Virtual computing
Virtual and distributed computing technology and applications

Ken Novak's Weblog


daily link  Friday, January 28, 2005


Xgrid: High Performance Computing for the Rest of Us: Apple's quick setup grid, in use at many academic institutions.  Released Jan 2004.  A Feb 2004 presentation has good examples from U Utah, including a PDF with rendered images.  Controller and client run only on OS X today; agents can be OS X or Linux.  A Stanford project is looking for volunteers to contribute time for chemistry research.

Cringely points out how cheap fast computing is getting. "Imagine a Mac Minicluster running Apple's xGrid software. Start with a 16-port fast Ethernet switch and stack 16 Mac Minis on top. That's a 720 gigaflop micro-supercomputer that costs less than $9,000, can fit on a bookshelf, and can be up and running in as little time as it takes to connect the network cables. High schools will be sequencing genes."

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daily link  Sunday, January 23, 2005


Virtual project at Intel Pittsburgh:  "Researchers at the Intel Research Pittsburgh laboratory in Oakland [have] a project they call Internet Suspend/Resume.  By taking advantage of the Internet, distributed file systems and a concept called virtual machines, Internet Suspend/Resume allows a user to stop, or suspend, work on one computer and then move to another computer, perhaps at home, or even across the country, and instantly resume that work." Seems similar in structure to VMware Ace, without the corporate IT emphasis.  (Thanks again, Roland!)  11:23:35 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, January 22, 2005


Jon Udell: VM-enabled polycore computing: Pulls together comments on the massively parallel computing that's coming from multi-core processor chips.  Jon points out the different models for these parallel systems, most of which involve one type of virtual machine or another (Java, .NET, LAMP, Erlang).  These can function well with thousands or tens of thousands of parallel virtual machines.  More prosaically, I also imagine the multi-core and hyper-threaded x86 machines that have arrived with more on the way, that today's simple monitors like vmware could exploit.  10:13:25 PM  permalink  


daily link  Saturday, January 15, 2005


Using MVS2005 with VS.NET: Article on scripting MSVS 2005, with sample code you can download from Surgient.  "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. ..

[In a resource-heavy testing scenario] Toggling the VM power states and working with shared base images addresses the resource limitations of the host. 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. "

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The Soul of a Virtual Machine: Microsoft tech writer keeping a categorized blog on MSVS, including categories for P2V and other specific how-to's.  11:52:30 AM  permalink  

Flexbeta seems an interesting site for investigating beta software releases.  They have articles, and also links to recent software, like VMware Workstation for Windows 5.0 Build 11888 Beta, with a direct link to a 51mb .exe download.

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Virtual Server 2005 Service Pack 1 - features and availability: MSVS will support new hardware and software, plus a "Disk Precompactor, a utility that is designed to "zero out" — that is, overwrite with zeros — any available blank space on a virtual hard disk. A public beta is slated for the end of first quarter 2005, with product release planned for the second half of calendar year 2005"  11:46:23 AM  permalink  


daily link  Friday, January 07, 2005


VMWare for OpenBSD: "With the help of OpenBSD's Linux emulation, and a kernel module, it is possible to run VMWare on OpenBSD. .. Currently, VMWare 3.x is supported, VMWare 4.x support is .. nearly complete. "  12:05:08 AM  permalink  


daily link  Thursday, January 06, 2005


VM-based gateway to Grid computing: "Grid middleware is enabling resource sharing between computing centres across the world and sites with existing clusters are eager to connect to the Grid. However, the hardware requirements for access to the Grid remain high: a standard Grid-Ireland gateway requires four separate servers. We propose the use of Virtual Machine (VM) technology to run multiple OS instances, allowing a full Grid gateway to be hosted on a single computer. ..

We evaluate implementations of this architecture on two popular open-source VM solutions: Xen and User-Mode Linux (UML). Our results show that Xen outperforms UML for installation tasks and standard gateway operations. Performance is close to that of standard Linux, and more than acceptable for everyday use.

The Grid gateways support remote installation and management to facilitate integration with a national Grid infrastructure. Configuration is similar to that of sites running multi-computer gateways, making it easy to keep site installation profiles synchronised. Our VM gateway architecture provides a low-cost entry path to the Grid and will be of interest to many institutions.. "

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Installation of OpenStep 4.2 in VMware: How cool, Open Step and even the old NextStep are still alive, running under VMware.  (See NEXTSTEP 3.3J on VMWare for English and German screenshots running in Japan.)  11:45:26 PM  permalink  

Understanding Citrix's SpeedScreen Latency Reduction (SLR):  Description of how Citrix improves upon terminal server on high-latency links.  Reminds me of mainframe terminals and the "local echo" and "keyboard lock" buttons!  "Citrix has long talked up as a benefit of MetaFrame Presentation Server.. imagine a situation without SLR where a user is typing a document via an ICA session with 400ms of latency. .. To the user, it would appear that there is a half-second “lag” when typing.

