Sunday, February 2, 2014

Get a look at the Nutanix PRISM GUI

I will try to create a better post later, but figured I would share the news while I'm at the airport waiting on my ride to Nutanix SKO.

I have created a VERY simple, but somewhat functional, slightly interactive look at the Nutanix Prism GUI (the Nutanix Web Console). You can use it from pretty much any device, including mobile phones and tablets. Click or tap on the various items in the GUI to navigate around the different screen captures. The screenshots are all static, of course, but at least you get to see the different screens and features. 

It is still in its infant stage as I threw it together in a few hours last Sunday night. I plan on finishing up the screens I didn't have time for, but feel free to use it as it comes together. I am "releasing" it early as there seems to be a LOT of interest in something like this. 

I really created it to easily show potential customers what the Web Console looks like and highlight some of the features and ease of use that it brings. Along with showing how VM centric and granular the  system is. 

Keep in mind there will be a lot of changes to the interactivity of the pages, so if something isn't working today, check back later or reach out to me on Twitter @VirtuallyGeeky. Also, I will be changing the hosting structure, so stay tuned.

You may also want to try the high contrast Chrome extension to really make the GUI stand out.

Friday, October 26, 2012

5.1 and 5.1... finally a match

As you may have known, View 5.1 was not fully supported on vSphere 5.1 at launch. That is no longer the case with the release of an ESXi 5.1 patch. So go ahead and run that View 5.1 on vSphere 5.1... you'll now get full VMware support. ;-)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Virtualized 3D Gaming on VMware View Realized!!

Virtual Shared Hardware Accelerated 3D Gaming

This year at VMworld 2012 we ran a 3D gaming lab in the Green Room for the Hands-On Labs. It was to show off VMware's new vSGA (Virtual Shared Graphics Acceleration) technology in a fun way. vSGA has been introduced in vSphere 5.1 and will be available through View with our next major release due out in the first half of 2013.

VMworld in San Francisco was our first attempt at 3D gaming before vSphere 5.1 became generally available and we were using an Alpha build of View. We (myself, Todd Dayton and Tommy Walker) put the whole environment together in the week leading up to VMworld using loaner hardware donated by SuperMicro, along with internals for those hosts donated by Randy Keener and Nick Geisler, endpoints donated by Dell/Wyse, and Nvidia Quadro 6000 GPUs donated by Aaron Blasius. Aaron Blasius' and Warren Ponder's teams were invaluable in getting us the bits and new fixes along the way to improve performance.

Possibly the hardest part of setting up the "gaming" lab was finding games that would actually *run* on ESXi. Many games would simply dump us back to the desktop with no error (this was particularly true for any racing games we tried). We assume this is because those games are either looking for a supported GPU directly or are trying to use a specific feature on a specific GPU. vSGA supports DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.1 (?), so it is also possible that some games are trying to use features that we don't support at this time.

For VMworld 2012 San Francisco we settled on two games that had decent performance in the short time we had to try and get things running. Those two games were Minecraft and Borderlands. We ran 6 sessions of each game for a total of 12 desktops across two hosts with a single Nvidia Quadro 6000 in each host. We found, at that time, that we couldn't get adequate performance at resolutions over 800x600, but a late VMtools build got our frame rate up to an average of ~25 fps at 800x600 resolution. We were happy at this point because it was a vast improvement over previous performance.

Here is a very short clip showing the VMworld 2012 San Francisco stations.

After the show was over and we started shutting down stations we found that the Minecraft sessions were crushing the Nvidia Quadro 6000 GPU. We found one session alone could use as much as 76% of the GPU at times. This meant that we were most likely bumping into GPU performance limitations that impacted frames-per-second (FPS) on the Minecraft sessions. The Borderlands sessions used far less GPU resources with a single session generally not pulling more than 35% of a GPU as a max. Still, this shows that the application being used has a wide varying impact on GPU utilization and needs to be tested in any given use case.

Fast Forward to VMworld 2012: Barcelona

Fast forward a month and we were in Barcelona trying to setup the same environment with different host hardware. In the meantime the engineers had been given our feedback and had been looking into what else might be causing performance bottlenecks.

