From zero to hero in two days

Yes, yes, I know, I always said I hate administration work, but I am a certified Collax V-Family Expert now anyway.

The last two days were packed with excitement. Together with jET Computer Schweiz we have organised the first virtualization course for the Collax V-Family in Switzerland and since I want to eat my own dog food, it was time to dive head first into the KVM virtualization.

First, instead of ESXi, KVM or Hyper-V, even the Collax basic virtualization product, the V-Cube, which is based on KVM, does not come free, but at €195 a year with all the upgrades delivered directly to the V-Cube and a support with real people on the other end of the line, it’s more than worth it. And your customer will still pay less, because you will have the V-Cube up and running in under half an hour. Installing and configuring Windows XP takes longer.
Installing virtual machines is a blast. You can either put on it whatever you want or use templates from Collax. For example the CSG (Collax Security Gateway) has all I ever wanted for building a professional DMZ. What I find extremely helpful is the integrated graphical representation of the network. In one glance I was able to see the mistakes I did, when there was no line between the CSG and the rest of the world.

First we went for the basics. Claus Wickinghoff from linudata GmbH insisted in doing the the basic Collax Plattform Server first … when we all thought that’s baby stuff, let’s go for the real thing … but he was right. We all had those Ahaaaa-events, where we finally understood the philosophy of the Collax web interface, how you do things. Doing it right in a structured way – I think everybody is guilty in not reading the f.. hand book once in a while – just makes live a lot easier. Once you get the basic stuff, the virtualization becomes much easier to handle, because the interface is very similar.
No joke. We all installed the V-Cube in less than an hour. I tried to put Windows 8 on it, which runs, but there is one thing, nobody understood and was consistent. We were not able to write „@“ in the VNC in Windows 8, and only in Windows 8. Neither in the integrated client in the Collax Web Admin, nor in every other VNC client we tried. Just does not work. I believe that has nothing to do with the V-Cube.

At the end of the course, Claus Wickinghoff demonstrated the installation of a two machine cluster. Took him two hours with two VM’s and a lot of talking in between. He claims he can do it in an hour. He also said, with a lot of different open source products, he would be able to do the same thing, but that would probably take him a week and every installation would be different. Not something an admin appreciates. Collax takes all the pain from you and experience shows, that those clusters just work. Something a Domino admin knows is just the way it should be.
A feature which I believe is unique in the Collax cluster, is the embedded SAN. For a two machine cluster you don’t need an extra SAN. It’s integrated in the cluster and it’s redundant. That’s a huge saving and the Collax licence cost for V-Cube, Inter-V (for the cluster) and V-Store (SAN) are a very small part of the migration project. Where VMWare has a licensing schema where you need a half day course to understand it, Collax just charges per hardware.
The failover works great. I removed the interconnect between the two machines and within a few seconds, one machine killed the other and the load was transfered to the first and both applications where up an running (or still running on the surviving node of the cluster) in seconds.

All in all a great experience.
Now let’s imagine we put WS, IBM http and Connections on one box and DB2, Tivoly and Domino on the other and we got a high available social business cluster for SMB. Add that Web Administration Tool from TimeToAct and the administrator can stay on the beach while doing really fancy stuff.
IBM should like us for this, because KVM is the virtualization of choice from an IBM perspective. Domino officially supports KVM. Whatever that means, since I would be more concerned about the underlying OS.

With that course Giammi GmbH became the first Collax Gold Partner in Switzerland … a round of applause please.

Oh, and did I mention that my old Motorola phone finally gave up the gost? Must be 5 or more years. And I did not panic for two the days, not having connection to the outside world. Amazing isn’t it.
My new iPhone is doing it’s first charging cycle. Years and years of making jokes about those manager tamagochis (smart phones) and now I finally made it to the smart phone world. But nobody can expect, that I will have it with me, all the time. That’s probably not going to change.

Heise Webcast: Hochverfügbarkeit für KMUs

Für alle die das interessiert und des Deutschen mächtig sind, nächste Woche veranstaltet Heise einen Webcast zusammen mit Collax.
Hier gehts rein: Hochverfügbarkeit für KMUs

Wird sicher spannend. Beim letzten Partnertag wurden 4 Projekte vorgestellt. Alle für Firmen mit weniger als 40 Mitarbeitern. Es macht Sinn sich heute mit Hochverfügbarkeit zu beschäftigen, weil viele Unternehmen komplett von der IT abhängen. Wenn das Blech nichts mehr tut, können die Mitarbeiter nach Hause gehen. Die Collax Produkte sind ein Ausweg aus der Misere.

Collax Partner Event … Virtualization for SMB or the stuff you allways wanted from Lotus Foundations.

