IBM today announced a Web-based tool that helps administrators visualize the relationship between virtual machines and the physical hardware they run on. Called Virtualization Manager, the tool snaps into IBM Director, the systems management software that ships with most of the company's servers.
IBM also announced that Virtualization Manager, taken together with IBM Director and its TotalStorage Productivity Center storage resource management (SRM) tool, now forms the core of what IBM calls its Systems Director family.
"It's a unifying strategy," said Pete McCaffrey, IBM program director for virtualization strategy. "We pulled together pre-existing capabilities and tied them in a single management dashboard that allows you to visualize all your physical and virtual resources," he said.
And when McCaffrey says "all" your virtualization resources, he's not kidding, since Virtualization Manager supports VMware ESX and Virtual Server, Microsoft Virtual Server, Xen, as well as System p (IBM AIX) virtualization.
"The only one they don't support is [Hewlett-Packard] Virtual Server Environment," said Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics in Yarmouth, Maine – although "it would be a logical next step for them."
The benefit of supporting heterogeneous virtualization platforms is that it doesn't lock in IT shops to one technology, said McCaffrey. "With a common tool set, you have a consistent way to manage a diverse set of resources," he said.
Today, the market for virtualization management tools is limited to "point products," McCaffrey continued. VMware's VirtualCenter, for example, may let you manage virtual machines, "but it doesn't help you manage other types of virtual machines or let you see what's going on within the hardware."
On the Microsoft Virtual Server side, virtual machine management is also still in its early days, says Anil Desai, an independent consultant and Microsoft MVP in Austin, Texas. A virtualization plug-in for Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) isn't "a 100% enterprise-ready solution," Desai said. "It helps you monitor virtual machines, but it doesn't really help you deploy new ones. It's more focused on monitoring rather than managing." The Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager beta, meanwhile, includes "great" deployment capabilities, but it isn't slated for release until 2007, he said.
Clabby, for one, was quite taken by the breadth of IBM Virtualization Manager's heterogeneous hypervisor support. "It's neat," he said. "The market could have tried to establish their own hypervisor as the one to use. But instead, IBM has chosen to create a manager of hypervisors."
Virtualization Manager is available today as a free download for IBM's x86-based System x, BladeCenter and Unix System p platforms.