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VMware's vCOPs future holds customization and multi-hypervisor support

VMware has big plans for its vCenter Operations Management Suite, but customers are skeptical it can deliver a competitive product.

SAN FRANCISCO -- VMware has big plans to expand its vCenter Operations Management Suite -- including support for Amazon Web Services and Hyper-V -- by the end of the year, but customers who previewed the upcoming features here this week are skeptical VMware can deliver it all at the right price.

In a technical preview session at VMworld 2013 this week, VMware Inc.'s Director of Cloud Management Products Jai Malkani shared the company's vision for its vCenter Operations Management Suite (vCOPs) as a one-stop infrastructure health and performance dashboard for multiple platforms.

There are a lot of other competing products out there, and right now, their performance beats what VMware can do.

David Burton,
enterprise systems architect, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

"We want to be the cloud operations console across your private, public and heterogeneous infrastructure," Malkani said.

VMware plans to do that by creating a single customizable user interface (UI) for infrastructure and applications -- meaning admins would no longer have to switch between separate vSphere and vCOPs UIs. Further integration of VMware's recently introduced vCenter Log Insight would also enable more granular reporting, including storage and networking data. The addition of problem alerts, Malkani said, would be accompanied by recommendations for how to solve the problem and the ability for an admin to take action (starting an automated resolution process) from within the UI.

In many ways, VMware's vision for Log Insight within vCOPs mirrors the capabilities of existing third-party log analytics software. Malkani even half-joked at one point that, "those of you who have Splunk can get rid of it now."

Specific release dates for the previewed features weren't provided, but customers should expect to see support for more hypervisors and cloud platforms, including Hyper-V, AWS and OpenStack, by the end of 2013, Malkani said. A new UI and problem-based alerting would likely be ready by 2014, he said.

The promise of a single integrated product caught the attention of customers who attended the session, but some were also skeptical.

"From an operational standpoint, to have that single pane of glass, [vCOPs] becomes much more valuable to us rather than having to look in three or four places at once," said Chris Delaney, director of cloud and virtualization operations at DataPipe Inc., a cloud provider based in Jersey City, N.J. "Every year they make promises and then you have to wait and see what happens."

The customization options VMware previewed as part of a new UI are particularly interesting, said David Burton, enterprise systems architect at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

"Right now, for example, you can get alarms that are untrustworthy. But they're adding some customization for capacity planning, which I'm thankful for," he said. "I really need that in my environment because my environment is large. I have to make sure I can trust what I see, and now they're going to give me the ability to set my own rules."

Neither Burton nor Delaney -- both Splunk customers -- said they planned to drop their other log analytics and performance monitoring tools just yet. But both said a consolidated product could help them save money -- if VMware can add features without hiking prices.

"Their current pricing model, I think, is terrible," Burton said. "It's overpriced. If they add these new features and try to raise the price, that's going to be a tough sell for management.

"Right now, if management is used to not having a dashboard, and I go to them saying, 'Hey, I need one million dollars,' that's not going to fly. … There are a lot of other competing products out there, and right now, their performance beats what VMware can do," he said.

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