To varying degrees, VMware, Microsoft and Citrix all offer a free hypervisor. Now, virtualization management software vendors have followed their lead and released free tools that perform core functions such as physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration, performance monitoring, inventory and reporting.
The latest crop of freeware virtualization management software comes from Vizioncore Inc., which announced free P2V, storage reclamation and heterogeneous hypervisor management software this week.
Vizioncore vConverter SC performs physical-to-virtual (P2V) and virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversions for VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer formats. There is no cap on how many conversions vConverter SC will do, and it can perform multiple simultaneous conversions.
Hypervisor vendors also offer free P2V tools, for example, VMware Converter. However, these tools tend to be unidirectional -- that is, they'll happily convert a machine into their format, but not out). Not so with vConverter SC, which will also offer virtual-to-physical (V2P) conversions and support for Linux guests in its next release, said Tyler Jewell, Vizioncore's vice president of products.
Vizioncore vControl Multi-Hypervisor Management, meanwhile, provides a console from which administrators can control perform basic functions such as start and stop a VM running on either VMware, Hyper-V or XenServer. The new vOptimizer Wastefinder generates reports to help administrators identify wasted storage space or overallocated Virtual Machine Disk Formats, or VMDKs.
Jewell declined to say which other kinds of free software Vizioncore might announce but noted that more is on the way. "It's in our interest to be as aggressive as we can in promoting the adoption of virtualization and in having admins use our tools," he said. "Our freeware ambitions are not over."No free virtualization management lunch
Other freeware virtualization management tools available to VMware shops include Veeam Monitor Free Edition and FastSCP, Embotics vScout, VKernel SearchMyVM and SnapshotMyVM, Tripwire OpsCheck and ConfigCheck, to name a few.
With a little ingenuity, a frugal VMware administrator can go a long way toward meeting most of his management needs, said Rick Vanover, a VMware admin and author. However, there's one purchase you still have to make: VMware vCenter.
"That's a given," Vanover said, because vCenter places an agent on the ESX host that acts as a gateway to the host and VMs and is utilized widely by a lot of freeware tools.
Buying vCenter also gives you access to the VI Toolkit, the PowerShell interface into a VMware environment, and with that, crafty VMware admins can script up "all sorts of stuff," Vanover said. That was especially important with VMware Infrastructure 3, where "VirtualCenter was a little weak." Being able to plug in PowerShell scripts helped admins "make up that gap," Vanover said.
At $4,995 plus support and subscription, VMware vCenter is not cheap, but in virtualization management as in life, there is no free lunch, said Andi Mann, the vice president of research at Enterprise Management Associates.
For example, while Citrix Systems Inc. gives away good chunks of XenServer and XenCenter for free, few of the freeware virtualization tools support it. And while Microsoft Hyper-V is free, it requires investments in Windows Server 2008 and System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), respectively.
"You can do virtualization for cheap, but you can't do it for free," Mann said.
Free virtualization management tools also tend to be limited in scope. Basic monitoring and reporting are relatively well represented, but most of the freeware tools "don't allow you to actually do anything," Mann said, for example provisioning, backup and recovery, and the like. Nor should you expect to get any level of service monitoring, automation or lifecycle management capabilities from freeware tools, he said.
Further, support for freeware products is usually minimal. Support for Vizioncore's vConverter SC, for instance, is limited to a single phone incident, or on forums.
In short, Mann said most freeware tools are best suited for smaller shops and nonprofits, "but not for any kind of enterprise deployment." Further, Mann questioned how long the trend of giving away virtualization management tools would continue. "I don't know if it's any more effective than giving away a free 30 day trial," he said. When IT professionals install freeware tools, "it really just opens up their eyes to how much they have to buy."
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