Choosing the right virtualization monitoring and management tools

There are a bevy of virtualization monitoring and management tools on the market, and your IT shop’s success hinges on finding the right one.

Virtualization monitoring and management tools are critical to a successful server consolidation project. If you drive hardware utilization rates up too far, you can end up with poor virtualization performance for end users. Since the last thing you want is user complaints, you’ll have to closely monitor performance as you add more and more virtual machines (VMs).

All virtualization monitoring and management tools have varying capabilities. Some measure performance in real time, while others provide historical data. Certain tools provide statistical analysis of data to eliminate false positives and can help with monitoring and troubleshooting performance problems. Capacity planning and analysis and chargeback of virtual infrastructure resources are other abilities to look for in performance monitoring tools.

Virtualization monitoring and management options
Quest Software Inc.’s vFoglight (formerly Vizioncore vFoglight) is one of the few multiplatform performance measuring tools and can monitor both VMware Inc. vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V. VFoglight has one of the prettiest interfaces, but it may require a significant amount of resources to run (see Figure 1).


Figure 1
VFoglight is one of the few products that can monitor both vSphere and Hyper-V performance. (Click image for an enlarged view.)

The red/yellow/green indicators on the dashboard are useful, as are the visually appealing graphs and dials showing performance status. VFoglight records information on guest processes as well as “alerts with expert advice.” This product has detailed architectural representations, models workload migration, and it helps manage resource usage and multiple virtual data centers.

Veeam Monitor from Veeam Software is part of the larger Veeam One suite. Monitor installs as a traditional Windows application, and you can use the included SQL Express local database or connect it to your own database.

The monitoring and management tool integrates with the free Veeam Business View to show the virtual infrastructure how your company is organized. Monitor offers good views of “top talkers” in each of the different resource areas: CPU, memory, storage and network (see Figure 2).


Figure 2
Veeam Monitor offers a good views of “top talkers” in each of the different resource areas: CPU, memory, storage and network. (Click image for an enlarged view.)

The product has more than 125 performance alerts, and it can correlate vSphere performance information with vSphere events, which is beneficial for troubleshooting. The free version of Veeam Monitor has some limitations, such as providing only seven days of history.

Veeam Monitor Plus comes with capacity planning, change management and reporting/chargeback capabilities. The commercial version of Veeam Monitor is agentless and includes custom alarms. It also enables management of guest, host and vCenter processes.

Virtualization monitoring and management tools with actionable predictions
VKernel Corp. was the first company to feature virtualization capacity analysis. Its vOPS tool deploys as a virtual appliance, so there is no OS license or traditional app/database installs to perform.

The VKernel vOperations Suite (see Figure 3) includes the Performance Analyzer, Capacity Manager, Optimizer, Reporting and Chargeback components.


Figure 3
vKernel vOperations suite is useful for capacity planning and predicting resource demands. (Click image for an enlarged view.)

It is also available as a vCenter plug-in or a Web-based interface and integrates with Active Directory. The components are simply unlocked with license keys, and just one appliance is needed for all affected products.

Single appliance cuts the complexity of virtualization monitoring and management

A relatively new entry in the market is VMTurbo Inc.’s Virtualization Management Suite (VMS). VMS is a virtual appliance that provides basic virtual infrastructure monitoring at no cost. Additional modules (licensed individually) include Reporter, Planner and Optimizer, as well as the free Monitor piece. All of VMTurbo’s virtualization monitoring and management products are installed in a single virtual appliance.

The Reporter module focuses on performance reporting and capacity reporting, not necessarily inventory reporting like Veeam Reporter.

Planner deals with what-if scenarios and is a capacity planning tool rather than a physical-to-virtual (P2V) planning tool (see Figure 4). Optimizer aids in resource optimization and bottleneck identification.


Figure 4
vMTurbo Monitor is a capacity planning tool, not a P2v planning tool, as the name might suggest. (Click image for an enlarged view.)

Helpful netflow stats
Xangati’s virtualization monitoring and management tools tool also deploys as a virtual appliance. A free version of Xangati for VMware’s ESX hypervisor is limited to monitoring a single ESX host.

Xangati’s offering is unique because of these features:

  • It gives insight into the virtual network thanks to NetFlow monitoring. This tells you who is talking to whom and what types of protocols they are using.
  • A DVR-like rewind replay allows admins to revert to a previous point in time to identify a problem.
  • It triggers a recording of virtual infrastructure performance utilization from vCenter alarms.

In addition, Xangati recently released dashboards that give health scores to virtual infrastructure objects. These scores are based on historical statistics and provide guidance on normal and abnormal behavior in the infrastructure.

The tool has continuous, real-time visibility into more than 100 metrics on an ESX/ESXi host and its VM activity, including CPU, communications, memory, and disk and storage latency (see Figure 5). The commercial version has a management dashboard for multiple hosts and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) functionality.


Figure 5
Xangati for EsX provides real-time visibility into more than 100 metrics. (Click image for an enlarged view.)

Xangati is useful for troubleshooting the virtual network, and it would be beneficial if other performance tools integrated NetFlow statistics.

For Linux pros
Zenoss Inc.’s products are based on open source software. Zenoss Community Edition is free, but if you don’t have Linux experience, it may be difficult to deploy (see Figure 6). A downloadable virtual machine is designed for VMware Player, so you may have difficulty deploying it to vSphere.


Figure 6
Zenoss offers performance monitoring and CMDB support, but it requires Linux know-how. (Click image for an enlarged view.)

Zenoss offers configuration management database (CMDB) support, inventory and change tracking, performance monitoring, log monitoring, and alerting.

The Community Edition isn’t as strong for capacity analysis and finding waste as some of the more dedicated tools—but then, it is free.

VMware comparison
VMware Inc.’s two primary performance monitoring tools are vCenter Operations and Capacity IQ. In August 2010, the company acquired Integrien and absorbed Alive into its product line. That product later became vCenter Operations and takes a statistical anomaly approach to identifying performance problems.

It learns what is “normal” in your virtual infrastructure and provides numerical scores for how hosts and virtual machines deviate from that statistical norm.

VMware’s other primary performance monitoring and management application is VMware vCenter Capacity IQ, which focuses on—you guessed it—capacity of the virtual infrastructure.

It is deployed as a virtual machine and is used to identify overallocated virtual machines, automate capacity monitoring and management tasks and identify capacity bottlenecks. Capacity IQ can also perform what-if capacity analysis.

Depending on your enterprise needs, you may need insight into VMware vSphere statistics through what is already reported in VMware’s vCenter or knowledge of the virtual infrastructure’s network and storage through alternate sources.

Choosing between virtualization monitoring and management tools
Decide which functions are most important for your data center.

Not all virtualization monitoring and management tools are created equal. Some are intended for general performance monitoring and alerts, while others offer very specific capacity analysis or troubleshooting capabilities. Performance tools may be bundled with other products such as change management or reporting applications.

Veeam Monitor and Quest vFoglight are solid examples of traditional, virtual infrastructure performance tools. But lesser-known performance tools such as Xangati, VKernel, SolarWinds and VMTurbo offer unique features. Make sure you look at third-party vendors before you select a tool.

Some IT shops may have concerns about virtual appliances for security reasons, but you may love the ease of deploying virtual appliances over installing traditional Windows apps. Evaluate performance monitoring and management tools like these in your own environment to ensure that they give you not only immediate but also long-term value.

This was first published in January 2012

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