VMware has four products in its IT service delivery portfolio:
- Lab Manager, a development-and-test lab automation product aimed at independent software developers;
- the beta-status Stage Manager, for IT operations teams;
- the aforementioned Lifecycle Manager; and
- Site Recovery Manager, a tool VMware has previously announced but has not yet shipped and that VMware promises to publicly demonstrate at the conference.
Now that IT shops thoroughly understand the consolidation and flexibility that virtualization brings, the Palo, Alto, Calif.-based company thinks the next way it can help IT shops is to automate difficult and complex tasks with its VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) family of products, including the ESX hypervisor, VMotion live migration, Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and VMware High Availability, or HA.
"Automation for the virtual data center is the next big opportunity for VMware and where we can deliver the next big impact for our customers," said Bogomil Balkansky, VMware senior director of product marketing, adding that "IT service delivery and business continuity are the first of the processes that we have set out to automate."Introducing Lifecycle Manager
For IT administrators, if there's a downside to virtualization it's that the ease and low cost with which a new virtual server can be deployed has driven up demand for new servers, and "they're overwhelmed by all the demands they're getting from all over the place," said Balkansky. "If you don't control things, there's a danger that [new virtual] servers will pop up all over the place," he said.
Thus, Lifecycle Manager is VMware's attempt, in a nutshell, to control virtual machine (VM) sprawl. Built on a workflow engine, Lifecycle Manager integrates with VirtualCenter, VMware's management application, routes a VM through necessary approvals, and works with DRS to place it appropriately in an ESX server farm. It also allows IT managers to select VMs from a standardized service catalog, akin to templates, and to define deployment policies.But there are limits to Lifecycle Manager, said David Lynch, vice president of marketing at Embotics Corp., a VMware partner whose V-Commander software also manages virtual machine lifecycles. As Lynch sees it, VMware Lifecycle Manager "adds workflow and process to the deployment of virtual machines." That said, it doesn't do much in the way of monitoring a VM to ensure that it isn't inappropriately deployed. In contrast, Embotics V-Commander integrates with VirtualCenter and grabs a newly created VM, labels it, applies policy tags, and continues to monitor it all the way to its end of life, Lynch said. "We can actually retire the VM, remove it from inventory or delete it from disk, depending on your policy," he said. Lifecycle Manager should be generally available by the end of the year but won't be going through a public beta, Balkansky said.
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