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Four tools for managing a heterogeneous environment

Not all heterogeneous environment management tools are created equal. Check out four popular options to determine which are worth a second look.

Formerly a taboo topic, managing heterogeneous environments has become common practice for many IT departments. Two years ago, when I hosted a conference session on the topic, many people believed it was the wrong path for IT to take. Today, some 65% of respondent organizations to a recent survey said they actively use more than one hypervisor in their environment. Many data centers even have a private or public cloud that is virtualized with multiple hypervisors, and the focus has become how best to manage that heterogeneous environment.

Virtualization vendors have jumped on the bandwagon by developing tools designed to assist admins. Is the software merely a flash-in-the-pan trend, or should you take a closer look at the offerings?

What's in a heterogeneous hypervisor management tool?

Vendors have thrown more support behind multiple hypervisor management over the past year. This trend is evident in feature releases and service packs, as well as new product versions showcasing do-it-all capabilities, regardless of the hypervisor backend. Let's take a look at four tools that you should consider when creating a management plan for your heterogeneous environment.

In this context, I'm referring to tools that perform actual administrative tasks, such as creating a VM, editing its settings and powering it on and off. Some multi-hypervisor management tools also have capacity planning, performance monitoring and chargeback capabilities, but do not perform the aforementioned basic administrative tasks, and I have left them out of this comparison.  


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Easing multiple hypervisor management

First and foremost, you should learn PowerShell. I say should, but this really is a must-learn skill. The top five hypervisors -- Hyper-V, vSphere, Virtual Box, KVM and XenServer -- all support it, and Hyper-V relies on PowerShell for almost everything. VMware even has a dedicated development team for its own PowerShell interface, named PowerCLI. You can execute administrative tasks at great speed with PowerShell, and the task-based command language is flexible, scalable and could be adapted to almost every platform. Many of the heterogeneous hypervisor management products on the market today actually use PowerShell behind their software.

System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 SP1 (SCVMM)

This product has evolved from being strictly Hyper-V-centric to managing XenServer and vSphere through both PowerShell and application program interfaces. SCVMM works hand in hand with the other System Center products (especially Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager), and its maturity makes it a good all-around hypervisor management tool.

VMware vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager

I was shocked to hear this tool introduced at VMworld 2012. VMware had never before used the words "heterogeneous" and "hypervisor" in the same sentence when talking about one of its products. VMware vCenter Multi-Hypervisor Manager (MHM) is a module in vCenter that allows third-party add-ons to manage other hypervisors. Unfortunately, VMware isn't actually creating the tools for admins to manage multiple hypervisors; rather, they are giving you the means to add them to vCenter. MHM relies on other software work with the proverbial other kids in the sandbox.

HotLink SuperVISOR

This heterogeneous hypervisor tool can manage vSphere, XenServer, Hyper-V and KVM and can perform many quick administrative tasks with ease. The biggest drawback to SuperVISOR, in my opinion, is that it requires VMware vCenter. You must have vSphere in your environment to use the product. If HotLink used a standardized rather than a vendor-specific platform, I guarantee it would reach more customers.

If your IT team has decided to explore a heterogeneous environment, take a closer look at the available multi-hypervisor management tools. The facts and trends indicate multiple hypervisors in the data center is the future of IT, and these tools could help make your transition an easy one.

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