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Proceed with caution: Multi-hypervisor management tools

If you’re considering a heterogeneous virtualization shop, don’t count on multi-hypervisor management tools to solve all of your administration woes.

Multi-hypervisor management tools are great for common provisioning and monitoring tasks, but they fall flat when it comes to deeper functionality, which provide the most value.

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Looking past the feature parity and marketing hype in the hypervisor market, there are compelling reasons to deploy a heterogeneous virtualization environment (i.e., reducing costs, improving compatibility with certain applications, avoiding vendor lock-in). Do you keep fighting it off? Do you concede and draw lines of delineation between the hypervisors? Do you throw your hands up and simply let them all in?

The answer certainly depends on your skillsets, needs and tolerance for pain. But if you’re looking for an easy way out through a multi-hypervisor management tool, you may be disappointed.

Multi-hypervisor management problems
Virtualization is meant to simplify tasks and even improve availability. However, deploying a heterogeneous virtualization environment can introduce complexity and inefficiencies that negate some of these benefits.

You must carefully weigh the benefits and risks of overcomplicating your virtualization efforts. If a savings in licensing leads to additional training costs, personnel with almost identical skills, and possibly even outages because of the cumbersome procedures required to support multiple platforms, did you really save any money?

In light of these challenges, there is a lot of buzz surrounding multi-hypervisor management products, which provide a common set of functionality and support tools for multiple platforms. These tools are supposed to be the next step in virtualization. Unfortunately, they are either provided by hypervisor vendors, which favor their own platforms’ functionality, or they are generic tools that often cater to the lowest-common-denominator functions.

For instance, with Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM), you can perform simple management functions in VMware vSphere, such as creating virtual machines or performing live migrations. But it cannot perform more advanced functions, such as managing clusters, resource pools, storage provisioning and many networking tasks. You will have to manage these critical vSphere features outside of the centralized SCVMM hub. In fact, Virtual Machine Manager still requires a vCenter Server environment and would not actually save you any licensing or infrastructure costs.

HotLink SuperVISOR is a similar multi-hypervisor management tool. It allows an administrator to manage Hyper-V, XenServer and KVM hypervisors all from vCenter Server. Though SuperVISOR goes deeper into the list of supported management functions, there will always be new hypervisor features, which will require updates to SuperVISOR before they are supported.

The demand for multiple hypervisors is here and will not go away. Neither will multi-hypervisor management tools, but they will likely provide limited value. Proceed if you must, but exercise caution.

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