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Can you improve the performance of VM management tools?

What factors influence the performance of VM management tools, and how can I identify bottlenecks in management-level performance?

Enterprise-class virtualization platform management tools typically do not exist alone -- they rely on a carefully orchestrated interaction between server hardware, databases, custom software integrations (via APIs or SDKs) and network performance. When management tools suffer reduced performance, chances are that the root causes can be traced to problems in one or more of these areas.

Start by examining the virtualization management server itself. Although most modern servers have ample computing resources to run a management platform, it's important to review the server's resource usage and look for bottlenecks. For example, Microsoft Windows-based tools can quickly be evaluated with common built-in Windows OS features like Task Manager or Performance Monitor (PerfMon). Task Manager is an easy way to spot excess CPU or memory usage or unexpectedly heavy processes. PerfMon can check and report on a wide range of discrete performance metrics (counters) for processor, memory, network and storage resources. If you discover resource constraints on the management server, it may be possible to migrate excess virtualized workloads to other systems, add resources to the server, or upgrade the server to a more capable model. Look for management logs that might also shed details on performance problems -- or at least narrow the scope of your troubleshooting.

Most VM management tools often use sophisticated databases to organize and store management data. This means the database (such as Microsoft SQL) must be installed and functioning properly. If the management logs suggest database access issues, check any detailed database logs for issues related to network and storage access. Bottlenecks in networks and storage can bog down the database and slow the responsiveness of your management platform -- even to the point where errors are produced and logged. Running tools like PerfMon or other diagnostics on the database server can help to identify network and storage access problems (such as excessive latency). It's helpful to have a baseline of performance metrics to compare as a "normal" reference.

Ultimately, virtualization management systems have to interact with client systems (the systems actually being managed). Client systems that are impaired by internal problems (like failed hardware), or external limitations (such as network bottlenecks) may cause hesitation in the management system's responsiveness. As an example, failing to update a client's management agent might cause the client to become unavailable or behave unexpectedly; updating the agent can usually resolve that issue. Log data can often help to identify problematic clients, and administrators can focus attention on client and network troubleshooting to resolve the problem.

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