HP releases a Virtual Machine Management Pack

Quoting from official announcement:

The ProLiant Essentials Virtual Machine Management Pack (VMM) provides central management and control of virtual machines from Microsoft and VMware. Integrated with HP Systems Insight Manager, VMM provides unified management of virtual machines and supporting HP ProLiant host server resources. This integrated approach provides the ability to manage both physical and virtual resources from a single management console.

VMM simplifies day-to-day management and operation of virtual machines by providing host to VM association and remote access to VM control functions (including start, stop, suspend and reset). VMM also provides at a glance view of VM and host server resource consumption. Using VMM, IT administrators can easily identify VMs or host servers reaching high CPU, memory or disk utilization levels. VMM provides the ability to easily move VMs between host server resources to balance the workload across host servers and better optimize use of datacenter resources. In the future, VMM will also provide the foundation for automating Physical to Virtual (P2V) migrations.

Ideal for:

– ProLiant server customers adopting Microsoft Virtual Server 2005
VMM complements Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 with a robust VM management solution designed for multi-VM management

– VMware customers that want a unified view of ProLiant server and Virtual Machine resources
Integration with HP SIM leverages existing management structure to now control your virtual machines the same as your physical servers

– Companies planning server consolidation projects
After purchasing the companion product (available early 2005), the Server Migration Pack can perform physical to virtual machine (P2V) migrations with drag and drop simplicity

Release: VMware VirtualCenter 1.2 SDK

And with VirtualCenter 1.2 here comes its refreshed SDK, available at VMware download page.
Here the news:

– Support for GSX Server 3.1 hosts. in addition to ESX Server 2.0.1, 2.1.x and 2.5 hosts.
– New operations: SnapshotVM, ConsolidateVM, and RevertVM (supports snapshots on GSX Server 3.1 and redo logs on ESX Server 2.5 hosts) and QueryPerfData2 (obtains additional performance statistics from hosts and virtual machines).
– The CloneVM operation now supports schema-based customization.
– Creation of custom event collectors.
– Support for raw disk mappings for ESX Server hosts.
– Additional Java, Perl, C#, and Visual Basic samples.

Release: VMware VirtualCenter 1.2 released!

Also VMware management product is released as well and available at VMware download page.
Here the news:

– Support for GSX Server, including centralized management, secure access control, rapid provisioning, and virtual machine interoperability between managed GSX Server and ESX Server hosts.
– A programmatic Web service interface to allow users and third party software products to leverage the capabilities provided by VirtualCenter.
– Scalability and performance enhancements to the VirtualCenter server.
– Enhanced remote browsing capabilities for connecting an ISO file to a virtual CD-ROM.
– Single-port management operations for better integration with firewalls.
– Usability improvements such as restructuring the Tasks and Events interfaces and removing the long UUID tags from filenames.
– Additional database support for Oracle 9i.

VMware Workstation 5.0 beta1 review

Quoting from Flexbeta:


It is always a nice an sunny day when it is time to test and write about beta software; especially when this application includes so many wonderful new features you can’t stop yapping about. VMWare has been a leader in the virtual machine world and they are about to increase the gap between them and the competition with Workstation 5.0. Being a long time user of VMWare Workstation, it is always a pleasure to experience such a great application get better. This new Workstation, though still in beta, has come with a bag of new goodies every user is sure to love.

Though there isn’t much difference in the user interface of VMWare Workstation 5.0 Beta when compared to Workstation 4.2, however, the new Beta includes a number of new features. One of the features which I found extremely useful is the ability to take more than one screenshot of your guest operating system. Now it is possible to have multiple saved screenshots of before and after a certain legacy software is installed. There is also experimental support for isochronous USB devices; so you can use a webcam or record multi-track audio in a guest operating system. Workstation 5 supports streaming audio and video from USB input devices.

New Features

Workstation 5 has further support for 64Bit host hardware. AMD64 Opteron, Athlon 64 and Intel IA-32e CPU (including “Nocona”) have found enhanced support in version 5. Workstation 5 also supports new 64-bit host operating systems, including SuSE 9.1, Windows XP (64-bit edition), and Windows Server 2003 (64-bit edition).

