months since I joined Droplet Computing as their Chief Technologist… we have a new release which we have imaginatively called 1.2 – packed with a whole host of lovely enterprise features:

Droplet Computing launches DCA v1.2 with new features designed for the enterprise

So that’s about it from me for now. All that remains is to wish you all a very merry xmas and peaceful new year…. 🙂

 

 

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November 12

Delivering Droplet Computing containers with Citrix Virtual Apps (formerly XenApp)

It’s been a long, long while since I looked at anything Citrix based. It feels really odd saying that because, before VMware came along, I was a Citrix Certified Instructor (CCI) and a Citrix Certified Enterprise Admin (CCEA). I first got into Citrix on the tail end of NT4 Terminal Services Edition (available from Q4 1999 to the end of 2003) and MetaFrame 1.8 (1998 to 2001 when it because MetaFrame XP) and stuck with it until around the Presentation Server 4.5 days (launched in 2007). At the time I wanted to keep both Citrix and VMware on my resume, but once agencies and other sources of my freelance work knew I was VMware certified, it seemed like no one wanted to punt me out for Citrix-based courses. The market kind of dictated my career direction to some extent. So, it was nice to hit citrix.com this week and download the binaries to check out what they now call “Citrix Virtual Apps and Virtual Desktops”, or the products formally known as “XenApp and XenDesktop”.

Read On….

 

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November 1

Droplet Computing Videos

Some handy video links!

Installing Droplet Computing to Windows 10:

Installing Droplet Computing to Apple Mac:

Installing Droplet Computing to Ubuntu Linux:

Installing Droplet Computing to Redhat Enterprise8 Desktop:

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October 11

Droplet Computing containers on Amazon AppStream

Amazon WorkSpaces was a doddle to get up and running as I am very familiar with VDI and workspace concepts. I’d not touched AppStream before, so I needed a bit of primer. I found this video by Thorr Giddings to be excellent. To the point and, for someone with quite a bit of experience, I was able to pause the video at the various steps and get the process down. The best 8 mins of my time this week!

In case you don’t know, Amazon AppStream is a fully managed application streaming service. You centrally manage your desktop applications on AppStream and securely deliver them to any computer. You can easily scale to any number of users across the globe without acquiring, provisioning, and operating hardware or infrastructure. AppStream is built on AWS, so you benefit from a data center and network architecture designed for the most security-sensitive organizations. Each user has a fluid and responsive experience with your applications, including GPU-intensive 3D design and engineering ones, because your applications run on virtual machines (VMs) optimized for specific use cases and each streaming session automatically adjusts to network conditions.

Read on…

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October 2

Droplet Computing containers on Amazon WorkSpaces

This week I spent time working with Amazon WorkSpaces. In case you don’t know, Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed, secure cloud desktop service. You can use Amazon WorkSpaces to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in just a few minutes and quickly scale to provide thousands of desktops to workers across the globe. You can pay either monthly or hourly, just for the WorkSpaces you launch, which helps you save money when compared to traditional desktops and on-premises VDI solutions. Amazon WorkSpaces helps you eliminate the complexity in managing hardware inventory, OS versions and patches, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which helps simplify your desktop delivery strategy. With Amazon WorkSpaces, your users get a fast, responsive desktop of their choice that they can access anywhere, anytime, from any supported device.

Read on…

 

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September 17

Droplet Computing Inception

Well, it’s just gone past a month since I joined Droplet Computing, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy, as well as you would expect when you start with a new company. As you might suspect, I’ve been quite “internally focused” (which sounds like some sort of medical examination!). But I’ve been trying to hold true to my goal of making Friday my geek-out day where I just get some technical playtime. I’ve been considering renaming Geek-Out Day as Michelle’s Mad Half Hour. You never know, it might catch on.

Read On…. 

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August 14

Ubuntu and Screen Resolutions

I recently had a need to install Ubuntu to a physical box (I know what a concept!) and I connect it remotely using VNC Viewer from RealVNC. One thing I noticed was how poor the screen resolution was on my 27″ wide-screen. I assumed I’d just need to crank up the resolution relative to my screens capabilities. The trouble was that there were only 3 resolution modes available.

1024×768 (4:3)

800×600 (4:3)

848×480 (16:9)

I must admit my first thought was perhaps this was an issue with my graphic controller not being discovered. Actually, it turns out that Ubuntu doesn’t ship with many resolution modes.

To add additional resolution modes open a terminal………

1.) Type the command to retrieve the display mode:

xrandr

This should give us an output like so:

Screen 0: minimum 320 x 200, current 1024 x 768, maximum 4096 x 4096
VGA-1 connected primary 1024×768+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 0mm x 0mm
1024×768 60.00*
800×600 60.32 56.25
848×480 60.00
640×480 59.94

Make a note of the video type in this case VGA-1.