Simon Long was able to get Counter-Strike:Source running in a VM on ESXi and brought this along on an external drive that we added to the environment. At first we seemed to be bumping into some of the same limitations and were only successful at running this game at 800x600 at a fairly consistent 30FPS… but we were noticing a consistent drop in FPS every few seconds that would only last about 1 second. Warren Ponder happened to drop by and got this information to Lawrence Spracklen who was able to turn around and provide us with a change to an advanced setting that removed this bottleneck. That was when we decided to start trying higher resolutions and is the result of what you see in the video at the top of this post. Counter-Strike:Source running at 1920x1080 at an average of 30FPS using View and PCoIP being delivered to Dell/Wyse P25s.

Leaps and Bounds From Where We Started

Here is a clip of our initial test after enabling the setting that cured our performance issues.

Finally, here is a short clip of the process starting with connecting to View through the P25 to actually playing Counter-Strike:Source.

This effort, while short in time, involved so many different individuals that I haven't even called out (sorry to anyone who's name I missed). It's funny how gaming piques everyone's interest. ;-) Still, it was wonderful to have the help of so many different people and get so much feedback. I truly believe this 3D gaming effort has helped springboard the shared virtual 3D effort within VMware and will ultimately benefit our customers in their critical business use cases. Now that people have seen what is possible they are starting to approach me with real-world use case questions from their customers. That is probably what is the most exciting thing that has come from this.

Thanks to Dino Cicciarelli for taking the lead to fund this "science project"! The outcome far outweighs the means to make it happen.  

**** NEWS FLASH ****  

Here is a new post from Lawrence Spracklen that notes just one setting that will help with View video performance. Because this setting is native to Microsoft Windows I don't believe it is something we will control through View or GPOs.

**** UPDATE****

Forgot to add the juicy techno details that made this happen. I can't release too much around unreleased software unfortunately, but here you go:

  • ESXi Host Information (all loaner gear)
    • San Francisco
      • Two (2) SuperMicro - Dual socket 6-Core Xeon's @ 2.0GHz
      • 128GB of RAM per host (though the VMs didn't need more than 2GB each)
      • A single Nvidia Quadro 6000 GPU w/6GB of VRAM in each host (but the motherboard had four (4) PCIe x16 slots in it... not sure if the PSU could have handled four actively cooled GPUs though)
    • Barcelona
      • Two (2) Dell T620s - Single 6-Core Xeon E5-2640 @ 2.5GHz (motherboard was dual socket, but it only had one CPU installed)
      • 32GB of RAM per host
      • A single Nvidia Quadro 6000 GPU w/6GB of VRAM in each host (the motherboard had four (4) PCIe x16 slots in it, although only 2 slots per CPU socket. The PSU did not have PCIe power cables, so we had to get creative to make things work for the show... like I said, this was a "science project")
  • Endpoint Client Devices
    • Dell/Wyse donated P25 Zero Clients with the new Tera2 chipset as well as Z90 dual-core Windows Embedded Thin Clients.
  • Software
    • vSphere / ESXi 
      • San Francisco was an RTM build (I can't remember the build number)
      • Barcelona was the GA build (5.1.0-834536)
    • View
      • San Francisco and Barcelona were the same build, but this was an alpha build that I am not able to list. However, I can say that this version will be labeled 5.2 and is due to release in the first half of 2013.
  • Network
    • In each case we had a flat 1Gbps local flat network switch. We saw sessions reach as high as 70Mbps once we had them running at 1080p @ 30fps. This is due to the very high number of pixel changes each second at that resolution and framerate. Trying to get this type of performance is not a good use case for the WAN. ;-)
My colleague, Simon Long, has just posted on this topic as well. If you don't already follow Simon's blog, you definitely should start! He has loads of great content.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth...

I have told several people that I would be posting on the virtual shared graphics acceleration (vSGA) that I showed at VMworld US 2012, and I still plan on doing that. However, we are still prepping for VMworld EMEA 2012 in Barcelona, Spain, so my time has been consumed (not to mention helping take care of all the needs of our five kids). For those of you that are not familiar with vSGA, it is shared hardware accelerated GPU across multiple VMs running on an ESXi host. This feature is being introduced with vSphere 5.1, but will not be available in VMware View until a future release.

The unfortunate part about my position at VMware, from a blogging perspective anyway, is that I am most often working on un-released technology. So there is a lot I am not allowed to talk about. In fact, once a product goes GA (generally available) I am supposed to disengage... or at least only deal with how those products form a combined solution. I guess this is my way of saying that is why you don't see many posts from me.