It was a good event. Collax is growing. Adding jobs constantly. The products are mature and the coolest thing they have, is the V-Family (Click on the German flag on top/right for the English version).
It’s based on KVM (Collax, IBM, Redhat and 120 other companies are active here) and it looks like Collax is one of the few companies which actually made an easy to use product of it.
Collax partners presented a few reference projects where customers moved to high availability clustered solutions, all with less the 40 users. Some had highly critical software still running on machines from the stone age, which needed replacement as fast as possible.
It does makes sense to give the latest and best to small companies and Collax solutions are due to different reasons, just more cost effective.
Everybody should just love the pricing. One machine, one price. No POV, no memory counting, no „the more you use it, the more you pay“. It looks like some competitors realise, that there is a new kid on the block. Collax is mentioned in white papers of competitors together with Citrix, VMWare and so on (made the Collax guys very proud).
And … you need less hardware. The embedded SAN makes this possible, for example.
And all you need for administering the whole setup is a browser. The UI still looks a bit old, but this is going to change soon, because some lazy admins want to take their iPad/iPod/iPhone/Smartphone to the beach and work while waiting for wind or waves (Boris Nalbach, the CTO is an avid wind surfer, must be his idea).
One of the best features is the graphical representation of the „virtual network“. Even I can understand what’s going on in there. They really do their best to make the setup as easy as possible. During a presentation earlier this year, a non IT person was able to install a cluster with two nodes in about half an hour. Hard to beat (but she did read the manual first) and with the new managing possibilities, you have your customers server under constant surveillance. Reminds me of the time with the AS400, where IBM technicians walked into offices to fix something, before the customer even realized, that something was wrong. Yes, I know, others can do that, too. But everything in a browser?
The whole setup screams for XWork Server installations. Or imagine Connections on it. You could set it up once and reuse the VMs every time you do a new installation.
Collax now has all the products a hoster or anybody else needs, starting at the virtualization technology with the new server managing tool, the security stuff, anti virus, surf protection, gateways, small business server, groupware and we are soon adding a bookkeeping tool for Switzerland and Germany. If you want just one vendor, Collax is your friend. I don’t know another vendor with such a broad portfolio for infrastructure that all fits together seamlessly.
Another aspect is the evolution of the legislation. It looks like, that many cloud provider will have huge problems and right now the data protection officers are homing in on them. Anybody who thinks that Office 365 or Google docs is the way to go, could be in for a surprise.

Remember Lotus Foundations? This is Lotus Foundations NG (kind of) and I will get one in a few weeks. It’s the Office Entry Server from Collax. It’s cheap, it can run out of the box everything I will ever need, including Zarafa and installs almost as easy as LF. But it does 64bit.

First I am going to play around with it – V-Cube and different servers – and then it will replace the Lotus Foundations Box. I am going to connect a Time Capsule to it and the whole power of Lotus Foundations (or whatever I am going to do with it) will sit on my bookshelf. No noise, less power consumption. That’s the thing I always wanted. I could build a high availability cluster with two of them (not supported, but Collax did it for the fun of it). Does it make sense to virtualize on a small box like that? Who cares. Sometimes I just need a new toy. I probably need two, because of 8.5.3 … or the beta stuff that hopefully comes out at LotuSphere…. oh wait, I could install 8.5.3 and Connections … or XPages Server and use the DB2, too … or … or…



While I was sitting there, some MS admins startet to talk about Exchange and the Zarafa rep explained MAPI. Zarafa uses the nativ MAPI interface and stores in the correct format in MySQL. It looks like, the whole MAPI stuff is quite a bit of a mess (and will be replaced by web services). Everybody living in the yellow bubble, should just be happy. Our data model is straight forward. We just don’t know the pain our collegues from the dark side are living in, because of the lousy not so ideal architecture of Exchange.

That’s what IBM should have done with Lotus Foundations …

Starting tomorrow, Collax offers it’s SMB solution Collax Business Server and Collax Security Gateway free of charge for up to 5 users. Yep, not just testing. You can actually use it for your company.
OK, support is extra, but the server AND the documentation (!) got high marks in a test from Computerwoche and TecChannel.

It’s not rocket sience after all.

… and BTW. There are several Domino installations on Collax. That works, too.
I think it is about time to throw out LF and get something with a future. LF is making more and more problems here. Collax Business Server runs happily on a LF appliance. I couldn’t make the DOM work, though. Anybody an idea, how to access a DOM?

Going Collax – The next step and a surprise

OK. The press releases are out and we are the new distributor for Collax in Switzerland.
What does it mean for us? We have to concentrate mostly on marketing. No more server installations (Good, very good). We have to recruit new resellers. We will find customers and connect them with resellers. There are allready installations in Switzerland, therefore we don’t have to start at the bottom like we did with Lotus Foundations.
And you know what? Collax is doing many things, what we (I mean all of us in the LF community) told IBM over and over again what should be done with Lotus Foundations, but IBM in its universal wisdom was polite enough, not to tell us, that we are complete morons. Collax does it all different. We got flyer’s – printed ones – on glossy paper! Can you imagine? We get rollups. Cool ones even. They do press releases. They do roadshows (look here, that’s going to be fun … for Collax). You will not believe this, but they want, that people know about their products. From an IBM marketing perspective, Collax must do everything wrong, but Collax products sell.

Stay tuned, there is another annoucement soon. Something else, that would have pleased the LF reseller community (but is completely wrong from an IBM perspective).

Surprise, surprise. Collax is growing and LF is history. They must do something right.

Our next step is to build a hosting offering with a partner and we are in the works for bringing Domino as a standard package on the Collax CBS, preferably alongside Zarafa. Domino runs allready in different companies on the collax platform and as far as I can see, without any issues.
I have a Collax CBS running on a LF Box here. Unfortunately I couldn’t use the DOM, but hey, you can’t have everything. Funny enough, Collax has an interface for the USB display. It’s not activated, but that would not be hard to do. Next step is to move a domino server in there and get the grips with Postfix. Should work soon I hope.

It is amazing, what you can do in a short time, if you actually want to sell a product. BTW, more Collax products have been sold in Switzerland in January 11 then LF in the whole 2010.