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VMware shop rights ship with VMTurbo performance management software

HD Supply bumped up its IT shop’s percentage of virtualized servers by getting on board early with virtual infrastructure optimization startup VMTurbo.

A VMware shop that was stalled at the 25% virtualization mark discovered the problems holding it back with monitoring and optimization software from startup VMTurbo, beating out Quest Software Inc.’s vFoglight in a bake-off.

In 2007, Atlanta, Ga.-based HD Supply Inc., a wholesale construction equipment supplier, began with virtualization as part of a data center consolidation project. The plan was to consolidate 22 separate data centers down to two, said Brad Cowles, senior director of platform services. Two years later, the firm had “three and a half” data centers, and had still virtualized only 26 percent of its 1,600 servers. As the environment began to experience mid-day performance problems, the company called a “time out.”

To identify these performance slowdowns, HD Supply brought in monitoring tools, including Quest’s vFoglight and VMTurbo. VMTurbo’s reports indicated that the performance slowdowns stemmed from oversubscription on the company’s tier-two storage area network (SAN), which caused the attached SQL databases to time out because SCSI queues were too long. As a result, HD Supply moved virtual machines to a higher-performing storage array. VMTurbo also discovered an “out-of-control log file writer” that had wrought havoc on performance.

Choosing VMTurbo over vFoglight
But the decision to go with VMTurbo over vFoglight wasn’t cut and dry. At the time of bake-off between monitoring products, VMTurbo had limited reporting capabilities, Cowles said. “VFoglight was clearly the superior analysis and reporting tool overall,” Cowles said. But based on the strength of VMTurbo’s performance troubleshooting capabilities plus a “very competitive financial arrangement,” Cowles pushed the company to “finesse” its user interface, and abandoned the vFoglight trial.

With its performance problems identified, HD Supply has redoubled its virtualization efforts and is now approximately 35% virtualized, Cowles estimated. The company expects to be 50% virtualized by the end of 2011.

Beyond performance monitoring, VMTurbo also appealed to Cowles for its plans to add automated infrastructure optimization features to its product lineup.

Ilya Mirman, VMTurbo vice preisident of marketing said the company has ambitions beyond infrastructure monitoring and analytics. The startup also plans a suite of at least 10 software modules focused on automated event remediation and infrastructure optimization.

These modules, dubbed “Resolvers” and “Optimizers.” will enable VMTurbo to automatically correct problems as they arise, while also keeping resources distributed as evenly as possible.

Vendors such as Netuitive, Inc., and Integrien, recently purchased by VMware, also offer these capabilities. But Mirman said that VMTurbo differentiates itself through its mathematical “economic model.” This model treats physical infrastructure resources as commodities to be “sold” and the virtual hosts in the environment as “consumers,” which sets the “price” of accessing a particular resource based on its demand. The idea is that virtual machines would migrate to the server where “prices” are the cheapest, keeping the environment continually optimized.

Cowles said he’s willing to take the “leap of faith” and wait for newcomer VMTurbo to deliver these more advanced features. “I’m intrigued by the supply and demand model,” he said. “I thought it seemed more elegant” than other methods for infrastructure automation, including VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduler.

Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for Write to her at

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