VDI

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Welcome to Technology Short Take #22! Once again, I find myself without too many articles to share with you this time around. I guess that will make things a bit easier for you, the reader, but it does make me question whether or not I’m “listening” to the right communities. If any readers have suggestions on sources of information to which I should be subscribing or I should be following, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

In any case, let’s get into the meat of it. I hope you find something useful!

Networking

Security

  • I have to agree with Tom Hollingsworth that we often create backdoors by design simply out of our own laziness. I’ve heard it said—in fact I may have used the statement myself—that no amount of security can fix stupidity. That might be a bit strong, but it does apply to the “shortcuts” that we create for ourselves or our customers in our designs.

Servers/Hardware

  • Kevin Houston (who works for Dell) posted an article about a recent test report comparing power usage between Dell blades and Cisco UCS blades. If you’re comparing these two solutions, find a comparable report from Cisco and then draw your own conclusions. (Always get multiple views on a topic like this, because every vendor—and I know because I work for a vendor, too—will spin the report in their favor.)

Virtualization

That’s it for this time around. I hope that you have found something useful here. If anyone has any suggestions for sites/forums they’ve found helpful with data center-focused topics, I’d love for you to add that information in the comments.

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VMware is holding an “End User Computing Virtual Conference” next week. Here’s the text of the announcement/invitation that I saw (and yes, I made sure that VMware was OK with me posting it here so that others could attend if interested):

Please join VMware as we discuss the next step forward in end-user computing for the post-PC era.

Watch Vittorio Viarengo, VP of End-User Computing, discuss the latest advancements in the VMware End-User Computing Platform. Understand how VMware provides solutions to simplify traditional technology silos, enable policy driven management, and connect people to technology and each other in new and collaborative ways.

This event will provide you with an opportunity to:

  • Attend a live keynote from the VMware leadership team
  • Learn about the latest innovations in the VMware End-User Computing portfolio
  • Chat with VMware End-User Computing product experts
  • Network with peers

Looking forward to seeing you there. Click here to register.

The VMware End-User Computing Team

The virtual conference is next Thursday, May 3, from 8:30 AM Pacific Time until 1:30 PM Pacific Time. If you’re interested in end-user computing, it might be worth your time to tune in and see what VMware has to share. (I don’t have any inside knowledge on exactly what’s being shared.)

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VMware just released the PCoIP-enabled version of the VMware View client for Mac OS X (download here; login required). After having used it this morning to connect to my corporate View desktop, I must say that I am quite impressed.

The responsiveness of my View desktop is significantly improved over RDP. Under RDP, browsing any sort of Web site—and accessing various internal-only sites is a key use for my corporate View desktop—was just downright painful. With the new PCoIP-enabled Mac client, it’s drastically better. Pages redraw much more quickly, and the browser is much more responsive.

Aside from the much-improved performance granted by the PCoIP support, a few other things stand out:

  • It’s nice to see VMware fully embrace the idea of developing for the Mac—no installer package, just open the DMG and drag-and-drop the application into your Applications folder. The new client also offers Lion full-screen support as well.
  • The new client no longer requires the Microsoft RDP Client installed. (However, note that if you need RDP connectivity to Windows 7, the new client won’t support that just yet. For that, you’ll need to use the previous generation VMware View client along with the Microsoft RDP Client.)
  • You can easily resize your desktop by simply resizing the window. That’s a little thing, I know, but it’s still handy.

Overall, it’s great to see VMware working hard to expand endpoint availability. If I understand correctly, VMware also released updated clients for the iPad and Android as well, both of which also support PCoIP (the View client already supported PCoIP and I’ve used that before as well). Now we just need a PCoIP-enabled client for Linux and we’re good to go!

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Welcome to Technology Short Take #18! I hope you find something useful in this collection of networking, OS, storage, and virtualization links. Enjoy!

Networking

The number of articles in my “Networking” bucket continues to overflow; I have so many articles on so many topics (soft switching, OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, MPLS) that it’s hard to get my head wrapped around all of it. Here are a few posts that stuck out to me:

  • Ivan Pepelnjak has a very well-written post explaining the various ways that virtual networking can be decoupled from the physical network.
  • I stumbled across a trio of articles by Denton Gentry on hash tables (part 1, part 2, and part 3). This is an interesting perspective I hadn’t considered before; as we move more into software-defined networks (SDNs), why are we continuing to use the same mechanisms as before? Why not take advantage of more efficient mechanisms as part of this transition?

