On Wednesday, October 1st, I attended the Rocket Science 2008 and 2008 Application Virtualization Group (AVG) Engineering Expo. A few of the demos covered super top-secret innovations to improve the Engineering/Test process*, others were examples of demos for Summit and then there were four stations that really peaked my interest. That’s not to say that everything else wasn’t ubercool or that everyone that presented doesn’t deserve MAJOR kudos for all the work they’ve done above and beyond their regular duties, but if you’re attending Summit you can and should see those demos for yourself, and I think these particular entries deserve some notice.

Automating VM provisioning

Andy Zhu presented work for a virtualization initiative. The large-farm/scalability test team is employing XenServer in order to use virtual servers instead of physical servers for every test. The XenServer PowerShell Kit allows the team to quickly and easily deploy predefined templates to XenServer in a large scale. Using more virtual servers means no more brown-outs when System II powers up that 1001st server!

Cloning XenApp just got easier

Shannon Ma demonstrated the latest version of XenAppPrep, a tool that helps clone XenApp servers. In Shannon’s words, it’s basically the equivalent of sysprep for Windows, except it’s for XenApp. Since I had just finished a round of virtualizing XenApp Server on XenServer Platinum utilizing the current tool and in the past I’ve helped create documentation about cloning XenApp Server, I know the manual process can be tedious so I really wanted to see “What’s next?” XenAppPrep should be available on the web October 26th, and you’re going to want it.

UPDATE: XenAppPrep is now available for download – http://community.citrix.com/display/xa/XenAppPrep+Tool

XenPool On-Demand Data Center

Kailas Jawadekar presented his latest work created for the internal XenPool initiative. Configured similarly to the public MyCitrixLab used by the Citrix Ready Program (more info on MyCitrixLab here and here,) the Citrix AVG XenPool is a project to demonstrate the benefits of pooling hardware resources in a lab environment and offering a set of dynamically configurable VMs to a broader set of customers. Kailas demonstrated a working model of a customer self-service frontend where someone that needs access to a VM can go to a webpage, choose from a selection of available templates and request a VM. When the VM is ready, the user gets an email to notify them. To ensure people aren’t taking up resources they’re not really using, the VMs come with a timed lease so a user receives prompts when the VM is about to expire and when the VM has reached it’s expiration date so a user can elect to extend the lease time if they are still utilizing the VM.

Eating your own dog food can make you rich and thin

This last demo was the one that really put the cherry on top for me and reminded me just how much Citrix products can rock. Steve Dillon and the AVG Build team used our own technology to provide themselves High-Availability, Business Continuity, Disaster Recovery, reduced power consumption, reduced hardware and improved turn-around times. By incorporating XenServer Platinum Edition into their infrastructure, AVG Build went from 40 single CPU 32-bit servers to 2 16-core x64 servers running XenServer (4 quad-core CPUs per server.) By virtualizing on multi-processor machines and switching to x64-bit compatible software they were able to:

  • Reduce hardware ($aves space, reduces cooling costs, electricity, money . . .)
  • Speed the build machine provisioning process (what took hours now takes minutes)
  • Created a cost-effective DR solution instigated by Hurricane Wilma - there’s now XenServers in the UK with Provisioning Server disk images ready to deploy and continue Build if local Build servers become unavailable.

Way to go, Citrites!

Finally, one last “Congratulations!” to everyone that participated this year – I can’t wait to see what turns up next year – and “Thank you!” to David Pope, Gagan Singh and everyone that helped them put this event together for us.

* OK they’re not all super top-secret, but thanks for reading down this far!