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Posts Tagged ‘VDI’

ThinIO Public Beta is go!

September 15, 2014 Leave a comment

logoLets get right to it!

Warm up your labs or fire up your golden images ladies and gents, we’re delighted to announce ThinIO’s brief public beta will begin today!

This project has taught us some really interesting things about Windows IO, how Windows behaves and how the hypervisor and storage can behave. This project really felt like a David vs. Goliath task as we (members of our community with a desire to simplify this issue) attempted to tackle one of the largest issues in our industry, storage bottlenecks and Windows desktops.

What’s really unique about our approach is there are no hardware lead times, no architecture changes needed and no external dependencies. ThinIO can be installed in seconds and the benefits are seen immediately.

Read more…

ThinIO, taking a peak under the covers.

logoWhat a busy few weeks, Citrix Synergy already feels like a distant memory. We had a great trip and were dumbfounded by the interest and excitement shown by enthusiasts, customers and vendors around our ThinIO solution, with quite a few people insisting on seeing the inner mechanics and trying to break our demo’s to ensure the figures they saw were legit!

For those unfortunate enough to miss synergy or our Webinar with Erik over at XenAppBlog, here’s a little blog post you will find interesting as I walk you through the inners of ThinIO and why it’s so simple to deliver disk access with RAM speeds without any of the complexity.

 

What is ThinIO?

 

ThinIO is a filter driver which operates at a block level, inline between the windows and the disk.

ThinIO sits in the operating system layer and can be used on windows desktop operating systems or server based computing models.

ThinIO delivers a greatly reduced IO footprint on your storage, while also speeding up core items like boot times and login times. ThinIO also helps standardize the peaks your storage will get hit by at busy periods during the day. Ultimately this allows you to size your storage for an average, as opposed to sizing for the worst case scenario during peaks.

How does it work?

 

When ThinIO starts up, it allocates a configurable cache of reserved RAM to perform its optimisations.

Being the last filter in the stack, ThinIO can still allow windows to perform it’s own optimisation on IO, delivering value by catching the read and write IO’s just as they hit the disk.

ThinIO interacts with block data as read’s and writes traverse the cache. As a read is observed it is retrieved from disk and subsequently stored for future use, meaning any subsequent read will be served directly from cache.

But read’s a boring, and everyone has a solution for read caching. ThinIO also treats this RAM cache as a storage area for write IO. Write IO is committed nearly instantly to the cache and no IO is sent down to the disk while free space is available in the cache.

“But what about if the machines run out of RAM?”

 

Well I’m glad you asked! The cache in ThinIO is hard set at a value you configure, so RAM will never be taken from the cache to service other processes. But in the situation where the cache has become 100% volatile write, ThinIO will then begin to spill over to the local disk allowing the Virtual Machine continue to operate.

There’s more, ThinIO actively manages cache contents to ensure it’s as relevant as possible. As the cache begins to fill, ThinIO’s Lazy Page Writer can identify and flush out blocks that have not been frequently used. This allows you to use a relatively small cache size while still deliver the big numbers we’ll discuss later.

Designed to be fool proof:

 

ThinIO’s GUI is fool proof, it’s intuitive and gives you a really quick view of ThinIO Realtime. ThinIO provides graphical representations of stats on reads, writes and cache usage, as well as an immediate view of the benefit ThinIO has created for the desktop.

The ThinIO console can also remotely connect to machines to ensure you don’t have to disturb the user while checking performance.

 

 

When the cache is enabled, ThinIO also has a realtime statistics window to help you identify disk patterns and cache performance

 

 

Boot and application launch time optimization:

 

ThinIO has some really clever technology built in to optimise the windows boot process and user experience.

During early testing, we observed just how inefficiently windows uses its disk resources during the boot process. Regularly the same files are requested over and over again on boot, if these blocks are non-contiguous, seek times are inherent. Busy servers were requesting up to 80,000 read IOPS during boot and process start.

ThinIO’s Read Ahead feature allows you to teach windows to be less of a storage monster. As the ThinIO cache is already aware of all blocks needed to boot, or even serve the users first launch of their applications, Read Ahead allows you to boot the machine, with a preloaded cache of required blocks, sorted contiguously.