To address this, SLR’s Local Text Echo causes the ICA client to behave a bit differently. When enabled, a user pressing a key on their keyboard causes that key code to be sent to the server. However, at the same instant, the local ICA client software also draws the appropriate character on the user’s screen even though the actual screen drawing instructions from the server are bogged down in the 400ms latency between the client and server. Then, once the ICA client finally receives the actual updated screen from the server, it doesn’t have to update that character on the local screen .. [It] works really well. It works with all different fonts and font sizes. ..  complex things such as highlighting and deleting large chunks of text exhibit the lag associated with the actual latency...

The other major SLR feature is something called “Mouse Click Feedback.” This addresses another common problem in Citrix environments with high latency, namely, the fact that users click on a button, become impatient, and click on a button again before the first click registered. Then, when the application’s response finally makes its way to the user, whatever the user clicked on comes up twice.  Mouse Click Feedback works by adding the hourglass symbol to the arrow cursor the instant the user clicks the mouse anywhere within the boundaries of the remote ICA application.  [The mouse isn't locked, but users generally respond to the hourglass by waiting] ..

SpeedScreen is automatically used on a MetaFrame server whenever a user connects to a session that has between 150 and 500ms of latency. As long as the client supports it, it's used."  In another article, the author notes that SLR consumes more bandwidth, sometimes as much as 20% more; thus it's a tradeoff of more bandwidth for less latency.

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daily link  Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Gentoo Forums :: VMWare Workstation raw disk with WinXP guest: "on a laptop with a 10GB NTFS partition loaded with WinXP pro, with the rest of the 40GB disk used for Gentoo. I can successfully dual boot, but rarely do as I'm sort of allergic to Windows. However, I do need a few things in Windows from time to time, so I have had a small XP installation on a virtual disk which has worked fine, but uses a few GBs of space on my rapidly filling HDD. Using the existing 10GB XP install was the logical solution. Results: Well, it works! I can now successfully run WinXP from within Gentoo using VMWare, or boot natively into WinXP upon reboot. Besides saving space, I am very impressed with the speed increase. Booting WinXP from the raw disk is MUCH faster than from the virtual disk. Opening applications is MUCH faster. " (e.g., photoshop loads in 10 secs instead of 21).  "Suspending the OS is not advised with raw disk use. Snapshots won't really work. Basically you lose the ability to undo things like you could with a virtual disk. "  11:43:43 PM  permalink  

coLinux for more than one vm:  It appears the last change to coLinux was May 2004.  It supports running Linux on XP.  One upgrade feature I did not notice before was the announced ability to run more than one vm:  "Support for running more than one instance of coLinux is now functional"  11:40:21 PM  permalink  

MetroPipe:  "MetroPipe released a technology review of their Portable Virtual Privacy Machine. The product allows traveling professionals to carry their entire communications and presentation environment on a single portable memory device.

"The Portable Virtual Privacy Machine (or PVPM) is basically a virtual machine which boots a Linux operating environment, and runs a variety of communications software - a browser and email client . It also includes a beta version of our Tunneler product, which anonymizes and encrypts the user's Internet communications while using the PVPM, " said Kenny Kaputa, Chief Technology Officer. "Because the PVPM is a self-contained operating environment, the user is able to use relatively insecure systems in order to conduct personal and business communication. For example, the PVPM is excellent for use within the world's Internet cafés - you don't have to worry as much about hackers eavesdropping on your communications. Or bothering with long searches at airport terminals - you can wear your computing environment around your neck!"  "Oh yeah, " continued Kenny, "you can put the PVPM on virtually any read/write memory device: USB drives, Flash memory, an iPod, etc. It really doesn't matter.""

Their overall mission is extreme privacy:  "The Metropipe Tunneler application allows even novice Windows, Macintosh OS X, and Linux users to experience completely private web communications. The Tunneler creates an impenetrable channel for anonymous browsing, chat, and file transfers that encrypts and anonymizes every bit of Internet data that you send through it.."

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Copyright 2005 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 11/24/2005; 11:49:43 PM.
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