Tag Archive for: virtualization

A Brief Look at the Amazon WorkSpaces Beta

16 Mar 2014
March 16, 2014

imageAt the beginning of the year, we were invited to participate in the beta for Amazon’s upcoming WorkSpaces product. We just had to demonstrate a “reason” to be in the beta and then they’d hook us up.

Our beta plan was to use ourselves as the primary users and address on-call engineer needs. We rotate on-call coverage but sometimes you don’t want to carry a laptop everywhere you go during your on-call week. Or sometimes you’re caught with just a tablet or smart phone. These days you can get a lot done with a mobile device, but it rarely can compare to what can be done with a proper computer.

We built a Workspaces machine for each engineer and then configured  the WorkSpaces client  for all of our various devices. There is support for Android, IOS, Windows and Mac. The client is lightweight and snappy and the Android client has some nice extra shortcuts and menu’ing to help you get more done without a keyboard. (I have to confess I haven’t seen the IOS client – presumably it has similar niceties).

On my Android tablet (an HP Slatebook X2) with the snap-on keyboard and touch pad dock, the experience is just like I’m using an ultraportable laptop – with far more powerful than my Slatbook. If I detach the keyboard it still works quite well though, Just not as “native” feeling, of course. Read more →

AWS: Check Drive’s Removal Policy

22 Dec 2013
December 22, 2013

This might be something that everyone else knows, but I was quite surprised the other day and thought I would share.

AWS Disk PropertiesI had just added some new EBS volumes to a new SQL Server database EC2 instance in AWS. See, I like to add 2 or 4 higher IOPS drives to database servers and then use the OS to put them in a RAID 0 stripe(s) for data files (and TempDB if I don’t have an ephemeral SSD handy. But perhaps that’s a post for another day…).

While configuring these new drives into an array I somewhat inadvertently ended up in the Properties dialog for one of the drives. Since I was there, I thought I would check things out.

The drive’s Removal policy was, by default, “Quick Removal.” This doesn’t strike me as the key to ultimate performance! This is how you treat external USB drives.

I checked the other 3 drives and determine that 3 out of the 4 I had just added were Quick and the one was “Better performance.” I then spot checked a handful of other instances and found similar results. Needless to say, I set them all to “Better” and then carried on.

But now I’m curious: Why were they defaulting to “Quick removal”. Yet, why weren’t ALL sharing that default?

Anyways, something to watch for when provisioning a new Windows server. Seems that this would apply to any virtualization platform, not just AWS.


A Quick Look at Elastic Wolf

18 Aug 2013
August 18, 2013

imageI have been doing a lot of projects in AWS this year. I have to say that is has been fascinating to watch this service evolve from month to month and year to year. It is pretty awesome to be able to sit at my comfortable desk and build a “virtual data center” without ever having to leave the office.

Seriously! The VPC stuff (Virtual Private Cloud) is great. Truly the equivalent of racking a bunch of physical servers as co-lo at the data center. Private LAN addressing, VPN site tunnels to your office(s), Network ACLs AND Security Groups and so much more. I truly dig it.

There’s been one challenge though: I have been doing this AWS work for a variety of clients – which means I spend a lot of time logging in an out of AWS services using a series of partner URLs and credentials. The web UI is quite functional and all, but logging in and out of various accounts all days gets a bit tedious. And you know a web UI never seems responsive enough when you’re in a hurry.

imageHowever, I recently stumbled over ElasticWolf. One tool easily configurable to securely access all of your various AWS profiles. Run it as an app in your OS of choice (Windows, Mac, Linux) or a Firefox add-on:

ElasticWolf is a client-side application for managing Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud resources with an easy-to-use graphical user interface.  […]

ElasticWolf is packaged with all necessary tools and utilities to generate and deal with private and public keys and certificates, as well as a Windows ssh client for accessing Linux EC2 instances. In addition, it integrates easily with the AWS command line interface (CLI) tools so that you can use ElasticWolf and the CLI together.

imageFascinating project – and, as near as I can tell, completely undocumented. However, after some experimentation I have managed to get this configured to easily allow me to hop from client to client with just the click of a mouse. Lovely

Navigation is via the traditional tree or outline paradigm (click the image to the right for a better view). You can expand the various sections for all the details underneath. For instance, in the attached image I have expanded EC2 Networking and VPC as that’s where I spend much of my time. Oh, speaking of which: It will show your VPC instances under the VPC section which is a nice upgrade over the AWS Web interface

Credentials are all managed via AWS’s IAM module (Identity and Access Management). Go in there and generate a user and capture the Access Keys (save them somewhere safe!) and then jump in ElasticWolf and set up that user under the Credentials and Regions section. Add entries for each client or partner account that you work with and you’re good to go.

I am still exploring all my options with EW but I definitely love it for the convenience when I need to get something done quickly and then jump back to another client. Priceless. If anyone reading this uses it, feel free to pass along tips, tricks or comments in the comments section of this article.

Hyper-V VM Backups

19 Feb 2012
February 19, 2012

I was looking around for a quicker and easier way to do automated backups for running Hyper-V guests as part of a recent work project. As you might guess, there are tons of options – mostly it comes down to how much you want to spend.

I had been told that Microsoft’s System Center would be the way to go, but it sure looks expensive. I made a few phone calls on that and then decided to look for something more focused at backups.

backupChainBoxA few web searches later I turned up a product called BackupChain. I liked what I saw on their “Hyper-V Backup” link so I decided to try the free 20 day trial. 15 minutes later I had it installed and configured on three Hyper-V host servers and the first backups running.

Does just what it says on the tin and I’m now seeking the funding to purchase a few licenses. And to be clear: I’ve had no contact with the company or their marketing people. I just like the product!

I set up weekly backups for a big pile of live VMs and haven’t had to think about it since. And yes, I’ve tested restores too. That’s also dead simple – and a reasonable way to clone VMs to boot.