Servers/Operating Systems

  • Nigel Poulton and I traded a few tweets during HP Discover Vienna about SCSI Express (or SCSI over PCIe, SoP). He wrote up his thoughts about SoP and its future in the storage industry here. Further Twitter-based discussions about fabrics led him to say that HP buying Xsigo would bring the competition back against UCS. I’m not so sure I agree. Xsigo’s server fabric technology/product is interesting, but it seems to me that it’s still adding layers of abstraction that aren’t necessary. As SR-IOV, MR-IOV, and PCIe extension matures, it seems to me that Ethernet as the fabric is going to win. If that’s the case, and HP wants to bring the hurt against UCS, they’re going to have to invest in Ethernet-based fabrics.
  • Speaking of UCS, here’s a “how to” on deploying the UCS Platform Emulator on vSphere. You might also like the UCS PE configuration follow-up post.
  • Here’s what looks to be a handy Mac OS X utility to track how long until your Active Directory password expires. Sounds simple, yes, but useful.

Storage

Virtualization

  • Jason Boche, after some collaboration with Bob Plankers, wrote up a good procedure for expanding the vCloud Director Transfer Server storage space. It’s definitely worth a read if you’re going to be working with vCloud Director.
  • Microsoft has released version 3.2 of the Linux Integration Services for Hyper-V. The new release adds integrated mouse support, updated network drivers, and fixes an issue with SCVMM compatibility.
  • Julian Wood, who I had the opportunity to meet in Copenhagen at VMworld 2011, has published a four-part series on managing vSphere 5 certificates. Follow these links for the series: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.
  • Thinking of deploying Oracle on vSphere? You should probably read this three-part series from VMware’s Business Critical Applications blog: part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.
  • I’m so used to dealing with VLANs in a vSphere environment, I didn’t consider the challenges that might come up when using them with VMware Workstation. Fortunately, this author did—read his post on mapping VLANs to VMnets in VMware Workstation.
  • I thought that this article on virtual disks with business critical applications would be a deep dive on which virtual disk formats (thin, lazy zeroed, eager zeroed) are best suited for various applications. While the article does discuss the different virtual disk formats, unfortunately that’s as far as it goes.
  • Fellow VMware vSphere Design co-author Forbes Guthrie highlights an important design concern with AutoDeploy: what about a virtual vCenter instance? Read his full article for the in-depth discussion.
  • This post by William Lam gives a good overview of when vSphere MoRefs change (or don’t change).
  • Here’s a good explanation why NIC teaming can’t be used with iSCSI binding.
  • Cormac Hogan also posted a nice overview of some new vmkfstools enhancements in vSphere 5.
  • Terence Luk posts a detailed procedure to help recover VMware Site Recovery Manager in the event of a failure of one of the SRM servers. Good information—thanks Terence!

And that’s it for this time around. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below—all comments are welcome! (Please provide full disclosure of vendor affiliations/employment where applicable. Thanks!)

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I was on a conference call the other day where the topic of the call was VMware View 5.0. If you attended VMworld—or even if you didn’t, it’s been kind of hard to miss—you know already that VMware made significant improvements to PCoIP in View 5. For one reason or another, the topic of the Teradici PCoIP offload card came up on the call, and other participants in the call were immediately asking about the availability of the card in mezzanine card format for blade server implementations. (Continue reading, and at the end I’ll tell you the answer I received to that question.)

There are lots of blade server implementations on the market; I’ve had direct hands-on experience with two of the leading implementations, Cisco UCS and HP BladeSystem C-Class. Both are excellent products, and both products have strengths and weaknesses. However, the one (relative) weakness they both share is a lack of expansion options. The HP BladeSystem blades are a bit better here, as they have onboard NICs (10Gb as well as 1Gb) without using an expansion slot. Either way, though, let’s face it—mezzanine card slots in a blade environment aren’t exactly plentiful. Now you want to go and use one of these slots for an offload card? This is especially true with Cisco UCS, where the half-width B series blades require a mezzanine card in order to have network connectivity.

