Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Unparalelled Support.

Addendum 2:
Even though most issues had been solved. Our virtual mailservers running CentOS 5.5 and Kerio Mailserver and nothing else still dissapear from time to time. You can't ping the virtual machine, you can't run the Parallels Management Console (Can't connect) and only a reboot of the host system (a XServe running MacOS X 10.6.4) fixes it. The system log doesn't show anything obvious. *sight*.


Parallel's has addressed the major issues in Parallel's Server for MacOS X Version 4. There are only a few graphical GUI glitches left which are by far not critical. So if you run version 3 and have issues. Upgrade to 4. It will make your life a lot easier.

The Linux variant runs like a charm on our IBM blade server but still has issues on the other machine I used. I've given up on that one and write it off under "bad motherboard".

As we are building a large virtualized datacenter, we are testing virtualisation solutions. As we want to offer MacOS X Server hosting and want to do "real stuff" we looked closer into Parallels Server for Mac OS X. About 2 years ago I tried this before and it failed. It crashed, freezed etc. But as time has passed and Parallels Desktop usually is working fine, I thought I give it another try. But big problems arised.

1. You configure 8 virtual machines on a XServe with 20GB of ram and big fat harddisks. All looks great until you reboot the machine. The virtual machines won't start. So you check the box to autostart and save. But oh'oh, it is not starting neither. The settings don't get stored. You get prompted with weird error messages sometimes pointing to some "credentials issue" but if you simply do it again it doesn't happen. And some virtual machines look like "stating" but they arent. So you can't stop or start them. Rebooting the server is the only option.

2. Ok so let's try it on a Linux machine with the Parallels Bare metal server. Sounds like "kernel and app and nothing else" should be slim and working. After doing this on a big fat PC with many disks it all looks great until you reboot the machine a few times and your boot disk gets totally corrupted. Ok sounds like a SATA disk issue, new controller, different disk, same problem. But now the box is in a datacenter 3000km away from home.

3. Contact support. Well go to the webpage and try to contact them. Contact us requires registration. Well I am registered but I can't login. Password recovery works but logging in is still bringing you back to the login screen. What now? theres no way to contact support.

Doing the same with Firefox instead of Safari reveals that they have a buggy web designer. Well, ok now you are there. You can do a life chat. But oh, theres no product Parallels server there. So I have to choose Desktop. And then you are #1 on the list for the next 30 minutes. My patience is not so long...

4. Next thing the app crashed once so it created an automated submission and now I have a ticket on their RT system. Great. Finally I can explain my issues to someone. Its a priority #1 case as everything stops after a reboot so its a mission critical issue. You get an answer saying you get a reply within 24h. A day later nothing happened. After writing 5 additional add-on's to the support case, I get some lousy answers which gives a script (which isn't attached of course) to start the servers to be installed as a LaunchDaemon. While this is a ugly workaround at least for the not starting stuff, its no option for the hanging processes at start.

5. there's a nice checkbox in the config tool saying "iPhone support". if you check it, it says its not implemented. WTF. Why have a checkbox at all if its not supported??

6. You can't install CentOS 5.5 on the virtual machine due to some graphics driver issue. As this is a server, there's no graphics needed. plain old text mode however doesn't work neither. But why does it work then on the desktop system?

7. Parallel tools on a Ubuntu 9.10 server systems you can't install them.

8. You open a priority 1 mission critical ticket which they define as:

  • Severity 1 (Urgent): A customer is unable to install and run the software because of problems with a license key, the computer (server) fails to start, or the software crashes and corrupts data. No workaround or immediate solution is available.
The next day (more than 13 h later) you still have not a single reaction while you sent like 10 mails and logs and reports and screenshoots. After 16 hours, the first reaction was, well it will probably be fixed in 2 weeks in the next release (maybe). If you operate a datacenter with thousands of servers as we plan it, you don't want to get into the situation that your servers reboot, get stuck and you have to wait 2 weeks until someone makes a working product.

Conclusion: There's no working product for the DataCenter from Parallels. If you thought about it, forget it. At least for the next 2 years. This looks like some russian cpu cracks who had fun writing a (probably pretty good) virtual machine but have forgotten what software quality means. If your business depends on it, you are better off with more expensive solutions like VMWare. The only problem there is that they have no solution for virtualizing MacOS X Server. Someone might shout, "what about Fusion?". Yes thats true but that's a desktop application. Its built for users sitting in front of a computer. You can not virtualize 100's of servers on a big fat CPU with many gigabytes of ram and disk that way (ever thought how 100 windows look like on your screen?). I'm sure VMWare could make a product that way which would even work but they don't see the commercial market for it yet.

So whats the only other option? Piling up MacMini's. One for every customer. Thousands of wires. Ugly cabling. Reliability questionable. Or piling up XServes. One for every customer. Reliable but expensive.

I'm dreaming of a working virtualisation solutions working on big iron's like seamicro running MacOS X Server. But there are obstacles:

- One is called Steve which doesn't want MacOS X Server to run on anybody else's hardware than his
- The other is Apple who doesn't produce big enough fat servers
- Tnd the third is Paralells which is unable to produce serious products
or VMWare who see's no market.

No wonder MacOS X Server is not common at all in the hosting compared to Linux. Even though its a very stable server system with a nice guy which adds a lot of ease of use for many people who are not day in, day out working on the command line.

Folks. Give us an option! There's business to grab here...

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