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Systems management wakes up to virtualization

Whether its reporting, performance management or capacity planning you're after, there's no lack of management tools out there vying for a chance to take care of your virtual environment.

With virtualization software like VMware ESX or Microsoft Virtual Server, you may need less hardware to run a given number of applications, but if you're going to run those applications well, systems management vendors think you need more of their software.

"The bigger and more complex the environment, the more difficult it will become to manage," said Beth Ruck, senior product marketing manager at InfoVista, whose VistaInsight for Servers 3.0 launched this month with new support for VMware ESX virtual machines (VMs). In highly consolidated and utilized servers, she said, "you have a lot less wiggle room in your environment to handle spikes or absorb growth."

InfoVista is just one of a long line of systems management tool vendors to make announcements recently. Today, in fact, saw the launch of VirtualIQ Pro from ToutVirtual, a start-up in Carlsbad, Calif., that had originally released the product as a freeware tool -- named Virtual IQ 525 -- for VMware environments. With the paid version, the scope of the product's platform coverage has expanded to include Microsoft, XenSource and Novell-based virtualization platforms. Also, basic monitoring and reporting have evolved in to full-fledged performance management and capacity planning.

That's in contrast to tools like VMware VirtualCenter and Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), both of which are focused on configuring and provisioning VMs, explained Vipul Pabari, ToutVirtual chief technology officer. Plus, he said, neither of those tools provide insight in to one another's environments.

The first question people usually ask of VirtualIQ Pro, Pabari said, is "Where do I add VMs?" The next question is "Are my VMs over- or under-utilized?" The Web-based reporting tool can be used to generate historical and real-time performance reports, detect and fix underlying performance problems, manipulate virtual machines, and set up policy-based actions.

Virtualization management mania
Other management tools to launch recently include products from Veeam Software, Akorri, and Network General.

  • Veeam Software's Veeam Reporter 2.0 products to be able to report on virtual machines from a network, storage, or VMware Vmotion point of view, using not just Microsoft Visio, but also Microsoft Excel, Word, or PDF files.
  • Akorri BalancePoint 1.5, announced earlier this month, also sees VMware virtual machines now. As an application service level management provider, the company's approach has been to "collect information at the server and storage level to piece together a picture of the I/O and workload," explained Tom Joyce, Akorri vice president of marketing. With the advent of the 1.5 release, BalancePoint Examiner and Analyzer modules "understand the apps running on ESX all the way back to the storage," he said. In contrast, information from VMware's VirtualCenter, "despite being owned by a storage company, basically stops at the [host bus adapter]."
  • Meanwhile, instead of looking at storage, Network General, of "Sniffer" fame, proposed looking at virtual machine performance from the perspective of, surprise, the network.
  • Also announced earlier this month, Virtualization Forensics "looks at the host and the virtual machines themselves and provide an integrated view in to the whole environment," said James Messer, director of technical marketing at the company.

For many of these systems management vendors, the claim that their products "support" VMware and other virtualization is slightly misleading. "With the previous version of [VistaInsight], we would show a VM like any other physical machine," explained InfoVista's Ruck. "What's new is that that we are now able to differentiate between the two."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director.

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