When ThinIO starts up, it identifies the ‘Read Ahead’ configuration file and pauses windows while it reads the required blocks once, in a contiguous pattern around the disk. Once finished, windows continues to boot retrieving the majority of its block data directly from cache.

By doing this, ThinIO was delivering roughly 30% improved boot times while also reducing boot IOPS by over 80% in our testing. In the below graphs, we did a side by side comparison of the windows start-up process with and without ThinIO.

In the Gui below you will see a machine with the ThinIO cache enabled but no read ahead configured, we achieve a good 40% reduction of IOPS on boot and login, which is not bad on it’s own, but we knew we could make it better:

So after configuring a ‘Read Ahead’ configuration by booting a machine, logging in, opening the core set of applications and committing the file we see the following, large improvement of IOPS saving and cache hit rate on read:

 

So there you have it. By taking an additional 3-4 minutes with your golden image, you reduce nearly 30,000 IOPS to roughly 5,000 IOPS while also reducing boot times. Not only have you taken alot of pressure off your storage, if you launched your users applications core files as part of the read ahead configuration, your user’s login speeds will receive a really good boost while making their application launch times near instant.

Once the read ahead is complete, the driver will then start to use the data which is no longer needed for more chatty blocks of read or write, so configuring read ahead has zero impact on cache usage in the longer term.

Deploy, size, done.

 

Out of box, ThinIO takes less than 5 minutes to install and configure delivering you immediate benefits. No hoping, trusting or praying the hardware vendor’s figures are correct. No SAN or LUN type requirement, no hardware lead time, no hypervisor requirements and no change needed to your architecture. Whether you are doing on premises or even cloud SaaS / DaaS, ThinIO installs without any change.

 

Licensing:

 

ThinIO will ship with a 30 day grace period for you to test to your heart’s content without any commitment. If ThinIO is not for you, it’s just a matter of uninstalling it! Keeping in the spirit of the community, ThinIO will even have a free version available!

Ultimately, designing and deploying virtual desktops is difficult, we really wanted to write a product that both delivers and is simple and easy to deploy. We feel we’ve absolutely hit the mark on this and we look forward to opening the program to full deployment in the coming weeks.

Sounds great, how do I learn more?

 

Head on over to the ThinScale Technology web page and read more or register for the private beta.

Categories: ThinScale Tags: , ,

ThinIO, here comes something incredible.

logo

Well we’ve been busy! Very, very busy. In the next week you will see the culmination of  two years work on a product we’re about to release called ThinIO.

Cast your mind back if you will to some ramblings and napkin math I devised some time ago in my series on IOPS negation strategies:

IOPS, Shared Storage and a Fresh Idea. (Part 1)
IOPS, Shared Storage and a Fresh Idea. (Part 2)
IOPS, Shared Storage and a Fresh Idea. (Part 3)

In these post’s a bunch of community guys ( Barry SchifferIain BrightonIngmar VerheijKees BaggermanRemko Weijnen and Simon Pettit) devised a cunning plan during E2EVC to see if we could counter the monotony of IOPS and their devastating impact on Virtual Desktop implementations. We threw together a loose test scenario where we could demonstrate how technology from Microsofts Windows Embedded Standard functionality EWF (Extended Write Filter) and Citrix’s XenServer intellicache with explosive performance and IO reduction statistics.

This blog series got way more attention than we possibly hoped and judging by citrix’s response by adding ram caching and disk overflow in Citrix provisioning services… we were definitely listened to. At the end of the series, I elluded to a technology that could be leveraged to achieve some of this, while right, it has taken along time to get right! With the help of our newest collaborator David Coombes, this technology is very much alive and ready for use.

Here’s the kicker:

Next week at Citrix Synergy, we’re dropping some big news for this market, we’re releasing a product that will deliver insanely fast IOPS to any storage utilising inexpensive RAM. With our product, no architecture change is required, no san volume dependencies, no expensive hardware upgrades and no hypervisor gotcha’s. ThinIO works with all major desktop virtualisation products like XenApp, XenDesktop, VDI in a Box, Microsoft Remote Desktop technologies and even VMware Horizon View!

ThinIO is just a simple installation and off you go. Not only will this product reduce, standardise and improve the speed of IOPS, it will also optimise and reduce boot storms dramatically.