Workstation 5 also includes the ability to clone a virtual machine. You are given the ability to fully clone a virtual machine, in which it is a fully independent virtual machine with its own virtual disk; or you can also have a linked clone. Linked clones are new virtual machines that share virtual disks with the original virtual machine, saving space.

A few new operating systems have found support under Workstation 5, including Solaris 9 and 10, Longhorn, and new Linux distributions running the 2.6 kernel. Also, support has been added to Workstation 5 beta for Java Desktop Systems.

Under Linux, Workstation 5 now installs Linux Tools under X and also features support for wireless networking.

A new feature which is sure to have Microsoft themselves impressed is the ability of Workstation 5 beta to convert a virtual machine created in Microsoft Virtual PC for use with VMWare Workstation. The new V2V assistant guides the user through the entire process. To test the new V2V assistant, I setup a virtual machine in Virtual PC and later converted the virtual machine to use with VMWare Workstation 5 Beta.

The V2V assistant guides the user through the entire process; a heads up notice to users who wish to convert their VirtualPC virtual machines using the V2V assistant, make sure that the virtual machine is not paused within VirtualPC, or the conversion will not work. You are given the option to either make a copy of the entire virtual machine which will be later converted to use with Workstation, or to link the existing virtual machine. Though the linking process takes less time than the copying process, using the linked virtual machine with Workstation automatically invalidates it with VirtualPC; which means that you won’t be able to use the linked virtual machine with both. I chose to link the virtual machine first in order to see how effective it can be. The conversion took less than 1 minute, after the V2V assistant was done, I ran the newly linked virtual machine on Workstation 5 Beta. The Windows XP logo successfully loaded, however, I was presented with the infamous Blue-Screen Of Death (BSOD). The cause of this error is most likely associated with the sudden change of hardware that Workstation emulates; since we originally installed Windows XP using VirtualPC using its own emulated hardware. Using the copy feature only lasted 4 minutes; which really comes in handy if you want to preserve the virtual machine to run it on VirtualPC.


It isn’t exactly fair to compare the performance of an application in beta phase and expect improvements over previous versions. Workstation 5 Beta did not match up well against its previous version, Workstation 4.5.2. Running a few benchmarks using PassMark PerformanceTest v5.0, we see no improvements in performance as of yet in this beta release. In fact, Workstation 5.0 Beta performed rather slowly when compared to its predecessor (or soon to be). Again, Workstation 5 is still in beta phase and has tons of tweaks and performance enhancements to go before its final release. Below are the benchmarks which were performed on both Workstations 4.5.2 and Workstation 5.0 Beta. The host machine’s specs are as follows:

Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz HT
Abit IC7-G Motherboard
Two 512MB Corsair RAM
Seagate 160GB Sata Drive
ATI Radeon 9550 256MB

Performances are here.

It is clear how the beta version lags in many of the test.

More New Features & Conclusion

Probably the best of the newest features available in Workstation 5.0 is the ability to capture movies. Similar to capturing a screenshot of the virtual machine, this new beta gives the user the opportunity to record a movie. The movie is captured as an AVI file and the user if given the option on the movie quality. Using the medium setting, I was able to record 28 seconds of video which made the movie nearly 3MB in size. Capturing another movie of about the same size in the highest quality increased the size of the movie file to about 9MB; however, the quality of the video is highly noticeable capturing more frames per second than the medium setting. I can think of multiple uses for this new feature, including How-To videos on slip-streaming your Windows Service Packs into Windows CD; or just to show off a new release of a Beta operating system, such as Windows Longhorn.

Another nice feature built into this release is the ability to start, stop and suspend groups of virtual machines as if they were one object. This new feature, dubbed Teams in Workstation 5.0, is very easy to setup and maintain and serves handy when a cluster of virtual machines are needed to manage.

Workstation 5.0 Beta also allows the user to capture and save more than a single snapshot. A snapshot manager was added to Workstation 5.0 Beta in which the user is presented with a chronological view of each saved snapshot. Capturing a snapshot in this Beta version did prove a bit time consuming. Workstation 5.0 Beta seemed to freeze and pause for a few seconds before starting again.