2.) Next, we need to retrieve the configuration settings for creating a new resolution mode for example 1920×1080:

cvt 1920 1080

This should give us an output like so:

# 1920×1080 59.96 Hz (CVT 2.07M9) hsync: 67.16 kHz; pclk: 173.00 MHz
Modeline “1920x1080_60.00” 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync

3.) Next, we can use xrandr to define the parameters of a new display mode, copying and pasting the parameters retrieved from the cvt command:

sudo xrandr –newmode “1920x1080_60.00” 173.00 1920 2048 2248 2576 1080 1083 1088 1120 -hsync +vsync

4.)  Finally, we can use xrandr to add and activate the newly created mode:

sudo xrandr –addmode VGA-1 “1920x1080_60.00”

 

RESULT! 

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August 9

Rockpools of ShadowXP

Well, I’ve just completed my first full week here at Droplet Computing – and I’m loving every moment.

There are so many things I could blog about right now, but I’m opting to do a blog post a week – mainly so I don’t fire everything off in a hailstorm only to dry up months later. But also because I’m drinking from the firehose (more Silicon Valley-speak) at the moment. Blogging isn’t really what I’m here for, and there’s other “real” work that must take a priority. I have a very healthy to-do list that needs focusing on – I’ve got a security guide to write for a government based deal, and partner enablement collateral to update and improve, as well as QA testing.

But anyway, I thought I would start off with discussing a pretty critical use-case that I’m already seeing out there with customers – and what my colleagues are seeing in terms of engagements with partners and their customers.

The blogpost titles need a bit of explanation.

The metaphor of the “rockpool” came from a customer who we need to buy a beer sometime (many beers!). I think it’s a wonderful metaphor for what is beginning to become a concrete fact. Many organizations have had programs to decommission Windows XP from their estate, but the rapidly retreating tide of Windows XP has left behind significant rockpools of Windows XP. Often Senior Management has little or no visibility of this fact. That isn’t down to not knowing their environments, but more to do with how impossible it is to keep a handle on the vast expanse of technologies at use in various parts of a sprawling organization. There’s also a kind of reluctance to admit to Senior Management that these rockpools of Windows XP exist. Ironically, these rockpools form a small percentage of the environment, but in a company of 25K, 50K, 75K or 100K that small percentage actually represents a significant thorn in the paw of IT strategy to get off legacy Windows, and onto Windows10.

This is also something our technology partners are seeing as well. Those partners have major projects to roll out new EUC projects that are based around the more “workspace” approach. Those of us who have been in the space for a while will know that the “one-portal-to-rule-them-all” concept is not new… But old ideas that once gained little traction in the past can come along a decade later and be successful. Bottom-line is there are often few really new innovative ideas in our industry, just concepts that have been knocking around for some time, whose time has now come. Of course, many of these new projects are geared up to automate logins and fulfilments for cloud-native applications, and the kind of apps found present in a Windows10 environment. Trouble is, that does not help any accounts department still using macros in Microsoft Excel 2010. It’s in this way that Droplet Computing complements (never ever, competes!) the Workspace model, which is really the future of EUC delivery for the conceivable future. IMHO.

So far, so legacy. The other big opportunity I’m seeing is on the horizon. Hopefully, not too distant – and that’s getting Droplet Computing on ChromeOS. I saw a news article recently how the education sector has been moving away significantly from Windows to adopt Chomebooks and Pixelbooks. There’s some (but not much) evidence of that happening in the public sector as authorities try to squeeze the very last from budgets that are already under pressure. The bottom line here is people who must upgrade (because of Windows XP and also Windows7), but don’t have the budget to do so will creatively find other solutions. Necessity is the Mother of virtue after all. Again, the problem here is getting legacy applications on to those devices, without having to resort to constructing a big VDI solution (load-balancers, DMZ navigation, storage, image build optimization etc., etc.) to run a couple of poxy but important legacy apps. I’ll blog more about Google’s Project Crostini in future, once I’ve got my hands dirty.

That leads me to “Shadow XP”. To be fair this is my feeble attempt at clickbait marketerism (did it work?!?  ). We have all heard over the years about Shadow IT. The situation where developers and middle-managers whip out their credit card to dial-up resources from the public cloud. The reasons for that are well documented elsewhere, but the result is the same. It creates a kind of stealthy IT infrastructure that is not detectable on the Senior Management radar. Put simply, you don’t know, what you don’t know. And what you can’t see, doesn’t exist until it comes along and bites you on the bum. In the world of Shadow IT, this is usually a financial ceiling being triggered. In the world of Shadow XP that is an unexpected security breach caused by an operating system you believed had been expunged from your organization years ago. I accept that you, my friend, have absolutely not one drop of Shadow XP remaining in your environment, and like the Trojan’s you have nothing to fear about the wooden horse that appeared within the walls of your fortress this morning.

