Network monitoring for virtualization evolves with Xangati

Network monitoring players such as Xangati have built tools designed for dynamic virtual environments.

Add network monitoring to the long list of IT disciplines that have had to adapt to virtualization in the data center.

At Innovative Technical Solutions Inc. (ITSI), a firm that now nears 100% virtualization, administrators weren't getting any love from traditional tools based on Cisco Systems Inc.'s NetFlow protocol, according to Davin Garcia, an IT manager at the Walnut Creek, Calif.-based environmental consulting and construction firm.

"We were using NetFlow to look at where data was going to and from," but in one case -- a painfully slow virtualized file server-- NetFlow was no help in understanding the problem.

Working with Dieko Corp., an integrator, Garcia decided to try network monitoring tools from Xangati. The vendor claimed its tools could "see" traffic traveling over virtual switches.

Times have changed and you need a tool that reflects that.
Zeus Kerravala,
senior VP of enterprise researchYankee Group Research Inc.

Very quickly, the company began to see "interfaces and traffic from hosts that were virtual," Garcia said. Before, "if we were running a blade server, NetFlow could see its [physical] interface, but a blade can host 10 machines."

Using Xangati, Garcia could track down the source of his troubles: an oversubscribed iSCSI storage array. "The 2 TB LUN [logical unit number] was being overwhelmed. We just had to break it up; but no other tool could see that," Garcia said.

Catering to the VMware crowd
Earlier this month, Xangati pumped up its virtualization story with the introduction of a virtual appliance version of its software, Xangati for ESX.

Xangati is a different kind of management product compared with traditional network monitoring tools, said Zeus Kerravala, Yankee Group Research Inc. senior vice president of enteprise research. "Older tools were meant for static IT environments and were built off topology maps. Times have changed and you need a tool that reflects that," with tools that track where assets are, where they are going, and where a VM [virtual machine] is at a particular moment in time, he said.

Xangati's pricing also differs from that of traditional tools, Kerravala said.

The new Xangati for ESX Server monitors traffic traveling over the VMware vSwitch for $299 per processor. A new Xangati starter kit for its cross-host Xangati Management Dashboard that monitors up to 5,000 "objects" (IP addresses) is $9,999. That is considerably less than big-time network management tools from Hewlett-Packard Co., CA and other traditional vendors.

"Xangati has driven the price [of network monitoring] way down, so you can bring the same benefits down to virtual environments," Kerravala said.

On the question of Xangati pricing, ITSI's Garcia concurred. "Tools like HP OpenView are good, but they're so ungodly expensive," he said.

A first stab at virtual appliances
But VMware administrators who are well versed in virtual appliances might be disappointed by Xangati's first effort.

"It's friendly, but not friendly enough," said VMware author David Davis, referring to a virtualization management firm that packages several of its products as virtual appliances. "It's a bit harder to set up than your average Veeam virtual appliance."

Davis also noted that there are cheaper ways to get at the information provided by Xangati. Pointing a Wireshark network protocol analyzer at a promiscuous ESX port group, for example, could do the trick. But the way Xangati automatically records and displays historical network traffic -- it's so called videolike visibility capability -- is unique, he acknowledged.

"I'm a big DVR/Tivo user, and with Xangati, you really do have a little slider at the top that lets you see traffic from the past," Davis said. Asked if that kind of information was available from VMware, Davis answered, "Certainly not with what comes with vCenter."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at abarrett@techtarget.com, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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