Workstation 5.0 Beta is definitely an application you would want to keep your eye on when it is finalized and ready for main stream use. VMWare has bundled many new features which is sure to capture the attention of the competition. Thought there are still a few performance enhancements scheduled before the final release, the features which are visible now are extraordinary. The movie capture alone would give me the only inceptive needed to upgrade.

Release: VMware ESX Server 2.5 released!

Finally long-awaited flagship product is set for download on VMware official site.
Here what’s new:

Boot From SAN
ESX Server can now run on diskless servers by booting off of a disk on the SAN. This greatly enhances support for common blade and rack mount configurations.

Improved support for raw LUNs as virtual disks using Raw Device Mappings (RDMs) in Physical and Virtual compatibility modes.
ESX Server version 2.5 includes new features for using RDMs:

– Allows raw disks to be managed as easily as virtual disk files
– VMotion can now be used to migrate virtual machines using raw LUNs
– Improves VirtualCenter support of clustered virtual machines
– Physical compatibility RDMs enable SAN replication software to run inside of virtual machines
– Virtual compatibility RDMs enable backup offloading solutions so that ESX Servers can be backed up faster without any load placed on the virtual machines or the on Service Console
– Allows REDO logs to be added to raw disks
– Enhanced support for scripted installations
– Allows third-party systems management products to remotely install and configure ESX systems.

Improved Support for Clustered Virtual Machines
MSCS clustering of virtual machines using shared disk access is now more reliable.

Additional Support for Disaster-Recovery Backups or Virtual Disks
Virtual disk snapshot scripts added to the Service Console to enable crash consistent backups of entire virtual machines.

Revised Compatibility Guides
This release includes updated compatibility guides listing the new hardware supported by ESX Server 2.5

Support for Additional Guest Operating Systems
ESX Server version 2.5 now supports these operating systems in virtual machines.

FreeBSD 4.9 (Uniprocessor mode only)
SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 9
Windows 2003 Small Business Server

Improved SSH Security
ESX Server version 2.5 now uses SSH Protocol Version 2 as the default secure login client.

Intel confirms virtualization and security technologies in 2006

Quoting from X-bit Labs:

Intel Corp.’s president Paul Otellini recently confirmed the company’s plans to bring the security and virtualization capabilities of platforms code-named LaGrande and Vanderpool in 2006, in-line with previous expectations. Both capabilities are likely to advance computers by a significant margin, as both ignite new usage models.

Lyndon, Bridge Creek, Averill – New Platforms from Intel

Adding of security and virtualization capabilities will be performed in the course of Intel’s forthcoming platform enhancements. In 2005 Intel plans to advance personal computing – now called digital home and office – platforms with dual-core Smithfield processors with 2MB cache, Enhanced Intel Speed Step (EIST), EM64T and iAMT features. A year later – in 2006 – Intel’s follow-up platforms will get Vanderpool, LaGrande technologies, next-generation iAMT and next-generation dual-core processor produced using 65nm process technology. Currently Intel refers its ‘05 digital home and office platform as Lyndon, while ‘06 platforms are called Bridge Creek and Averill.

Intel usually does not indicate any core-clocks, frequencies or performance levels of its future products. Besides, Intel also did not confirm whether it plans to sell packages of its desktop components under single brand, like it does with notebook hardware branded Intel Centrino.

Vanderpool and LaGrande – Corner Stones of Next-Generation Computing

Intel has been discussing its plans to enable extended security features code-named LaGrande for years now. Previously it was anticipated that the technique was to be implemented into the currently shipping 90nm processors, such as Intel Pentium 4 “Prescott”, however, Intel officially did not confirm this during the launch of the chip.

Beside security capabilities, the Santa Clara, California-based Intel has also been planning to enable advanced parallelism for personal computers in order to increase reliability and add new usage models for end-users. Vanderpool is a hardware tech that splits system into several virtual parts that work independently and use the same resources of the PC. Servers’ central processing units and platforms are also likely to get a virtualization tech: Intel calls it Silvervale, but does not reveal any differences compared to Vanderpool.