Dismiss Shadow XP as FUD and “Fake IT News” if you like, but it’s better to be safe than to be sorry after the fact…

 

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May 16

Droplet Computing: The Drip, Drip Effect

The last couple of weekends I’ve spent playing with Droplet Computing application containers solution. As ever getting “stick time” with any technology inevitably leads to thoughts about future functionality. I think the tricky thing for any new company is how far they want to carve out new features of their own, and run the risk of re-inventing a wheel that’s already been invented and in use already.

The dilemma though, is if you don’t spell out a management vision for a technology that’s essentially a platform, do you run the risk of looking like you’re lacking “vision”? The danger is you just want to be yet another vendor, with yet another ‘single pane of glass’ to be added alongside all the other ‘multiple pains of glass’ that customers have to toggle between. I guess the short part of that long-winded statement – what’s the best approach? To integrate or innovate?

I guess some Smart Alec would say the ideal thing would be to do both. Listen to customers and their needs and requirements and come up with solutions and functionality that addresses those needs. The only downside of this customer approach is customers can have a tendency to demand things, because they think they “should” be there. Only for the ISV to find out that this was tick-box exercise, and you have squandered precious development time for no reasonable benefit. It used to infuriate me when I suggested areas for improvement to VMware, only to be asked to explain and justify my thinking. Couldn’t they just see it was obvious! Of course, the reason I was asked to make my use case every time was to avoid the very situation I’ve just described. So featurism – the desire to add more features and options without a good use-case – is a crime I know I have been guilty of in the past. It’s crime I’m likely to continue to commit until I retire.

So, that gets me to the explanation of the title of this blogpost. Drip. Drip. It strikes me that the best kind of improvements to a new technology take little coding effort and improves functionality for all customers. A rapid series of quick updates is far easier to pivot, than massive undertakings that might take months to complete.

I think there’s another distinction to make with this type of approach. Do those drip-drip enhancements improve the users experience, or the administrator’s life and the deployment experience? For that reason, I’m going to separate them because at the end of the day no end-user ever patted on my back for well-administered systems.

User Experience:

Printing:

At the moment the only print support inside the container is for the native print driver that needs to be installed and configured by the administrator. Of course, customers may already have a license for some kind of universal print solution such as UniPrint. I think it would be great if Droplet Computing had some type of redistribution deal with a company like UniPrint. Ideally, this feature would retrieve the print configuration from the device OS, and then bubble those up into the container OS. This means the print configuration is ultimately managed by existing policies, profiles and/or scripts used to prepare the users environment to the device OS.

Unity-like Functionality:

If you’ve ever used something like VMware Fusion, you’ll have come across so-called “unity” style experience. This unity experience would essentially “hide” the Container environment as much as possible. Leaving just the application floating on the screen, and perhaps also creating shortcuts to Droplet Computing Apps contained inside the Droplet Computing Container. The end-user doesn’t need to interact with the “tiles” view in the main application.

But instead gains access to their application from an icon on their desktop. That said I’ve always been irritated about desktop icon clutter, where the entire desktop is covered with icons. Some kind of “Droplet Computing Apps” folder on the desktop that contains all the icons would be neat.

Content Redirection:

This is a Citrix feature that’s been around for sometimes. There are two types of “redirection”; one that takes from the device OS into the Container OS, and another that takes you out of the Container OS back to the Device OS. The former is 9 times out 10 the most common.

It’s very common for a user to find a document in a folder and want to open it with a double-click. Historically, in Windows that process been controlled with MIME file associations held in the registry. It can be tricky to get right. After all, generally file extensions tend to have no version information in them. For instance, the .PDF extension doesn’t help me decide if that application should run locally or within the Container OS. Nor does it help me in a situation where 9 times of 10, it should open locally, but in particular application scenarios it should open in the Container OS.

However, it is possible to create program logic that says for all Excel 2010 spreadsheets requiring Macros, to open in Excel 2010 in the Container OS, and for all spreadsheets created in Office 2016 open them Excel 2016. It would be possible to redirect these double clicks for the entire legacy XLS, XLM and XLT files to the Container OS. And to redirect all XLSX, XLSM, XLTX, and XLW to be redirected to a newer version of Excel running in the Device OS.

