Taking a closer look at VMware Inc.'s acquisition of San Mateo, Calif.-based B-hive Networks last week, Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware seems to have acknowledged that what's inside a virtual machine (VM) is just as important as a VM itself.Virtualization is no longer limited to consolidating low-end servers; increasingly, it's being used to run business-critical applications. And where central applications are concerned, it's essential to keep tabs on the application performance end users experience.
That's reflected in the tools IT managers now buy to support their virtual environments. "When we do surveys on virtualization challenges, people are concerned with VM sprawl," said Cameron Haight, research vice president at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. "But when it comes to their purchasing intentions, they plan to buy performance management tools. … There's more anxiety in terms of service levels, and people want insight into what's going on at the transactional level." Whereas VMware enables IT staff to optimize virtual machine performance based on server metrics such as CPU utilization and memory consumption, to date it has not been able to provide insight into the application performance end users experience. That's where B-hive Networks comes in. The company has an agentless virtual appliance called B-hive Conductor that monitors application performance and generates service-level reports.Reallocating VMs based on application performance
Haight says that Conductor can provide a nice complement to VMware's VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) technology. "DRS helps to optimize VMs by dynamically reallocating them," he said. But as more business-critical apps go virtual, dynamic reallocation can hinder application performance without visibility into the application stack. Rather than move an entire virtual machine, B-hive Conductor dynamically allocates more virtual or physical resources to it based on application performance issues. "This acquisition should enhance VMware's ability to see transactional performance within the confines of its virtual infrastructure management technology."
Chris Wolf, a senior analyst at Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group believes that the acquisition of B-hive "was a very good move on the part of VMware." As Wolf sees it, B-hive offers great technology for automating IT processes in response to application performance and to ensure service levels. "VMware's competition is increasingly talking about the value of the application in the stack, as they should," Wolf added. "Microsoft and Citrix are making strong plays at the integration of operating systems, applications, and the virtual infrastructure."
According to Wolf, some other orchestration tools such as Novell Inc. ZENworks Orchestrator from and Oalis' Opalis Integration Server are in the mix, but they do not provide identical functionality to B-hive's Conductor.Bogomil Balkansky, the senior director of product marketing for VMware's data center products, says that B-hive's technology will likely be incorporated into the company's VirtualCenter product during the fourth quarter. Conductor will be integrated to trigger DRS and VMotion to dynamically "change the resource allocation priorities of VMs to alleviate a performance bottleneck," Balkansky explained. "With this acquisition, we hope to enable customers not only to monitor their VMware environments but to proactively fix things in them."
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