In my mind, this really underscores the need to view vSphere designs—including designs that incorporate “upper layer” products like View, vCloud Director, and/or Site Recovery Manager—with a broad lens. Even in a dedicated VDI environment, where the ESXi hosts are used only to host virtual desktops, is the trade-off between network connectivity and offloaded PCoIP processing worth it? If adding a PCoIP offload card means you have to move from a half-width/half-height blade to a full-width/full-height blade (thus cutting your compute density in half), was it really worth it? Was it worth the extra rack space, extra power, extra network drops, and extra expense? This is why, as vSphere architects, we sometimes have to “take a step back” to look at things in a broader perspective. Otherwise, you could find yourself adding some piece of technology to your design and crippling the overall design.

<aside>This is not, by the way, a rant against the PCoIP offload card—I can definitely see some value in it for dedicated VDI environments. The offload card just happened to be the catalyst that triggered this post.</aside>

The answer, by the way, to the availability of the PCoIP offload card in mezzanine card format is “It’s up to the OEM.” Not much of an answer, I know, but the only answer that’s available right now.

If you have additional thoughts you’d like to share, I encourage you to add your thoughts in the comments below.

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Last July I wrote an article about editing the vmware-view.rdp file inside the VMware View Open Client for Mac OS X in order to customize the RDP settings. It was one of those articles that I thought would probably appeal to only a very small group but would otherwise go mostly unnoticed.

As it turns out, one reader named Patrick Fergus picked up on that article and started experimenting with it to see if he could enable printer redirection using a similar technique. I’m going to share his findings here, but with one disclaimer: I haven’t actually tested this process myself.

To make printer redirection work on a Mac using the VMware View client, two things need to happen:

  1. First, you need to install the HP LaserJet 4350 PS driver (not the universal driver) on the Windows VMs being used by VMware View.
  2. Second, you need to edit the vmware-view.rdp file to enable printer redirection.

I’ll leave the first task as an exercise for the readers, but for the second task I’ll provide a bit more detail. To enable printer redirection, edit the vmware-view.rdp file and add these lines:

<key>PrinterRedirection</key>
<true/>
<key>RedirectPrinter</key>
<string>all</string>

Once you have the LaserJet 4350 PS printer driver installed on the Windows VM and have this text in the vmware-view.rdp file, printer redirection from the Mac VMware View client should work as expected.

Keep in mind the caveat that I pointed out in the original article: changing the vmware-view.rdp file will affect all connections using the VMware View client, not just one particular connection. It would be great to be able to enable/disable this sort of functionality on a per-connection/per-server basis.

Great work Patrick, and thanks for sharing the information with me. As always, comments are invited!

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This is a liveblog of VMworld 2010 session DV7706, titled “View Composer Technical Deep Dive and Best Practices,” in Moscone West 2004. The presenter(s) are Jeff Whitman and Jim Yanik, both with VMware.

We start out the session with a quick review of some limitations. View Composer has a limit of eight ESX/ESXi hosts in a cluster. This is a VMFS limit involving the number of hosts that are accessing a read-only file at the same time. I wonder if VAAI hardware-assisted locking will affect this limit. As for the total number of VMs, you are limited by the usual suspects—HA failover time, vMotion time to put a host in maintenance most, HA limits, etc.

View Composer is installed as a service on the vCenter Server computer. You can connect View Manager to the View Composer service inside the View Manager configuration dialog box. The presenters do recommend using the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) when configuring the connection between the View Manager and the View Composer service on a vCenter Server instance.

The start of every linked clone is the parent VM. Follow the usual best practices for building the parent VM as included in the documentation from VMware. I couldn’t record any of their recommendations because they didn’t leave on the screen long enough.

The parent VM needs a snapshot before you can create linked clones. Be sure to shut down the VM so that memory state isn’t included. View 4.5 has a new checkbox that allows you to show incompatible images; this was added as a way to help administrators troubleshoot potential problems with incorrectly-taken snapshots. (As an example, a snapshot taken while the VM is running would be incompatible.)