This kind of redirection also requires a method of passing the location of the file to the Container OS which I can used to retrieve the file. It’s one thing to call an .EXE using file extensions, and then another to then retrieve the data. It will generally require a communication channel and a file sharing protocol between the Device OS and Container OS.  And then there’s the tricky issue of authenticating the users access to the file – would that use the Device OS credentials passed-through to the Container OS, or would it use the credentials of the Container OS?

The other type of redirection flows in the opposite direction. This is typically where a link to some multi-media format is found in a web page or embedded as a link inside an application running in the container. In most cases that YouTube link, MP3 or MP4 video would be best played by locally installed application within the domain of Device OS. I see this as being less of an issue because the action happens less frequently as a double-click to open a file – because it’s easier to create and encode a simple “multi-media” rule to redirect all such links back to the Device OS.

Administrator Experience:

Multi-Container Support:

Currently the Container OS being used is Windows XP, and I understand a Windows 7 Container OS build is on its way. Although I think the numbers of users needing both Container OS’s at the same time would be quite small, it would be nice if there was an easy way for administrators to give access two more than one container at time – and for users to have an easy way to toggle between them. This isn’t a biggie as I suspect the number of people doing this will limited, and the best practise will be to keep these images to a minimum. Right now, it’s up to the user to browse between various image files. A task that’s probably beyond the abilities of the average user.

Tile Management – Clipboard and Browsing for .EXE:

Right now, the administrator has to type in paths to the EXE’s held within the Container OS. I would like to see the ability to browse these paths, rather needing to type them. Together with that I’d like to see the ability to copy an existing “tile” and modifying to reduce this sort browsing function to a minimum. It’s perhaps not a huge issue – it maybe that many customers of Droplet Computing are using the Container OS to deliver a single strategic legacy application rather than multiple applications after all.

Ideally, I’d like to see some sort of programable or scriptable method of setting up this environment, even if it something as crude as copying down an .ini file. I’ve no idea of where the tile data that makes up granted applications is stored, but I understand it’s not held within the Droplet Computing Image. So, it must be held somewhere probably in an ASCII file of some description. I assume the tile configuration is held in the user’s profile – so if they roam around the organization they find their Droplet Computing Container configuration follows them.

Web-Browser Support:

Currently, the Windows XP version of the Container OS contains no web-browser. I think that’s intentional to reduce the attack surface that legacy browsers bring, as well as keeping the Droplet Computing Image slim. That does present challenges – such as downloading software into the Container OS. I was forced to do that with an external NAS device that wasn’t too painful, but it does mean sourcing every piece of software from the Device OS and leaving it on shared locations.

It makes things like setting up the Container OS for Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive trickier. A lot of the download pages for these sites just inspect the OS with the web-browser to detect the extension required.

[Note: It’s perhaps worth noting that some of these extensions no longer work with Windows XP. For instance, Dropbox no longer supports Window XP for their download that extends the Windows Explorer environment.]

In the end I installed the K-Meleon (http://kmeleonbrowser.org/) web-browser into the Container OS that then allowed me to get some of my online software providers and extensions.

Conclusions:

This is my third and final post on Droplet Computing, but I’m sure I will be back for more in future. It’s worth remembering that users care less about HOW they get their applications, more than they just get them. So, whether its local or remote VDI, Server-based computing in the form of Citrix or Microsoft RDS or a Droplet Computing Container – they really aren’t that bothered by the delivery mechanisms. I know WE are, but they aren’t. And this is a reality that is often forgotten.

Ease of use is critical, and any delivery mechanisms that “gets in the way” of the user being productive is a distraction by any other name. Any feature or absence of a feature that results in a help desk ticket needs to be addressed. And, ideally, the delivery mechanisms must offer improved performance, ease of use and value for money to be able to unseat the incumbents. The ideal should be all three – but if a company can deliver two of these in a solution they will get traction in the marketplace.

It’s interesting how application delivery in the form of Containers has come full-circle. The much-loathed PC is a resilient little computing platform, one that has endured and survived huge changes in the last 40-odd years. Dismiss it at your peril. For me it’s testament to the economies of scale that the PC has honed over the years. Despite the rise of tablets and phones, these devices have excelled at delivering simple single-use applications.

But when it comes to the more productive knowledge work, it’s still the Office Suite of applications they spend hours in front of writing reports, presentations and maintaining the dreaded spreadsheet. Alongside these business-critical end-user applications, is a whole raft of applications that customers want to carry on using well beyond the vendors perception of end-of-life. It’s for these reasons I think the “Container” approach as delivered by Droplet Computing has legs. I can see customers adopting not just a method of delivering legacy applications to any type of device (Windows, Mac, Linux) but also as an application delivery method for new applications too.

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