At any rate, please stay tuned for some posts from me after VMworld EMEA 2012!!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Help Me to Love Android The Way So Many of You Do

Google Android... take it or leave it?

Let me start off this post saying that I am NOT an Adroid hater. However, spending time on Google+ and being around colleagues that are Android lovers, it would seem that these people are privy to some greatness in Android that I have yet to see. I actually want to love Android as much as I love Apple's iOS, but so far it keeps falling short for me. And trust me, my failure to unlock Android's potential has nothing to do with me liking Apple products. I do not wear blinders, but I certainly may not be looking at things about Android the "right" way. It still has nothing to do with anything else I may like or dislike... I can be impartial, but in the end I still want something to be easy to use. For the record, there are things about iOS and Apple I would gladly change... I didn't drink all of the kool-aid in the glass. ;-)

The Challenge Has Been Set

So I am setting forth a challenge to all you Google Android lovers out there! Help me tune my Android device so it performs the way *I* want it to! After all, the argument I always hear from Android fan-boys is how customizable it is and its "openness". I am not interested in comments bashing Apple or iOS or an opinion on which is better. I am saying that I would like to change certain things about my Android device to make it work the way I want it to... and according to so many Android users out there, it should be a piece of cake. So far I have not found what I am looking for.


I can NOT root my device. This is a work related device that I have to use with a product that will not work if the device is rooted (it checks for this). However, if anyone tells me the only way to fix my issues is to root the device, then I would say Android is no better than iOS since I can jailbreak an iOS device and do pretty much anything I want with it as well.

I also do not want to have to spend a lot of money to fix my issues with the device. I have no problem spending a couple dollars on applications and such that will make using the device better, but I don't want to spend a lot.

My (current) Device

I currently have an LG Spectrum phone that I only use over WiFi (I do *not* have cellular service for this device and do not intend on getting it). I do not intend to make this my phone, but I do still attempt to use this device for many different things which I will discuss later. For mobile connectivity I am able to use my regular phone as a personal hotspot, so I can have it access data whenever I need it to.

The stock LG UI (I believe this is referred to as the "Launcher") is pretty pathetic. There are certain elements I hate and want to get rid of, but they seem to be locked in place by LG and Verizon... this seems to coincide with Verizon specific applications that I don't seem to be able to uninstall... I would call this bloatware.

I have been messing around with GO Launcher EX and other applications to make the experience better. GO Launcher is certainly better than the stock launcher, but I still have some things that annoy me that I don't believe have anything to do with the launcher.

When listing out my "issues" I will avoid any that are hardware related because that is not directly the fault of Google. I say "not directly" because, unlike Microsoft who had very tightly controlled specifications for their latest round of Windows Phones from 3rd party vendors, Google doesn't appear to dictate any specs that directly impact user experience. That is a problem unto itself, but you could easily mitigate that by buying a Google Nexus device which has much tighter control over it. However, I feel I need to say one thing that is fairly common across the latest crop of Android devices: They are too damn big for single-handed use! I think the big displays look great just like the next person, but after I use my Android phone for a while and go back to my iPhone I truly appreciate the dimensions of the iPhone for single-handed use (which I do a lot). With the iPhone I can just about reach the entire front surface of the phone with my thumb, and certainly the entire screen area... not even close with the big Android devices. But I'll just leave it at that, and I realize there are smaller Android offerings.

My Issues

1. Uninstall Those Pesky Apps - I'm okay with apps that I can't get rid of, as long as they don't insist on running in the background using up my precious battery life! I hear from Android users that there are no apps you can't uninstall. Even if I can't uninstall them (without rooting the phone), at least tell me how to stop these things from running all the time in the background. Every time I kill them they show back up. It bugs the crap out of me.

2. Stop Apps and Processes From Running All The Time - I realize there will be certain system processes that must run all the time, but I have other applications and games that are always running in the background... even if I kill them they come back! Some of these revolve around issue #1, but some of them I want to keep installed, just not run all the damn time. I understand the benefit of "true" multitasking in Android compared to other platforms (like iOS), but this one is a detriment if you can't easily stop apps from running in the background.