Register for XenAppBlogs webinar here where we’ll discuss how ThinIO works for the first time or come visit us in Citrix Synergy (Booth 513) to celebrate the culmination of 2 years of work and learn how ThinIO is performant, reliable and an extremely cost effective method to deliver lightning fast experience to your users while protecting your disk storage from grinding to a halt.

Watch this space.

Register for Xenappblogs webinar with ThinScale Technology for the official launch of ThinIO

Categories: ThinScale Tags: ,

The (not so) wonderful world of Lotus Notes in SBC & VDI, Guide Updated.

Just a quick note to say I’ve updated the original Guide to Lotus Notes in SBC / VDI environments with another 2 years of begrudging, pain and bug fixes.

A link to the updated article is here. Best of luck!

A

Announcing SBC Printers, A simple printers interface for XenApp / VDI

January 4, 2013 11 comments

A little irk of mine with Windows 7 and server 2008 R2 was the Devices and Printers interface. This mix of peripherals is fine for standard desktops, but in SBC / VDI the devices list generally contained items you didn’t want users seeing, or ejecting for that matter!

default interface

Not happy with the Irk, and still on my app developing buzz, i decided to write SBC Printers:

default

SBC-Printers is a simple little .net 4 application, leveraging WMI for printer enumeration and control.Because SBC Printers is an executable, it can published as a XenApp application. Sbc Printers can also be installed as the default printers interface on the start menu:

start menu

So really your users won’t know the difference or care for that matter!

SBC-Printers also comes with securable options for adding or deleting local printers:

add

delete

The display of add or delete can be controlled via the settings file in the installation directory:

settings file

Installation:

  1. Download the following MSI
  2. Install the MSI to the default directory.

To restrict the standard printers dialog from users, but leaving it accessible to administrators:

  • Browse to c:\program files (x86)\SBC-Printers\bin

powershell

  • run the powershell script below, make sure to run it as an administrator!

That’s it, once the Powershell script runs. it removes the users access to the registry classes giving them access to the standard devices and printers interface. Which means we’re now ready to provision SBC-Printers to replace it.

Provisioning the replacement to the user:

Now just import the userkey.reg into the users profile on login, you can do this via your user profile manager of choice, or use Group Policy preferences.

That’s it!

As you can see I haven’t streamlined the install process too much, this is mostly down to the simplicity of the tool. If you like SBC-Printers but would like a better installer, just drop me a comment below.

Roll back:

if you need to restore the standard interface, uninstall SBC-Printers then add the (local computer\users) group back to the following registry keys ACL:

  •  HKCR\software\classes\CLSID\{A8A91A66-3A7D-4424-8D24-04E180695C7A}
  • HKCR\software\Wow6432Node\CLSID\{A8A91A66-3A7D-4424-8D24-04E180695C7A}

Viewing open files on a file server from powershell.

December 5, 2012 2 comments

https://andymorgan.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/windows_powershell_icon.png?w=58&h=58&h=58So this is a situation you should all be aware of in an SBC / VDI environment, despite all warnings, you’ve redirected folders to your network drive and your file servers are screaming in agony?

Having been in this situation recently, I needed to audit and report on the types of files open on the file server, my hunch was a certain select number of users were running applications (like *gulp* lotus notes) from the network share.

Disappointed with the powershell scripts on the interwebs, I decided to write my own function to perform this task:

function get-openfiles{
param(
    $computername=@($env:computername),
    $verbose=$false)
    $collection = @()
foreach ($computer in $computername){
    $netfile = [ADSI]"WinNT://$computer/LanmanServer"

        $netfile.Invoke("Resources") | foreach {
            try{
                $collection += New-Object PsObject -Property @{
        		  Id = $_.GetType().InvokeMember("Name", 'GetProperty', $null, $_, $null)
        		  itemPath = $_.GetType().InvokeMember("Path", 'GetProperty', $null, $_, $null)
        		  UserName = $_.GetType().InvokeMember("User", 'GetProperty', $null, $_, $null)
        		  LockCount = $_.GetType().InvokeMember("LockCount", 'GetProperty', $null, $_, $null)
        		  Server = $computer
        		}
            }
            catch{
                if ($verbose){write-warning $error[0]}
            }
        }
    }
    Return $collection
}

The function above (get-openfiles) has been written to accept an array of servers to the command line and it will return the following items:

  • The ID of the open file.
  • The server it’s open from.
  • The username who has the file open.
  • The amount of locks the file has.

