As more and more servers are virtualized, VMware vCenter is increasingly becoming the center of many IT managers’ universe. Should this popular management tool be expanded to manage physical resources as well?
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In many ways, VMware Inc.’s vCenter already manages both virtual and physical resources. It is not only an important source of information about system availability and performance, but also assets, security, compliance, backup and the like. As a result, some infrastructure management tool providers have integrated their wares with vCenter, which they see as the common denominator at customer environments.
Take an average enterprise, where about 60% of applications are virtualized, and the remainder run on bare metal. The likelihood that an organization will ever get to 100% virtualization is slim, “but IT managers still want to rationalize their management apps,” said John Humphreys, vice president of marketing at Egenera Inc. in Boxborough, Mass., whose PAN Manager software is used for infrastructure provisioning.
Indeed, the sheer number of different management tools is a curse for most data center managers. “You know what they say: The average organization has 150 different management tools and hates 149 of them,” quipped Bernd Harzog, an analyst with The Virtualization Practice, a virtualization analysis firm based in Wrentham, Mass.
Infrastructure management tools utilize virtualization in a number of ways.
Egenera, for one, now offers PAN Manager in a VMware virtual machine, not only on dedicated hardware.
“We want to give customers the flexibility and choice to run PAN Manager where and how they choose,” Humphreys said.
Others go a step further and integrate their tools directly into vCenter as a plug-in.
Eaton Corp., a provider of uninterruptible power supplies, integrated its Intelligent Power Manager app into vCenter and Citrix Systems Inc.’s XenCenter as a plug-in to minimize the number of management consoles its customers must have open. It also leverages the virtualization platforms’ live migration, load balancing and remote shutdown capabilities, said Jim Tessier, Eaton’s product manager for power-quality software.
“We decided to jump on virtualization, because it’s one of the biggest advancements in the IT space,” Tessier said.
VMware itself has taken steps to broaden the scope of its physical management capabilities, pointed out Rob Smoot, VMware’s director of product marketing for enterprise management. For example, vCenter Operations includes performance monitoring, application mapping, provisioning and patching capabilities that span the entire IT environment -- physical and virtual, he said.
However, there are limitations to what vCenter can do with physical infrastructure, said The Virtualization Practice’s Harzog.
“[VMware] vCenter only knows about what vSphere tells it,” said Harzog. Physical equipment vendors sometimes integrate their software using application programming interfaces provided by VMware, but that only goes so far.
Nor does VMware have any big plans to go much deeper in to the physical environment, said Smoot. “We’ve expanded beyond the physical, but our intent and strategy is not to manage the physical environment in its entirety,” he said. “Our goal is to simplify and automate things to a point where you don’t need [that level of physical management.]”
Ultimately, virtualization admins may have a limited appetite for deeper integration between vCenter and the physical IT estate.
“The single pane of glass always sounds great on paper, but it requires a lot of integration and vendor cooperation,” said Bob Plankers, a virtualization architect at a Midwestern university. “And when you get to that kind of integration, all that does is make me have to deal with vendors pointing fingers at one another.”
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