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New tool emerges for multi-hypervisor management

Security software giant McAfee is one of a growing number of enterprises running VMware vSphere, Hyper-V and XenServer together. Here’s how it manages multiple hypervisors.

Multi-hypervisor environments are a growing trend in enterprises and while some companies choose heterogeneity, others have it thrust upon them. Either way, IT shops juggling hypervisors need tools that support mixed environments.

One such shop is security software giant McAfee, which runs about 70% VMware vSphere, 25% Microsoft Hyper-V and 5% Citrix XenServer. The amount of Hyper-V in the environment is growing, however, given McAfee parent company Intel’s relationship with Microsoft, according to McAfee CIO Mark Tonnesen.

“As I look at new applications or replacing old ones with new services, I’m getting a lot of pressure to push Hyper-V into the infrastructure versus leveraging my already existing enterprise licensing agreement with VMware.” It also helps that much of the company’s engineering development and QA is done using the Microsoft .NET coding framework.

Cutting operational costs for managing multiple hypervisors is goal number one. “I can’t afford to hire different people to support these different technologies when what I want is a more integrated virtualized infrastructure, not disparate,” Tonnesen said.

VMware continues to hold out on multi-hypervisor support. But, Tonnesen said, VMware reps recommended using HotLink’s software to manage the mixed environment.

HotLink, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup, recently emerged with software called SuperVISOR, which allows third-party hypervisors to be managed through VMware vCenter without an additional management console. By comparison, Microsoft’s Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) can manage Xen objects natively but needs to traverse vCenter to manage VMware ESXi hosts.

VMware’s PR did not respond to requests for comment on whether it officially supports the use of HotLink. But the software helps McAfee, which is in the process of putting HotLink’s software into production in an environment with about 9,000 virtual machines (VMs) on some 2,500 hosts.

Without this type of tool, IT pros don’t have a way to quickly provision new servers in all hypervisor environments. Then, engineers look outside the four walls of the company for development resources which leads them to the cloud. That’s a trend Tonnesen wants to mitigate.

“We’re in the security business, and we don’t really want our product being developed and our code sitting outside our four walls,” he said. “Secondly, as an IT organization, we believe it is our responsibility to provide that infrastructure on a timely basis.”

In addition to rapidly provisioning new VMs, HotLink’s tool includes the ability to convert from one hypervisor to another, giving the development and QA teams the ability to test software in different environments quickly.

Finally, the company plans to use HotLink’s tool to migrate some of its applications from outdated facilities in Santa Clara, Calif. and Plano, Texas to new collocation facilities in Dallas and Miami.

“We have over 140 applications that we’re moving in this data center migration…and if I have to buy [separate] replication hardware and infrastructure [for each virtualization environment] we’re talking probably eight to 10 million dollars,” Tonnesen said.

Of course, there’s room for improvement with HotLink’s software. Tonnesen said he’d like to see more native audit logging, capacity utilization and performance reporting supported by SuperVisor.

HotLink said in an email that it considers these capabilities outside the scope of its tools and recommends users deploy third-party monitoring and reporting products to do the job.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other tools for reporting, monitoring and backup in multi-hypervisor environments, such as Quest’s vFoglight, VKernel’s vOps, and Veeam’s Backup & Replication software. Other tools, such as SCVMM 2012, let administrators manage VMware’s vSphere, Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer hypervisors through one interface.

With the demand, industry watchers expect the number of virtualization management tools supporting multiple hypervisors to grow this year.

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

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