Demystifying heterogeneous hypervisor management

By Julia Anderson, assistant site editor

Once an ill-advised endeavor, heterogeneous data centers have become more common and a more widely accepted practice among IT pros. Virtualization vendors have jumped on the bandwagon as well by churning out tools designed as management aids. Do these multi-hypervisor management tools accomplish all they claim to, or are they merely money-making ploys from vendors looking to capitalize on this trend? If your organization has implemented multiple hypervisors as a way to cut costs, throwing money away on useless applications is the last thing you need to do.

Heterogeneous environment management tools are not your only option, however. The more hypervisors you deploy, the more flexibility you have, and certain methods of architecting your infrastructure can ease monitoring and maintenance tasks. Organizing your hypervisors in tiers, for example, can simplify management and cut costs in a similar manner to storage tiering.

You can also put existing hypervisor management skills to use in mixed environments. Knowledge of PowerShell scripting assists with everything from task automation to virtual networking regardless of platform.

Bottom line: No silver-bullet solutions exist to manage heterogeneous hypervisor environments. Carefully weigh your options, know your infrastructure's requirements and the limitations of management tools and you'll avoid many performance pitfalls.

Table of contents:

Multi-hypervisor management tools on the horizon

The reasons why companies deploy multiple hypervisors are as varied as the infrastructures themselves. Regardless of the rationale, the need and desire for management tools continues to grow. Third-party management tools exist, but some major vendors have also entered the market. Considering the rate at which vendors update platforms and hypervisors, you may be hard-put to find a tool that can keep up with the changes. Our Advisory Board predicts a highly competitive future for multi-hypervisor management.

Breezing through multi-hypervisor management

A heterogeneous data center requires different monitoring and maintenance techniques than a homogeneous one, but you can still apply some of the same management principles. Most virtualization admins are familiar with PowerShell, especially considering the script underlies hardware and software from multiple vendors. As such, knowledge of PowerShell and similar products can make it easier to take a traditional data center into a heterogeneous environment.

Highlighting four heterogeneous environment management tools

Virtualization vendors have begun to capitalize on the multi-hypervisor data center trend by developing tools and applications designed to make admins' lives easier. Almost all tools perform basic administrative tasks, such as creating a virtual machine, editing its settings and powering it on and off. Of the four most popular on the market, however, some fall short of their promises.

The whole truth about multi-hypervisor management tools

Vendors tout the do-it-all capabilities of their multi-hypervisor management tools, but many fall short of performing critical functions such as managing clusters, resource pools, storage provisioning and many networking tasks. Does this mean you should give up managing a heterogeneous environment? Not necessarily. As long as you are aware of the limitations of the tools you deploy, and plan accordingly, you can successfully manage a data center with multiple hypervisors.

What to expect from VMware vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager

The name of VMware's latest tool, vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager (MHM), indicates the virtualization giant has embraced mixed data centers and recognizes the legitimacy of other hypervisors. The tool does have the ability to manage Hyper-V hosts, and VMware has announced support for other hypervisors will be a feature of future releases. Ultimately, though, vCenter MHM seems more targeted toward virtual machine conversion than hypervisor management.

Is a multi-hypervisor data center on your to-do list in 2013?

Implementing multiple hypervisors in your infrastructure is often a budget-friendly decision. An IT department may choose a more expensive hypervisor for tier-one applications, and save money by using a cheaper option for less-critical applications. Not surprisingly, though, multiple hypervisors in the data center often prove challenging to manage. Before you take the multi-hypervisor leap, beware of the five biggest management hurdles.

How hypervisor tiering can help you manage a mixed environment

IT departments managing multi-hypervisor data centers need to determine the best management technique to fit both their needs and their budgets. Some admins may choose a siloed approach, a software program or a transformation engine. There are, however, compelling reasons to choose hypervisor tiering above the others. This method is similar to tiered storage in that it's practical, effective storage management.