3. Why Isn't There a Quick Way to Jump to the Top? - This one I am going to pull straight from iOS, because it is SOOO nice to have and use! Let's say I am in Google+, email or a similar app. I may have scrolled very far down a list of things (say Status Updates) and I want to see what has happened since I have been reading through them. On iOS I can simply tap the top of the screen, in any app, and it rockets me up to the top of the window... with Android (at least the phone I have) I have to scroll all the way back up to the top which is agonizingly slow, even with velocity scrolling. I am hoping this can be accomplished with a simple add-on or something.

4. User Interface Consistency - It would seem that app developers don't have to follow any guidelines in UI design, so the end result is that it is not as simple to use from app to app. I know in iOS applications developers have to follow certain UI rules within their application or they get rejected until they fix those. This, in my eyes, is a very good thing... because it means that all of the applications are predictable as it concerns my interaction with them. It makes it easy to install any application and use it as if I have used it forever. I'm not sure there is any fix for this other than Google implementing some form of control on what applications can be released through its *own* store. I understand some people don't see a problem with this and want the "openness" of the device and application market, but I think it would go a LONG way with user retention and adoption if something like this was followed... even if only for the "official" Google Play store.

Those are probably my biggest issues with using Android. I may update this post in the future when something else bugs me, but addressing these four (maybe even just 1-3) would make me much happier.

A discussion on this post has been happening over on Google+. Add your own opinion here

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

OnLive Virtual Gaming

I was skeptical when I first saw announcements about this service, and it took me a while to actually sign up for their free account and try it out… but once I did I was blown away and am a paying member.

Sure the graphics are not as good as a decent physical gaming rig that sits under your desk… but that's NOT what OnLive is trying to be! It allows me to play Windows games on my Apple MacBook Pro, even using an XBOX 360 USB controller that normally doesn't work on a Mac, or my wife's now old and very underpowered Windows laptop that these games wouldn't normally play on at all. They even have a piece of hardware that you hookup to your HDTV that comes with a gaming controller and you can play your games in your living room similar to an XBOX 360 or PlayStation 3!

I am not entirely sure of the delivery protocol they are using, but it must be homegrown and proprietary. It is obviously a real-time protocol like PCoIP from Teradici being used in VMware View, but it is NOT PCoIP. I haven't taken the time to analyze the bandwidth usage yet, but my guess would be upwards of 5Mbps if it is available. However, it does dynamically throttle itself, making the graphics a bit more lossy, in order to maintain good framerate and response times. Only when I was playing over WiFi in a horrible area in my house for signal strength did I see major degradation and stuttering… but the client also paused and recommended I get a better signal before continuing.

I think what I am most impressed with, considering that the actual game session is on a remote machine and all of the display data and I/O has to traverse the internet, is the responsiveness of my input through the controller. For instance, I was playing Dirt 2 and felt like the game was running locally because there was zero lag on any sudden input I made through the controller. If there was any type of delay the experience wouldn't work, so kudos to them for getting this right.

While I wish I had time to be a hardcore gamer, the reality is that I have a wife and five kids that need my attention when I am not working 40+ hours a week. The OnLive service allows me to be a casual gamer without shelling out a ton of money every year to have the latest and greatest gaming rig, and the experience is what I would classify as "good enough" for the minimal cost and the flexibility it provides.

Goooooooaaal! Soccer (football) is a great sport!

I am really surprised how into soccer I became these past months since coaching my 9 year old son's soccer team. I started watching the Fox Soccer Channel on TV and went to The Philadelphia Union MLS (American "Major League Soccer") soccer game at PPL Park on June 23, 2012. It was an awesome game (may have been that they beat their opponent 4-0) with great offense and defense by The Philadelphia Union! I haven't seen the MLS soccer games on TV, and certainly not on the Fox Soccer Channel. It looks like they are broadcast from time to time on various channels, so I might try to start watching more games.

When I got home and started to try and find out more about MLS and The Philadelphia Union I found that they recently changed head coaches and the game I attended was the team's first game under the new coach. Until the June 23rd game they were in dead last. So I guess I'm glad I got to see them when they were on fire! They scored their first goal at just 1 minute 34 seconds into the game! They also won their next game with 5 goals (!) and won the last game of the season, so I would say that this new coach seems to have really turned the team around.

I'm really bummed that the American men's soccer (football) team didn't qualify for the Olympics, but I will pick a team to cheer for (most likely Great Britain since I have friends from there).

I'm glad that I was able to see the technical side of soccer through coaching and that I love to watch the games now.