Besides innovative Vanderpool and LaGrande technologies, Intel will also add certain features that are likely to be required by numerous professional systems – iAMT, a remote system management capability, and EM64T, 64-bit capability that enables more than 4GB of memory and boosts performance in certain applications.

Microsoft Longhorn – The Catalyst of the Next Computing Era

While all the technologies that are currently discussed are supported by hardware, the potential of revamped capabilities is only likely to be exposed when using Microsoft’s forthcoming Longhorn operating system.

Particularly Vanderpool and LaGrande, just like competing technologies from Advanced Micro Devices, Intel Corp.’s main rival, code-named Presidio and Silvervale, will require support by operating system and are unlikely to be fully functional when running on current generation of OSes.

Microsoft Longhorn is currently anticipated to blend the whole system’s feature-set, as not only processors and chipsets should support advantages like virtualization, but also graphics cards, hard disk drives, I/O controllers and other hardware is likely to require support for certain functionality to take advantage of the Longhorn.

Currently Microsoft Longhorn is expected for release during 2006 – 2007 timeframe.

Few details about VMware ESX Server 3.0 emerge

VMware is expected since a week for its ESX Server 2.5 release, meanwhile few details about ESX Server 3.0 start to emerge on VMware Community posts.

– Release date expected for 2005 (unclear if Q1 or end of year) [ I personally would opt for “end of year” idea ]
– iSCSI support
– Obsolete Red Hat 7.2 could be abandoned

Programming Virtual Server 2005 with Visual Studio.NET

Quoting from .NET Developer’s Journal:

Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 (VS2005), a new addition to the Microsoft Server family, emulates physical hardware to create multiple independently operating environments or virtual machines (VMs).

This article reviews portions of a C# application leveraging the VS2005 API. We will get you started with VS2005 here. The complete application code demonstrates one of the more interesting aspects of VMs: differencing hard drives. These drive disks allow you to toggle a VM from one configuration to a different configuration and back. This capability is especially useful for software testing and verification, where hardware resources are limited.

VS2005 is amazingly powerful but also adds a new level of complexity to server management. The VS2005 background and code provided in this article are just the tip of the iceberg to get you started. Take some time to work with virtualization. You’ll quickly see how easily virtualization can benefit your organization.

Virtual Server Background
A full introduction to VS2005 could fill a book. The objective of this article is not to overwhelm you with details, but to show you how to write a simple interface program to VS2005 that does useful work. Before diving into code, some brief background on virtualization is necessary.

Virtualization enables a single physical server, or host, to be partitioned into many independently operating virtual servers. As depicted in Figure 1, the VS2005 software emulates the disk, network, keyboard/video/ mouse, processor, and memory needed to create a server. Each server is totally isolated from the others with no visibility into other VMs running on the same host. The virtualization software governs resource usage to ensure that one VM does not consume all of the host’s CPU capacity.

It is important to distinguish between hosts and VMs for VS2005 compatibility. The host that runs the virtualization software must be running Windows Server 2003 (Windows XP works but is not “supported”). The VMs run a broad range of operating systems, including most flavors of Linux, DOS, Novell, Windows NT, and recent Windows releases but Microsoft will only support Windows. Microsoft, in fact, intends for VMs to become the primary supported platform for Windows NT.

What Makes Virtualization Compelling?
Virtualization is compelling because of the increased efficiency and control it brings to the physical server data center. Our company, Surgient, Inc., is an on-demand enterprise software company whose applications automate software sales, marketing, training, and testing processes. Surgient has been using virtualization platforms since 2001 as early beta testers of first-generation virtual server products. During that time, we have deployed over a thousand hosts and uncountable VMs. If you’ve experienced the Microsoft Visual Studio.NET hands-on trial, then you’ve used the Surgient demo management product and you’ve also used a VM! The VMs powering that site have served over 100,000 demos of VS.NET.

From the beginning, we recognized that VMs were fundamentally different and much more flexible than physical servers. The host’s APIs enable programmatic control to manage the virtual servers. The price of this flexibility is additional planning and management of data center operations.

