Software support and “key account” managers

As Mike wrote about his experiences with hardware vendors, I’m gonna devote this here post to my favorite software company in the world. We recently bought two copies of a software called “2X Application Server Enterprise Edition“. As one would think from reading the specs of the software, it’s near a Citrix solution (which it is, at least for a small part); but in return it’s faaaar away concerning the price. Just so you get an idea, about what I’m meaning with “faaar“:

The above are fixed costs, you need them anyway as both Citrix as well as the 2X solution is only working *on top* of Windows Server 2003 Terminal Services.

Now, here’s the real comparison between 2X Application Server & Loadbalancer and Citrix XenApp Platinum Edition:

While 2X is licensed per terminal server, XenApp is licensed per user. As you can see from the above prices, the 2X solution is roughly 1/6 of the Citrix XenApp solution.

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Customizing Thin Clients

As some of you know, the company I’m currently working for, recently acquired some thin clients to replace our old computers for the students to work on. Those PC’s are like P3 800 MHz with 512MB RAM and sadly don’t run Office 2007 anymore, so we replaced them with thin clients and are streaming those applications from a Windows Terminal Server cluster (created by and with 2X Application LoadBalancer).

So far so good, getting them to display the applications ain’t hard, the real hard part starts when you want additional things from this Windows XPe (Embedded), like lets say getting them to display a German language.

First thing is, the management software for those terminals (Wyse Device Manager or WDM) uses it’s own scripting language (with pseudo abbreviations like DF or MR – Delete File and Merge Registry – get it ?), which control the whole distribution of “packages“.

That ain’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just an additional “language” you need to understand/learn. The initial threshold is rather low (it ain’t no C++ or C#) as it’s just a pseudo language, you just need to make sure you do things in a certain order (like use the auto login registry entry with a new administrator password *after* you changed the administrator password).

We had a lot of work at the beginning of the week (like getting all packages working), and I think we managed finishing all of them (besides some default icon foo, for which is plenty of time when them terminals are already in use).


We are still waiting for the money promised by the state and the country for our HBFG (again, it’s “Hochschulbauförderungsgesetz”), that hopefully is reducing or eliminating our storage/SAN problem we have currently. Right now we have to Cisco MDS9216 (that’s a 16-port 2GBps SAN-switch, two for redundancy), which means we only have 16 SAN-ports. That isn’t much, but still is to less, as we have like 30 machines or so, that *really* need access to the SAN, so we either end up unplugging some of them from the SAN or merge them onto some big machines (like our x366).

The other side of the problem is the storage .. Currently that isn’t redundant, which means we’re fucked if the storage decides to not come up, or one of the controller smokes .. So were looking at two DS4700 with 2 enclosures each filled with 300GB 2GBps FC disks. That will hopefully also solve our constant lack of rackspace.

Apart from that, we took a look at the terminal server market, heard someone from Citrix, looked ourselves at 2X (and I think we are going with the 2X solution – even if they don’t support the authentication passthrough – yet). We might want to consider buying dedicated hardware for the terminal servers, as I implemented them running on the ESX which isn’t a permanent solution, as at least the students will work on those terminal servers 0700-2200, that means continuous load in that time, which isn’t good for the ESX Cluster, as they are pretty loaded already.

We’re also looking in buying a third box for the ESX Cluster, probably one of the same as we have currently (that is x366 – with 2 DC Xeon’s, 16GB RAM, 2×73 GB SAS, 2x dual-port Intel NIC, 2x dual-port FC HBA) to get some extra capacity.

Recently I did some experiments with Gentoo as MySQL cluster (master< ->master replication for our upcoming database servers – that’s what the blade chassis and the two blades are for) and noticed that the Gentoo VM’s were sucking up RAM and didn’t release it, so I had to reset them every morning, in order to free some RAM. I guess I should poke Chris a bit about that, as he told me back at FOSDEM that he was doing some load testing with a similar setup not so far ago.

Research project

OK, as I wrote earlier today I went onto a research mission for today, looking at the alternatives for the 2x stuff. Looks like Citrix Presentation Server is just the software I’m looking for. Watched the demo’s on their website, which are quite impressing, but sadly don’t tell me everything I’d like to know.

Maybe I’ll ask some people in Greifswald and in the vicinity, how stuff works with Citrix. Maybe I should even get in contact with Citrix itself and ask for a test version, or some other sort of demonstration.

Qualcomm Eudora vs. Microsoft Outlook

OK, so I’ve spent the last day working on my bosses $MAILPROGRAM. In detail, I’ve been trying to get his mails from Eudora (which really is complete *crap*) to Outlook (yeah, yeah I KNOW but he really needs a decent calendar with his E-Mail program, which neither KMail, nor Thunderbird nor Mozilla Suite – aka SeaMonkey can provide).

Problem with all that is Eudora’s crappy way of saving mails (and their attachments). Eudora is saving the mails in regular MBX format, but is putting the attachments into a separate folder. I’ve looked all over the web, and only found one application capable of importing his mails into Outlook including the attachments from the Attach folder.

Luckily I managed to import at least his old address book including the distribution lists with Outlook Express (yeah, this blog post mentions all the crappy Microsoft applications 😛 , as Outlook itself failed and crashed over and over again while importing them (due to a distribution list having ~300 addresses associated).

Finally I’m back at my research project, trying to find some alternatives for plain terminal server usage (such as 2x ApplicationServer and/or 2x LoadBalancer for RDP/ICA. I’ll see what the day turns out to be, hopefully not as wicked as yesterday.