Linked clones can be stored on local or shared storage. You can have multiple linked clones per storage pool, and replica and linked clones can be on the same datastore or different datastores. This is new to View 4.5 and it allows you to store the replica on SSD/EFD for maximum performance but place the linked clone on slower-performing storage. Be aware that this is a potential single point of failure.

View terminology appears to be changing again; what was once the user data disk is now called the persistent disk. In my opinion, VMware needs to settle into some consistent terminology.

Some datastore recommendations include using similarly-sized datastores so that View can load balance the linked clones across the datastores (using round robin) fairly evenly. The number of VMs per datastore is really driven by IOPS; best practices run around “50-64 or maybe 128″ (exact verbiage from the presentation).

Quick definition: A replica consists of a clone of the parent VM plus the selected snapshot. Replicas are thin provisioned. Persistent disks (aka user data disks) are also thin provisioned. View 4.5 also introduces a “disposable” or temporary disk that allows View 4.5 to destroy the temporary disk and reclaim that space on a regular basis. The presenters think that the temporary disk is destroyed every time the user logs off. How does it handle the Windows swapfile then? Finally, View 4.5 also stored the Windows machine password in a separate “internal disk” that simplifies the process of refreshing linked clones when they are member of an Active Directory domain.

The presenter next walks through a comparison of storage utilization both without and with linked clones. It’s a comparison that most people have seen multiple times, nothing terribly new or surprising here.

QuickPrep is included with View Composer, and 4.5 also includes Sysprep. You should use Sysprep only in those instances where you specifically need a new SID; in most cases, having a unique SID isn’t as big of a deal as many people suspect that it is. Sysprep is a lot slower than QuickPrep, so be aware. The selection of QuickPrep/Sysprep on a pool is permanent for the life of that pool; you can’t switch it later.

VDMAdmin.exe is a tool provided with View Manager; it was necessary with previous versions of View to attach/detach user data disks. Persistent disks (the equivalent in View 4.5) can be managed directly inside the View Manager GUI. You can also script the interaction with the persistent disks for greater automation.

The speakers just confirmed, as I already knew, that centralized profile management is not included in VMware View 4.5.

Some troubleshooting tips:

  • All machines have same name and hang on customization – typically caused by a missing agent.
  • If customization fails, check the QuickPrep domain setup in View Manager, Also be sure user has permissions to add and remove computers in Active Directory.
  • DNS, DNS, DNS—name reoslution is critical!
  • Be sure that you have adequate host resources for large refresh or recompose operations.
  • Use View Manager to manipulate View desktops, not vCenter!
  • Don’t use static IP addressing in the parent VM.
  • Use SVIConfig to help troubleshoot View database issues.

You can’t use Storage vMotion with linked clones; it’s not supported.

What’s the best way to handle Patch Tuesday? You can manually apply the patches, test, snapshot, and then recompose. You can also use automatic updates, test, power down and snapshot, and then recompose. Finally, if you are using a third-party agent, remove the agent before snapshotting and recomposing (you don’t want the agent included in the linked clones).

What about antivirus? The traditional method was to install the A/V engine and update definitions only; you would use a recompose to roll out a new engine. You could also not use A/V. Because linked clones are disposable, the impact of not using A/V isn’t as great as you might initially think. With vSphere 4.1 you could use vShield Endpoint, which is an extension of the VMsafe APIs that allow the A/V vendors to completely pull their agents out of the guest VMs.

When planning for business continuity, don’t forget to plan for the View Manager database. For DR, be sure to replicate the View Server and install View Composer on the DR vCenter Server.

That’s it!

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A flurry of virtualization-related product announcements flew into my Inbox today, thoroughly disrupting the empty Inbox I’d cultivated before the show. Anyway, I thought readers might be interested in some of the announcements, so here they are:

  • Akorri announced they’ve achieved VMware Ready status with their BalancePoint product. If you’re at VMworld and want to talk to Akorri, stop by booth 1331.
  • Similarly, Avere Systems has also been awarded VMware Ready status for its FXT 2700 appliance. Avere is also at VMworld in San Francisco, but I don’t have their booth number available to me.
  • Start-up company DeskStream has launched a product called Dynamic Virtual Desktop (yes, the acronym is DVD). It’s a “Desktop as a Service” product, according to their information. No word on whether DeskStream is at the VMworld conference. Follow this link for the full launch announcement.
  • Yet another company, CompuWare, has gotten VMware Ready status for CompuWare Vantage. As with DeskStream, I don’t have any indication as to whether CompuWare is at the VMworld conference.
  • I continue to be impressed by security startup HyTrust. Their latest announcement, HyTrust Cloud Control, brings strong authentication, role-based access control, and integration between HyTrust Appliance and VMware vCloud Director.
  • BLADE has announced VMready 3.0 with Virtual Vision, which allows physical networks to “see” virtual machines as they migrate (or are migrated) around the data center. At first glance, it kind of sounds like Arista’s VM Tracer, but I have a meeting with BLADE later this week and intend to find out more about the product. I’ll post more after that meeting.
  • EMC’s RSA division is also announcing the RSA Solution for Cloud Security and Compliance. This solution integrates technologies from Archer into a solution that is intended to help customers have greater confidence that their environments are properly secured and audited according to standards and policies. The full press release is also available here.

I think that’s about it for now. More VMworld 2010 coverage to come, so stay tuned!

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I’ve been using the VMware View Open Client for Mac OS X for a few weeks now, ever since I was approved to participate in EMC’s pilot VDI program. The one thing that I don’t like about the View Open Client is how it leverages the Mac-native Remote Desktop Connection application to make connections to the View hosted desktops. It does so in a way that makes it impossible to customize the behavior of the RDP session—or so I thought.

It turns out there there is a way, after all, to customize the behavior of the RDP session that the View Open Client leverages. The View Open Client has an .RDP file, containing all the saved settings for RDP connections generated through the View Open Client, embedded inside the client itself. And because applications on Mac OS X are nothing more than specially-treated folders, it’s possible to crack open the client and actually customize the session parameters.

Here’s how:

  1. Open the Applications folder on your Mac (or wherever you installed the VMware View Open Client).
  2. Right-click (or Ctrl-Click) on the VMware View Open Client and select Show Package Contents.
  3. Open the Contents folder, then open the Resources folder.
  4. In the Resources folder, you’ll see a file named vmware-view.rdp. This is the template the View Open Client uses to generate new RDP connections. By modifying this file, you can modify the behavior of the RDP sessions that View creates.
  5. Open the vmware-view.rdp file in a text editor and make any desired changes. When you attempt to save the changes, you will most likely be prompted for authentication (because you are modifying the contents of an application in the Applications folder).

That’s it! It’s actually a lot easier than it might seem. For example, I didn’t like the fact that the EMC corporate VDI connection played that stupid Windows logon sound, so I modified the vmware-view.rdp file to change the value of the AudioRedirectionMode parameter so that it wouldn’t play music when I logged into a VDI image. All I had to do was change the integer value of the AudioRedirectionMode parameter to two, like this:

<key>AudioRedirectionMode</key>
<integer>2</integer>

Voila! No more sounds being sent across my RDP connection. I haven’t yet found a comprehensive breakdown of all the parameters, although this page is a good start.

The key drawback to this mechanism is, of course, that you can’t selectively apply these settings to different VDI connections. For example, I might not want to bring sound across for my corporate VDI session, but what if I’m connecting to a partner’s VDI environment and I want sound for that session? By modifying the template vmware-view.rdp file inside the View Open Client itself, the changes you make apply to all sessions. Perhaps a future revision of the View Open Client will give us some per-session granular control over these settings? (Hey, I can dream!)

Have a better way of accomplishing this? Let me know in the comments! Courteous and professional comments are welcome.

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It has been a busy week since I last posted, and the blogging/micro-blogging world has been quite busy. I’ve gathered quite the collection of links and posts over the last week or so; here are a few that caught my eye. Welcome to Virtualization Short Take #41!