On a virtualization host, servers compete for limited amounts of memory (RAM), processor (CPU), and storage (disk). VS2005 VMs, like physical servers, need sufficient RAM to operate. They block out their full memory footprint on the host. You can, however, release a VM’s memory by turning off the VM, which enables you to maintain more VM configurations than you can concurrently run.

These idle virtual images voraciously consume large amounts of disk. This means that a typical host may not have enough space to store many idle 4-10 GB virtual image files. VS2005 partially solves this problem by allowing VMs to chain image files into differencing layers that share a common base image.

The VS2005 differencing layer technology is called differencing disks (undo drives are a variant of differencing disks). This technology enables you to create a base image of the operating system and then install applications into a difference disk layer. A single base image can then be used by several VMs that each have a unique differencing disk.

Virtualization Example
Our sample scenario is a code development and testing environment for a three-tier application. The host server is a dual-processor server with 2GB of RAM and 120GB of RAID 5 disk. The proposed demo application must support both SQL Server and Oracle, each of which requires at least 1GB of RAM for testing. How can we use VS2005 to test the application in all its permutations using only the host server?

Memory is the obvious contention point. Of the available 2GB on the host, one quarter is reserved as overhead for the host operating system and VS2005, leaving just 1.5GB for the three application tiers. Since the databases each require 1GB, the entire application will just barely run on the host. To test both database platforms, we will have to keep one turned off while we are testing the other. Toggling the servers will keep our RAM use within the limits of the host.

Storage is a less obvious but equally serious challenge. Assuming 100GB available of the 120GB total should give ample room to store VM disk files. If we assume 10GB per VM, then we could store 10 VMs. Ten quickly drops to five if we plan to keep one archive copy of each VM.

Differencing disks provide the solution to both these issues. Our database server requires a 4GB Windows 2003 base image and two distinct differencing disks (SQL at 4GB and Oracle at 6GB). Without differencing, the two servers would consume 18GB of disk. Sharing the base image uses just 14, saving 4GB of disk. It is not necessary to archive the shared base because it does not change. We do, however, want to archive each differencing disk. The total storage is 24 GB, down from 36 GB without the use of differencing disks (see Figure 2).

Toggling the VM power states and working with shared base images addresses the resource limitations of the host.

Programming Virtualization Control
To use our testing environment, we must create a small .NET application that toggles between server configurations by changing both the VM’s power state and its differencing disk configuration.

The C# sample application will provide the following features:

Create a VM with appropriate components, including differencing and undo drives
Manage the VM’s power (Start and Stop)
Change the disk configuration of an existing machine
Simple user interface
This article focuses on key VS2005 interfacing points in the application. The entire program is available online at here.
Before the program can run, it needs a reference for the VS2005 API. VS2005 provides a COM interface and requires a .NET Interop to use it. Visual Studio creates the Interop automatically when we add Microsoft Virtual Server from the COM Components tab from the Tools…Add/Remove Toolbox Items menu. This process will add the using Microsoft.VirtualServer.Interop reference to the code.

In addition to referencing the COM Interop, VS2005 requires COM security to enforce access control. Our sample application includes a dedicated class, COMServices, to provide this critical initialization. Your VS2005 application must include this or similar code. A call to COMServices. Initialize() is all that is needed before we can start using the VS2005 API.

The VS2005 API has two primary categories of functions. The first category controls the virtualization platform on the host, while the second controls states and attributes of individual VMs. The interface to the host is created by instantiating a new VMVirtualServerClass object. Once this object exists, it is possible to create VMVirtualMachine objects by either creating new VMs using CreateVirtualMachineVM or getting a reference to an existing VM using FindVirtualMachine.

The example application calls the host object “vs” for Virtual Server. Here is the code to attach to the host API:

VMVirtualServerClass vs = new VMVirtualServerClass();

Creating a Virtual Machine
The first step in creating a VM is deciding where to store the multigigabyte virtual disk files that store the data of the VM’s hard drives. The VS2005 default is to bury the files deep in the Documents and Settings directory tree, which can cause serious issues on systems with multiple partitions as the largest files default to the operating system’s partition. Change the default path for VMs from the VS2005 Web interface in the Virtual Server…Server Properties section. The VMs are stored in directories under the default virtual machine configuration folder. In this example, the host will store VMs on the second partition (d:) in the “vms” subdirectory.

