Droplet Computing Inception
And so it began …
Michelle Laverick – Chief Technologist
Well, it’s just gone past a month since I joined Droplet Computing, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy, as well as you would expect when you start with a new company. As you might suspect, I’ve been quite “internally focused” (which sounds like some sort of medical examination!). But I’ve been trying to hold true to my goal of making Friday my geek-out day where I just get some technical playtime. I’ve been considering renaming Geek-Out Day as Michelle’s Mad Half Hour. You never know, it might catch on.
In case you don’t know, Droplet Computing container technology’s primary use case is focused squarely on legacy applications that typically stymie Windows 10 adoption or BOYD initiatives in whatever format they take (physical or virtual). Today, I focused on using our container technology to deliver a more modern array of applications and making them run where they would not normally be able to.
I recently upgraded my Apple Mac Book Pro as my old Uni-body Apple Mac had seen better days. The way I use the Microsoft Office suite hasn’t substantially altered since I was teaching Word, Excel, and PowerPoint back in 1993. For me that’s meant I’ve been quite content with using the native Microsoft Office that installs natively to the Apple Mac. That goes all the way back to that dog meat called “Entourage” before Outlook was available.
However, there are some Microsoft apps for which there is only a web-based version available for the Mac through the Office 365 portal. Although I’ve been quite impressed with the web-based versions of Microsoft apps, they are always lacking some feature or functionality that you don’t realize you use, until you reach for the option to find it’s not there. This is something I had direct experience of in my year out volunteering. I took some time away from the industry and volunteered in the heritage sector (I eventually became a trustee briefly for our newly-minted museum in the town where I live). My main job was the museum’s IT strategy and supporting a user base that was evenly split between Windows and Mac users. What a nightmare that was – all the documentation was doubled as any instructions had to be written once for the Windows version of Office (and everything else that surrounds it, like OneDrive) and all over again for Apple Mac. A container approach would have been so much easier to support – just send the Apple Mac users a container of the Office apps running natively in a Windows format – job done.
So, I took some time out to install Office 16 as well as signing up for a Visio evaluation plan. Installing the software was little more than a “next, next” affair. That’s because our containers don’t require any special packaging, sequencing, or recording technologies, you just run the regular setup.exe or setup.msi that shipped with the install media, and off you go.
You might notice the HP ILO Remote Console app is there as one of my “application tiles”. More about that later…
Here at Droplet Computing, we’re more than used to running legacy versions of Microsoft Office in demos to customers. Indeed, I’ve spent some time digging out all the different versions of Office I used back when I was a Windows user (1992-2009), and that meant a trip down memory lane, and into the garage and going through about 10 spindles of old CD-ROMs that I hadn’t thrown away. What can I say, I’m an IT hoarder! So, I have Droplet Computing images (DCI) that now contain Office 97 all the way to Office 2010. That in itself has been a funny experience, as it has caused me to re-warm the memory banks on stuff I was doing back in 2003. Talk about a technology TARDIS.
Anyway, I, as ever, digress… I’m pleased to say that running the latest version of Office in our container was more than up for the job, and that’s in spite of the fact that each new version of Office brings demands for ever more memory, disk space, and CPU.
The main Office 16 install went through easily and is screamingly fast on my Mac, and our containers taskbar (the long orange bar) allows for easy switching between the copy of Visio and Excel running side by side.
Of course, a Droplet Computing image (DCI) is just a file with a .droplet extension, and my container works just dandy on our Linux edition of the Droplet Computing application (DCA).
I run Ubuntu-dedicated physical hardware, but other Linux distros like RHEL8 I run inside vSphere-based virtual machines for testing purposes. And, sure enough, I could stand-up the container there. I say “stand-up,” I mean it took about a minute to install the DCA, and about 5 minutes to copy the DCI to RHEL instance:
I appreciate that a static screengrab like this shows that the container works but it doesn’t show what the performance is like, so I did this little video on YouTube which is recorded in real-time so you can see what the performance is like. It’s not the most thrilling of videos, but it illustrates the point!
So, now for the fun and weird and wacky stuff… I have some HP ML350e servers in my garage that run my vSphere home lab and I carved off some of the hardware to run Windows 10 and Ubuntu natively on the hardware. I’ve always used HP ILO to manage these boxes, but from my Apple Mac this has always been a bit of a nightmare. That’s because the Apple Mac client for the HP ILO is Java-based and it just stinks. It just involves far too many steps, annoying pop-ups – whereas the Windows .NET based HP ILO client is simply a joy to use. So, a Droplet Computing container to the rescue allows me to run the software of my choice.
So here I am running a Droplet Computing container on my Apple Mac, running a native .NET Windows application to get to a physical host running Ubuntu. My next thought was – hey I could install the DCA to Ubuntu, and how this would also work for RHEL8 as if it was installed to one my physical boxes.
You could call this Droplet Computing Inception or Container 2 Container (C2C). But at this point, my brain was starting to melt. Although there was the tantalizing prospect of running an RDP client inside the container to get to my physical Windows 10 box (also running a Droplet Computing container).
Do keep up! 🙂