A couple of quick examples for using this command are below:


Retrieving open files from server1:


full

get-openfiles -computername server1 | select server,itempath,lockcount



Retrieve a count of open files that end with the nsf file type (Lotus Notes):


count

(get-open files -computername server1,server2 | ? {$_.itempath -like "*.nsf*"}).count()



Retrieve a report of total open files on a number of file servers:


report

 

get-openfiles -computername server1,server2,server3,server4,server5 | group -property server

 

Announcing ThinKiosk 3.1

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

With great pleasure I’m announcing the general availability of ThinKiosk 3.1. Quite a bit of change under the hood and some nice features added to match.

New features:

VMware View enhanced support:

VMware View has gotten some love in this update, A big thanks to Jarian Gibson for the help.

You can now enforce end of session options for VMware view:


You can also now choose to wipe the last users details from the Kiosk between View sessions:

FTP policy management:

With ThinKiosk 3.1, you no longer are tied to manage the thinkiosk devices by Group Policy or local registry settings, you can now also use an ftp server with a shared xml configuration file:

Just configure a Device as you would like it to appear, unlock the admin menu and you can export the configuration to xml:

Then move it to your ftp server!

Encryption:

The unlock password in group policy can now be encrypted to save it appearing in plain text to anyone capable of viewing the policy. ThinKiosk 3.1 ships with a password encryption tool you can use to encrypt your password.

You can also test reversing the password to plain text to make sure you get it right before applying it en-mass and locking yourself out!

This encryption functionality has now been added to both the offline configuration tool:

And by default the FTP password will be encrypted too!


Battery Awareness:

ThinKiosk is now aware of batteries in laptop devices and will report their status.

When the battery begins to run out, ThinKiosk will throw a warning in the foreground as below:

You can additionally disable this functionality with the offline configuration tool.

Pre launch Citrix Receiver:

A rare issue seen with the latest versions of the receiver was a bit of a hang, pause or complete lock up as receiver came to life. To combat this, you can now choose to early launch the receiver for Citrix, allowing it to gracefully start up in the background before the user requires it.

Early launch process:

A number of customers needed to have third party software launched as soon as ThinKiosk started each day. I’ve now added the ability to early launch a process 

You can also choose to launch this process as hidden, away from the user.

Browser navigation buttons:

ThinKiosk can now act as a locked down browser by adding back and forward buttons.

AM / PM clock:

This feature was asked for quite a few times, so now you can set the clock to 12 hour.

Debug Mode:

A fully fledged debug window has been added to help timing issues. The debug menu can be accessed via command line (-debug) or via the admin menu in ThinKiosk.

Zorder awareness:

In rare situations (and I’ve been unable to reproduce it) ThinKiosk can jump above the citrix session when a log off of the web interface happens or during the login process.

Zorder awareness will tell ThinKiosk to send itself to the back of the Zorder when the browser finishes rendering. It will also display a hide button, which will send ThinKiosk to  the back in this rare event.

Please use this setting as a troubleshooting tool, not a production setting. If this setting fixes the issue for you, please drop me an email and I’ll write it in. As I’ve been unable to reproduce this issue, it’s a bit rough around the edges.

Citrix Storefront timeout screen:

ThinKiosk is now aware of the timeout screen and will automagically redirect back to the login screen if it see’s it.

Hide ThinKiosk when a desktop is active:

If you wish to outright hide ThinKiosk while a desktop is active, you can now do so!

Even More sites:

Support for up to 20 sites has been added, thanks Martijn!

Sticky Home Page:

A request came through to allow the home page always be site 1, this has now been included.

Bug Fixes:

  • support for environment variables in custom tools and prelaunch commands. (thanks Nathan).
  • Offline config tool not setting password correctly.
  • VB Powerpack accidentally bundled with ThinKiosk 3.0
  • In process launch mode, power options were intermittently being applied.

And it’s still free!

ThinKiosk development has taken quite some time and it takes time to support you via email. If you use ThinKiosk in your environment or appreciate the savings its made for you, please consider making a donation or paying for enterprise support to help me keep this project alive… I would really appreciate it as it will allow me to invest in better development tools to make the product look and feel even better!