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What will the future hold for multi-hypervisor management?

Multi-hypervisor management sounds great, but the tools lack critical features. Our advisory board members discuss this market’s future and potential.

In theory, multi-hypervisor management tools sound great. In practice, there’s much to be desired.

More companies are deploying multiple virtualization platforms to reduce costs and improve interoperability with hardware and applications, among other reasons. As such, the desire for multi-hypervisor management tools is growing, but there are considerable obstacles for both users and vendors in this market.

For example, hypervisor vendors make a considerable amount of money from management products, and they have little incentive to open up their virtualization platforms to other tools. As a result, multi-hypervisor management tools generally offer basic functionality, such as starting and stopping virtual machines (VMs). For more advanced features, you’ll have to turn to vendor-specific products.

So are multi-hypervisor management tools just a pipe dream, or will a vendor eventually offer a viable, single-pane-of-glass product with advanced functionality and reporting across a spectrum of hypervisors? Our Server Virtualization Advisory Board offers their opinions on the future of multi-hypervisor management.

Rob McShinsky, Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
As hypervisor features become more aligned, major vendors are turning to management products to protect their revenue streams (i.e., VMware vCenter, Microsoft System Center).

If VMware creates an all-encompassing virtualization management tool, it admits to the legitimacy of the other hypervisors. It would place VMware in a financially dangerous position.

Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) can technically manage VMware VMs, but only if vCenter is already in place. SCVMM was also never truly designed for long-term management of VMware VMs. Like NetWare and Netscape of the past, Microsoft tools aren’t created for true interoperability. Instead, they aid users in adopting other Microsoft products. SCVMM has provided some cross compatibility, but it’s strongly focused on migrating VMs from other hypervisors to Hyper-V. SCVMM 2012 will expand to manage Citrix Systems Inc.’s XenServer, but the focus is still on migration.

What about third-party options? I find it hard for third-party tools to maintain profitability, considering the limited or restrictive sets of application programming interfaces for third-party vendors and direct revenue incentives for the major hypervisor vendors. The future also looks grim for a utopian management solution, because public-cloud providers use manageability as a major marketing point.

Dave Sobel, Evolve Technologies
Through management tools, vendors make significant profits and offer competitive differentiators, so there is considerable interest in keeping them on the cutting edge. But, with each hypervisor releasing so many new features, it is a constant effort to keep management tools in sync. While there will always be some level of feature parity, it is folly to expect a perfect, single-pane-of-glass tool that will cover every feature across multiple hypervisors.

You may get close, but the more advanced features will always be just out of reach.

C.J. Metz, First American
Many vendors have attempted to make multi-platform VM management tools, the most notable is Microsoft with SCVMM. While most vendors have fallen short of their claims (Microsoft included), I believe that SCVMM 2012 may just change that perception.

SCVMM 2012 is an impressive product that really takes the notion of centralized VM management to the next level. SCVMM, of course, fully manages Hyper-V, but it also includes increased manageability for VMware and XenServer infrastructures. One of the most notable SCVMM features is the ability to create VMs using VMware Templates and deploy them through a self-service portal.

The bottom line is that the user community is clamoring for a centralized way to manage multiple virtual infrastructures. I believe that Microsoft is making the biggest strides in this direction, currently. No matter which way it ends up heading, however, I strongly believe that we will see a proper, centralized management platform sometime in the near future.

Shannon Snowden, New Age Technologies
I look for hypervisor vendors with multi-vendor management to follow essentially the same path that they always take with their competition: Every vendor is still motivated to sell as much of their own supporting products, training and services as they can.

Unless the hypervisor market dramatically changes, there will most likely be a split along vendor lines. More specifically, it probably will be VMware and everybody else. VMware doesn’t have much of a reason to be too open, because it has the majority of the virtual infrastructure market share. Others, including Citrix and Microsoft, already play pretty well together, and I expect both companies will continue along that path.

As hybrid cloud infrastructures get more popular, there will be more opportunities for management tools from third parties that do not have a hypervisor. Their motivation will be to innovate and sell their products based on the ability to manage multiple hypervisors. These third-party tools will probably offer the most capable multi-vendor management solutions in the long run.

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