New or enhanced elements of the suite include PlateSpin Recon, PlateSpin Migrate, PlateSpin Protect and PlateSpin Orchestrate (formerly Zenworks Orchestrator). Together, the tools enable users to profile, migrate, protect and manage server workloads between physical and virtual systems in mixed data center environments.
According to Richard Whitehead, the director of marketing for data center solutions at Novell Inc. (which owns PlateSpin), findings indicate an overwhelming number of enterprise-level shops have mixed environments. "About a year ago, [Novell] did some research and found that 83% of enterprise customers require a cross-platform, cross-hypervisor management solution," Whitehead said. With that, Novell focused on increasing PlateSpin's value in heterogeneous data centers to differentiate itself in the physical and virtual management space, he said.
Becoming platform agnostic
Now, efforts to address the vexing challenge of heterogeneity have opened the door to new platform-blind technologies. Novell claims PlateSpin offers the only software that is completely agnostic of operating systems and hardware; PlateSpin Workload Management supports 32- and 64-bit Windows and Linux servers, and all the leading hypervisors, including Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and Virtual Server, VMware ESX and ESXi and Xen integrated in SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
Jonathan Eunice, an analyst at the IT research firm Illuminata Inc., agreed with PlateSpin's assessment that it is an increasingly heterogeneous world and that virtualization management tools have begun to reflect that. Eunice pointed to tools like HP's Systems Insight Manager (SIM), which can manage essentially any hypervisor, and even to convert VMs from one hypervisor to another (similar to PlateSpin PowerConvert), he explained.
Compared with its competition though, "PlateSpin is further along in supporting any-to-any configurations," Eunice said. But PlateSpin is not without its shortcomings. "A tradeoff is that it's less deeply connected to any hypervisor or system option. That's especially an issue on the physical management side," he said, as it regards things like power and thermal management, firmware updates, and warrantee support. Integrating with a virtualization platform's live migration, high availability, disaster tolerance, and application lifecycle management features is also challenging for a vendor-neutral player like PlateSpin.
In a sense, PlateSpin offers a management platform similar to what Veritas (now part of Symantec Corp.) is for storage management: not so much a way to coordinate different vendors' underlying platforms, but rather a whole new layer that sits on top of various vendor platforms and that customers can buy to replace some or much of the hypervisor or OEM vendor management tools, Eunice said.
"From the virtualization and system vendor point of view, PlateSpin is "coopetition"--a vendor that has competing interests but one that can also help customers deploy more broad-based virtualization: across more servers, faster and more fully, Eunice said. "So virtualization and system vendors would first and most eagerly pitch their own management strategies/solutions, but if the customer decides they want a "leveling layer" like PlateSpin, well, they can live with that too."
Delivering the PlateSpin goods
With this release, no single PlateSpin offering escaped enhancement or upgrade.
PlateSpin Migrate, for example, now includes support for more hypervisors and platforms and includes security, automation and scalability improvements. The migration tool uses PowerConvert P2V technology to migrate workloads between physical servers, virtual hosts and image archives.
PlateSpin Recon, a workload profiling, analysis and planning tool, features increased assessment accuracy, the ability to import resource utilization data from other monitoring tools and additional hypervisor and operating system support.
Finally, PlateSpin announced Orchestrate, which manages the relationship between physical compute and storage resources, now includes an easier-to-use interface and more hypervisor and operating system support.
PlateSpin Recon, PlateSpin Migrate, and PlateSpin Protect are available now. PlateSpin Recon Standard retails for $299 per server, PlateSpin Migrate retails at $275 per workload, and PlateSpin Protect retails for $795 per workload. PlateSpin Orchestrate will be available in the first quarter of 2009, and pricing was not available. Users can get either a perpetual license or a 120-day subscription for short-term uses.