Creating a VM is a multistep process. The basic CreateVirtualMachine method only creates a VM stub. The VM’s RAM, disk, and network must be configured before it is usable. However, you cannot just attach disk and network to a VM; you must “install” virtual devices before you can attach media to them. Specifically, you must add a network adapter to your VM before you can attach it to the network and you must specify which IDE or SCSI ports you are using when you attach drives.

The first step is to create the VM stub. The application calls the VM object vm. Here is the code requesting the host object to create a VM:

VMVirtualMachine vm = vs.CreateVirtualMachine(“vm01″,”d:\vms\vm01”);

With the VM stub, it is possible to configure the VM’s properties. Memory is the easiest to configure:

vm.Memory = 256;

Attaching a hard drive requires an existing virtual hard disk (VHD) file. You can use an existing one or create one dynamically. VHD files are configured to a maximum possible size and expand dynamically as data is added. The maximum size is specified in megabytes, so the code sample uses a 1K multiplication to improve readability. Here is how the host object is told to create a VHD file:

vs.CreateDynamicVirtualHardDisk(“d:\vms\vm01.vhd”, 16 * 1024)

Instead of creating a new disk (shown above), you can add a differencing disk to an existing hard disk. A differencing disk inherits the maximum size from its parent and also stores the parent’s location in its header. You must supply both a unique disk name and the parent disk when you create a difference disk:


Once the disk file exists, it can be attached to the VM by selecting a bus (IDE or SCSI) and the bus address. If the disk is a differencing disk, only the difference disk file is provided for connection. The parent disk is not programmatically connected because the difference disk already has the reference location for its parent disk. In this example, VS2005 will connect the drive at address IDE 0:0:

vm.AddHardDiskConnection(“d:\vms\vm01.vhd”, VMDriveBusType.vmDriveBusType_IDE, 0, 0);

Undoable mode is an important VS2005 feature because it allows you to maintain a working session for your server. When using undoable drives, you can maintain, commit, or discard the working session. There is minimal performance impact for this feature, and it eliminates the time wasted recovering or rebuilding server environments. Undoable mode is an attribute of the VM and applies to all drives:

vm.undoable = true;

Connecting the new network adapter to the correct host network is more challenging. The result is that the attached adapters are available as a NetworkAdapters array on the VM object. To create the network adapter for the VM:


When installed, VS2005 automatically creates a virtual network for each physical host network interface card (NIC) and an extra “internal” network that can be shared between VMs but is not externally connected. Virtual networks may be created or added from the Web interface in the Virtual Networks section. The host object offers an array of VirtualNetworks. Connect a VM to a network by providing a reference to the desired host network with AttachToVirtualNework method for an adapter:


Managing VM Power
VS2005 allows absolute control over a VM’s power, including a saved state that releases a VM’s memory and CPU resources. Suspend is useful because the VM immediately resumes work when restarted, avoiding an operating system reboot.

Basic power management uses the VM’s Startup and TurnOff methods. These are not advised for most cases. TurnOff is dangerous because it does not gracefully shutdown, and Startup does not wait for the start before returning control.

To provide a graceful shutdown, the “Virtual Machine Additions” must be installed on the VM’s GuestOS – Microsoft’s name for the operating system running on the VM. VS2005 prompts you for the Additions in the Web interface. Once the additions are installed, you first check the CanShutdown property from the VM’s GuestOS attribute:

If (vm.GuestOS.CanShutown vm.GuestOS.Shutdown();

Waiting for start or shutdown completion requires asynchronous calls to the VS2005 interface. Many VS2005 methods return a VMTask object that can be used to monitor task completion:

VMTask vt = vs.GuestOS.Shutdown();
if (vt !=null) vt.WaitForCompletion(-1);

Going Forward
Programming helps you unlock and automate some of the most powerful features of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. This article covered key points to consider about using and programming Virtual Server. The complete sample application provides additional context and more features, including switching a VM’s differencing disk as discussed in the example scenario. We believe that virtualization technology can radically improve the way you use server capacity and hope this article takes you a step closer to that realization.