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New love for systems management tools after virtualization

IT managers who were lukewarm toward systems management software have gained newfound respect for such tools after virtualizing their servers.

Medium-sized organizations that have virtualized servers have gained newfound respect for traditional systems management tools and monitoring software.

Systems monitoring software helps these organizations keep tabs on their virtual machines (VMs) and may encourage them to virtualize additional infrastructure. But traditional systems management tools can't handle some virtualization-specific tasks.

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Last year, Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto used virtualization to consolidate 135 physical servers into seven VMware hosts running on IBM hardware, which the hospital outsources to a managed service provider (MSP). The combination of virtualization and outsourcing gave IT staffers newfound appreciation for Uptime Software Inc.'s up.time, the hospital's long-standing systems monitoring software.

"When we virtualized, we found it was a lot more important," said Prateek Dwivedi, Mount Sinai Hospital's vice president and CIO. "Our team was new to virtualization, and the fear was that we wouldn't we able to see what the VMs were doing. … We use Uptime's (service-level agreement) monitoring feature to make sure that our MSP is being truthful."

Mount Sinai also uses Uptime's systems monitoring software to identify servers and applications that would make good virtualization candidates, on top of the "bread and butter" monitoring of Windows, Linux and Unix hosts, Dwivedi said.

Consolidating systems management tools
Server consolidation via virtualization also drives the desire to consolidate systems management tools. More than three years ago, for example, Deere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. Ltd. in Kernersville, N.C., began virtualizing its servers with VMware. Last fall the company began consolidating its systems management tools -- which included SolarWinds, WhatsUp Gold, Hewlett-Packard's HP Systems Insight Manager, HP ProCurve Manager and syslog, to name a few.

We had a bunch of different tools for different things, and it was becoming nightmarish.
Trent Steele,
information systems supervisorDeere-Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. Ltd.

"We had a bunch of different tools for different things, and it was becoming nightmarish," said Trent Steele, an information systems supervisor at the excavator manufacturer.

Over the winter, Deere-Hitachi settled on AccelOps Inc., a Software as a Service offering that took over systems monitoring, alerting and reporting, as well as performance, configuration and event log management.

"Being able to fold all that into one tool was really desirable," Steele said.

Opening new doors with systems management software
Deere-Hitachi has reduced its reliance on its old systems management tools, but it still has to use VMware Inc.'s vCenter Server for virtualization-related tasks such as provisioning virtual machines and initiating VMotions, Steele emphasized.

"It doesn't replace vCenter, but it's a cure-all for knowing what's going on inside the VMs, plus [networking equipment] like IPS [Internet Protocol Suite] and switch fabrics," he said.

Having strong systems management tools and monitoring software in place appears to open the door for organizations to be more aggressive with virtualization. Over the coming year, Mount Sinai will deploy desktop virtualization to its 5,000 end users, Dwivedi said. Meanwhile, Deere-Hitachi is upgrading its storage infrastructure as it prepares to implement VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager, a disaster recovery process automation tool.

Both organizations said they plan to drive virtualization penetration to more than 90% -- well past the 70% these companies have achieved today.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Alex Barrett, News Director at, or follow @aebarrett on twitter.

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