It wasn’t my intention to write this as a rant about virtualisation, more I was going to discuss chef and VMWare orchestration. Sadly the problem is there really isn’t much orchestration between these two things and that’s a terrible shame. Also Mike Bailey has been nagging me about giving Xen a go and when someone does that you start thinking. If I were to sit down and duke it out with Mike what would I say? Which led me to this post. In some ways it’s a call to action by VMWare and Xen, in some ways its just a whinge about virtualisation right now. Whatever, it’s a snapshot of a point in time where devops thinking is frustrated by the tools we have.
We use VMWare at work, we did before I got there. It is loaded on our dev servers and we have some 50+ VMs running on it. Initially I kinda liked it, there’s not a lot of fluffing around with the hypervisor so there’s not a lot you have to do either to set it up or to go wrong once you have it set up. Which isn’t the case with Xen or KVM. For both of those you’re going to have to work harder to get up and running. Also because in both cases you’re going to be maintaining an OS rather than an appliance. Since you’ve got an entire OS there are more moving parts to be maintained once you are going.
Let’s start with VMWare’s ridiculous state of client support for their products. Seriously, how hard would a linux and mac vsphere client be? The short effect of that is that you can’t then write things like chef recipes for VMWare. So every time you’re faffing about inside some Windows interface remembering why it is that you hate Windows administration. As a side note Windows is execrable in large parts because of the work you have to do to make the thing behave, at all, in any administrative capacity. Take configuring a service, or juggling ports, why do I have to go into the registry every five minutes? For VMWare you have to click about all over the tool to get things going. Things trip you up like the vSwitch networking not having enough ports. On top of that run a console in a VM for super laggy performance :( Oh and you know what? Every time I switch on vSphere I love to be told what a Virtual Machine is… That is why I work with your product, I have a memory disorder sufficient that I need to be told what a VM is. Every. Time. I. Open. The. Program. Does that sound ridiculous to you? VMWare makes a mint out of their tools that sit on top of the ESX infrastructure so to an extent it’s not in their interest to provide an awesome set of tools to admin it with. However I’d argue that I want the polished tools less, much less than I want the basic tools so I can innovate off them. I will pay you, have no fear, because at some point soon I will need help to deal with the 100+ VMs, at which point VMWare gets a bungload of money. VMWare not the business models of Oracle, Microsoft and a whole heap of others for instruction with regard to this practice. Trust me, as I go you will grow with me VMWare. As a secondary matter, good tools promote great cross-selling opportunities, ones you may not even have thought of right now. Sadly those seeds will never hatch without a conducive environment fed by great tools.
Now Xen, don’t think you’re getting off scott free here either. Your website is great when I’m buying your top-dollar product and erm… vile when I’m not. You know Red Hat? They have a lovely sister project called Fedora. You know what sticks out when you see that? That Red Hat is invested in this thing, they believe in Fedora and its ability to uplift their business. xen.org says that when Xen is free then Citrix stops the meter and tells the geeks it’s on their dime. There is only one outcome from that, the geeks go elsewhere because they can’t work out how your application works. Also why in the name of all that’s geeky has it taken so painfully long to get Dom0 support into the upstream linux kernel? I’m glad you did but I can’t help wondering, will version 5 take so long? Having said that, your API is lovely. You have an array of awesome projects touching management, security and cloud provisioning. If you could get yourselves in order Xen-lets you could burn out VMWare in its current format with the grace of a swan.
If I’m honest, I’m going to try Xen on my next server. VMWare, get off your collectives and sort yourselves out.