Friday, July 29, 2011

VMware vSphere 5.0 vRAM License Change

Gabrie van Zanten (@gabvirtualworld) has posted on his blog what I'd expect should be a positively received rumor about VMware updating vRAM entitlements for vSphere 5.0.

I've been a fan of the vRAM based entitlement because it is tied to what is often the most key scaling factor in a virtual environment - RAM. Even though it did not impact my environment, I felt the initial entitlements were much to low for modern hardware, applications, and operating systems. Furthermore as VMware touted increased scalability in 5.0, the initial entitlement calculations indicated one would pay heavily from the pocketbook to take advantage of those improvements.

VMware was listening and has responded more quickly than could have been expected! Given the constant improvements in hardware and decreasing costs, I am a bit curious how much of a tail chasing situation this could end up being.

Go read Gabe's article for the details.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Excel 2003 Slow to Open Network Files After File Validation Update Installed

We've mostly completed the cut-over to Windows 7 and Office 2010 where I work. That said there are a few PC's with more 'complicated' configurations we have delayed updating that still run Windows XP and Office 2003. So accordingly we have maintained our WSUS environment to keep Office 2003 updates coming through.

In our last round of monthly PC patching, the update addressing KB2501584 was approved for PCs to install. Shortly afterwards reports started coming in from the few XP/Office 2003 computers in service, that Excel was hanging up when trying to open Excel shortcuts pointing out to files on the network - hmm. The long and short of the story is this MS article explaining how the Office File Validation function slows down opening network files in Excel 2003.

Two of the article's provided solutions I found to be "corporate unfriendly": either copy the file to the local disk first, or upgrade to Office 2007 or 2010. The third option was split into two paths: A) to use a MS Fix IT installer (normal users cannot do this), or B) Create a registry entry to disable OFV in Excel(again most users cannot / are not capable of doing this). Option 3 fix regardless of how it was done created a HKCU registry key - so now we have a per user, per computer situation to remedy - no "PC-wide" fix option.

Thankfully we already push out a few user scope registry entries via a custom Active Directory Group Policy, so we had a familiar delivery mechanism available to us. After some updating to that custom .ADM file and some testing we finally had a corporate quality fix for the issue.

Why didn't we just uninstall the OFV update? Removing security features isn't really a path we prefer to take. Yes - we have effectively disabled it for Excel, but the other Office application are still protected and didn't suffer the same problem that Excel did. One of the many usability versus security trade offs.

There are lots of great resources out there for making your own ADM files for use in Group Policies. If you work with AD / Group Policies it is a great skill to have in you toolbox.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

VDI and the Microsoft VDA License

If you are working on or looking into VDI, you should ensure an appropriate level of attention is given to the licensing side of whichever solution you'll use. Along with the myriad of technical details to keep in mind, the licensing side of a VDI project is just as critical.

I am by no means an expert in Microsoft Licensing and you should ALWAYS consult with your preferred vendor to arrive at a warm fuzzy feeling when it comes to license compliance (is there such a thing with regards to licensing?). If you haven't guessed already this article is going to be Microsoft center, albeit you can have linux and other OS based virtual desktops.

To start off, VDI is the acronym for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. In short this is the running of (usually multiple) virtual desktop operating systems on a physical system and accessing them remotely. There are troves of articles out on the net about the merits, challenges, and use cases for VDI.

The initial thought for licensing these virtual instances of a desktop OS is often simply to go buy a license for each one and be done. That is not the case when it comes to Microsoft Windows. Microsoft realized there is value in running their software this way and subsequently created new licensing for such use cases. This is where VDA comes into play.

Two methods exists, that I'm aware of, for properly licensing virtual instances of Windows desktops: VDA and SA. SA or Software Assurance comes into play for corporate systems that have their Desktop OS SA maintained. These systems can be used to access VDI instances. The other is the VDA license. The VDA license is a bit more flexible (and costly) than SA because it can apply to a non Microsoft client device as well as non-corporate devices (contractor, employee owned PC,etc). You can read lots more about Microsoft and Virtual Desktops on Microsoft's Website.

The big question that I've always had until recently around the VDA license is: is it just an "Access Right" license or does it also include the virtual desktop OS? In the Microsoft world "Access" licenses, or CALs as they are often called, are very common - so quite naturally I wondered if the annual subscription based VDA license was only a "CAL" or more so. So after receiving a not so clear response from my Microsoft vendor, I consulted Google for other's experiences. I ran across this VMware Community thread some time ago and subscribed to it with hopes a more definitive update would be posted. Just today a post came through from MoffattThomas, quoting a Microsoft representative stating(summarized): the VDA includes the OS key for the virtual desktop. So there you go - Virtual OS and access rights!

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