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Virtualization management not quite there yet

Virtualization has always posed management problems for IT departments. And as more IT shops deploy multiple hypervisors, the problems are getting worse.

In companies that deploy both VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V, 71% have difficulties managing both hypervisors from a single console, according to a recent Veeam Software survey. Also, 68% of the 253 CIOs who responded said it’s becoming more important to be able to manage both hypervisors from a single interface.

This was a vendor-driven survey, and Veeam has recently touted the importance of multiple-hypervisor management. But it’s no secret that there’s a gap between what users want and what virtualization management tools deliver — especially those tools from platform vendors and systems management providers.

VMware management

Until very recently, multiple-platform management wasn’t even in VMware’s vocabulary. VCenter manages only vSphere, but there have been whispers that it may eventually support Hyper-V and Xen. And it’s now possible to manage Hyper-V with XVP Manager, an unofficial VMware Labs fling that installs as a vCenter plug-in.

XVP Manager points to a larger issue for VMware: Its management philosophy is scattered. Over the past couple of years, the company has made a flurry of acquisitions targeted at improving virtualization management. And it should be commended for its virtualization-first approach to infrastructure management. But the way VMware has integrated features and capabilities into vCenter has left some users confounded.

VCenter Operations, which incorporates technologies from the Integrien and Ionix purchases, remedies some of these product-integration issues by providing essential management capabilities from a single pane of glass. Then again, vCenter Operations offers some performance-monitoring and capacity-planning features that are found in other vCenter products — which harkens back to VMware’s disjoined management approach.

Overall, VMware offers a dizzying array of vCenter add-ons, a lot of which are strong in their own right. But using multiple vCenter products is not only expensive, but also difficult to navigate.

Microsoft management

Meanwhile, Microsoft’s virtualization management tools are playing catch-up with VMware. The release of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2012 will finally bring several vSphere-like features to Hyper-V, such as distributed resource scheduling and power management. But even with support for Hyper-V, vSphere and Citrix Systems XenServer — and the added capabilities from other System Center products — SCVMM 2012 can’t be everything to everyone.

The Big Four

Don’t look to traditional, physical infrastructure tools to completely solve your management woes, either. Many users say data center management products from IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BMC Software and CA are geared more toward physical servers than their virtual counterparts. And most of these systems management products aren’t virtually aware, meaning that they lack the granularity and sophistication required to control a dense virtual infrastructure.

As a result, some companies are turning to open source tools for virtualization management, but it’s not all puppies and candy canes with open source tools, either. Developing features in-house requires expertise and a development philosophy, which may not be possible for SMBs.

Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine that there will be one, broad virtualization management tool to rule them all, because each infrastructure has specific requirements and workloads. It’s clear, however, that vendors and users realize that virtualization management isn’t where it needs to be.

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