  • About a month ago Rick Vanover posted a quick note about the use of Disk.SchedNumReqOutstanding as a potential performance tweak. As Rick mentions at the end of his article, it’s important to “test before and after with an intensive workload”; otherwise, you could find yourself actually hurting performance. Like so many performance tweaks, it really depends upon your specific environment and your specific workloads. Definitely refer to some of the linked resources at the end of Rick’s article (Duncan’s stuff is always helpful) for more details.
  • Speaking of Duncan, his post on vCPU limits is a great read and helps dispel a common misconception about vCPU limits. Remember the definition of a hertz folks—300 million cycles per second (300MHz) means 300 million cycles per second. It doesn’t mean 500 million cycles per second, or 700 million cycles per second.
  • Frank Denneman’s article on memory reservations and resource pools is also a really good read.
  • Kenneth van Ditmarsch has a good post on using datastore permissions to help ensure that VMs are properly placed based on SLAs. This is the kind of operational advice that I think many organizations still need.
  • Continuing our theme of resource allocation, here’s a good post on the effect of shares.
  • If you’re interested in an early look at some of the features targeted for inclusion in VMware View 4.5, have a look at Matthijs Haverink’s post on View 4.5 expected features. If Matthijs’ information is accurate, it looks like VMware has some good stuff planned.
  • I had a URL in my Yojimbo collection for part 5 of the series on Hyper-V dynamic memory, but it doesn’t seem to work anymore. I think the blog post was pulled. If anyone has a working link (yes, I’ve already checked Google), feel free to post it in the comments.
  • Jeremy Waldrop of Varrow brings to light a potential issue with the Cisco “Palo” adapter (now called the Virtual Interface Controller, or VIC) and PowerPath/VE. There is a workaround that fixes the problem. It’s important to note that the Cisco VIC isn’t fully vetted or validated for Vblock yet; that’s still in progress.
  • As a follow up from my mention of this issue in VST #40, I have more information on the Changed Block Tracking (CBT) issue. This post from VMware has more information on the specific conditions needed to produce the problem. I have to say, it looks like a pretty specific set of circumstances. I’m curious to know your thoughts: is this a corner case, or a really significant problem? Personally, I’m leaning toward the former.
  • EMC virtual appliances are really taking off; Chad unwrapped the FMA virtual appliance and fellow vSpecialist team member Nick Weaver unveiled v2 of the “Uber” Celerra VSA as well. I haven’t had the chance to play with the FMA virtual appliance yet, but I’m traveling tonight so maybe I’ll mess around with it on my laptop tonight from the hotel. (Yes, I’m a geek. What can I say?)
  • Following Citrix’s announcement of XenClient, their bare metal client hypervisor, and VMware’s response that perhaps the bare metal client hypervisor’s use cases are more limited than many might think, Citrix has responded by explaining XenClient to VMware. Bare metal hypervisors, unmanaged type 2 hypervisors, and policy-managed type 2 hypervisors all have value in the desktop virtualization space. Perhaps VMware should write a response to Citrix explaining the idea behind check-out/check-in of policy-controlled VMs? While I’m sure that I won’t be very popular with VMware for saying this, I do have to agree with Citrix here: discounting the value of bare metal client hypervisors on the basis of a single use case is a bit disingenuous, especially when you’ve been promoting client hypervisors for a while.
  • Looking to stay sharp and stay relevant in today’s changing IT landscape? Mike DiPetrillo offers some suggestions for skills that IT folks should embrace.
  • Kevin Goodman shared some information here on consolidation ratios with his Cisco UCS environment. He admits he is constrained by RAM, which is common in many data centers today. There are two answers to that problem today: full-width UCS blades with support for massive amounts of RAM; or expensive, high-capacity RAM modules to drive memory capacity higher. It also looks like the Nehalem EX chipset is going to help address that problem with support for more memory buses and more memory slots. Once again I find it interesting that virtualization is helping to drive hardware development.
  • Forbes Guthrie has published v5 of his connections and ports diagram for VMware ESX/ESXi. Definitely a useful resource!
  • This VMware KB article helps clarify the behavior of TPS with Intel Xeon 5500 (Nehalem)-based systems. This isn’t new information (I believe Duncan might have pointed it out first?), but it’s nice to see clarification of the behavior.
  • OK, I’m probably showing my ignorance here (I haven’t had the opportunity to spend as much time with View Manager as I would like), but who knew View Manager had a command-line tool?

I guess that will wrap things up for this issue of Virtualization Short Takes. I hope you’ve found something useful!

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