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Streamlining multi-hypervisor management with ease

Multi-hypervisor management doesn’t have to be rocket science. With the right tools, it’s so easy, a caveman could do it.

As the number of heterogeneous virtualization environments continues to rise, so does the need for multi-hypervisor management tools and skills. Now, more than ever, it would be wise for virtualization administrators to learn how to manage and troubleshoot multiple virtualization platforms.

Luckily, multi-hypervisor management doesn’t have to be overly complicated or difficult. In fact, some traditional management tools, including PowerShell and System Center Virtual Machine Manager, can manage multiple hypervisors. Additionally, there are vSphere Client plug-ins that enable multi-hypervisor management, such as the XVP Manager and HotLink SuperVISOR.

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HotLink SuperVISOR offers multi-hypervisor management through vCenter

Multi-hypervisor management through PowerShell

First, let’s start with the easy one: PowerShell. If you have managed a Hyper-V environment, then you’ve probably used PowerShell to perform some, if not most, of your daily tasks, such as creating virtual machines (VMs) and snapshots, migrating VMs among hosts and even retiring machines. If you haven’t yet dived into PowerShell, I suggest that you do so soon, as it’s the basis for many VMware management tools, such as VMware PowerCLI.

PowerCLI is a collection of tools, called cmdlets, which are written specifically for vSphere in the PowerShell scripting environment. If you have an understanding of PowerShell, then you only need to master cmdlets to navigate PowerCLI.

In general, PowerShell is a great knowledge set to have, because many software companies -- not strictly those that design products for VMware -- also provide PowerShell software development kits (SDKs), which offer management functionality through modules.

As a core product from Microsoft, Hyper-V has complete PowerShell and operating system integration built-in. XenServer still has limited PowerShell capabilities, although it has seen some significant improvements in the version 6.0 release of the SDK, and hopefully Citrix will continue to build on that. Meanwhile, VMware has demonstrated a solid commitment to PowerShell now and for the future.

Using the vSphere Client for multi-hypervisor management

Historically, VMware software doesn’t work well with management tools from other vendors. VMware has always wanted admins to use the vSphere Client, or the vSphere Web Client since the release of vSphere 5.

In 2011, however, VMware posted the XVP Manager fling on the VMware Labs website. This plug-in allows you to manage Hyper-V hosts inside the vSphere Client, but it’s compatible only with vCenter 4.0 and 4.1. In addition, the XVP Manager has severely limited Hyper-V management capabilities. XVP only works with Microsoft's Virtual Machine Manager SP1, which is now outdated. It also does not allow you to actually manage a Hyper-V server, but rather limits you to configuring, importing and viewing statistics for the VMs. XVP is also unsupported by VMware because of its fling status.

While VMware developers gave an honest effort with the XVP Manager, it falls short in terms of multi-hypervisor management.

Multi-hypervisor management with System Center

Microsoft has really led the multi-hypervisor management charge with System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. This latest version raises the hypervisor-management bar and provides a more complete administrative interface for VMware, XenServer and Hyper-V. SCVMM 2012 allows for vSphere hosts and VMs to be brought into a library of machines, and allows you to perform most of VM control and migration tasks as if you were in vCenter. For XenServer, the tool basically eliminates the need for the XenCenter management console, allowing you to perform all VM management tasks within SCVMM. 

Behind the scenes, SCVMM mostly uses PowerShell for VMware management. Now offered as part of Microsoft’s Private Cloud offering, rather than a standalone product, SCVMM 2012 is worth taking a look at, even just for a trial run.

A new name in multi-hypervisor management

Another vendor called HotLink has recently emerged onto the multi-hypervisor management market. Founded in 2010, HotLink offers a vSphere Client plug-in that enables XenServer and Hyper-V management.

HotLink does not offer a trial version, and its website indicates the only way to look at the SuperVISOR plug-in is to attend one of its webinars. I have not personally used it, but from the screenshots and videos provided, however, it does look promising.

HotLink may face a problem if VMware discontinues the use of its traditional vSphere Client in favor of the vSphere Web Client. HotLink’s website indicates that SuperVISOR relies on the vCenter Client Plugin capability, which has not yet been ported over to the vSphere Web Client, and only works in the standalone client.

In my world of multi-hypervisor management on both server and client platforms, PowerShell is the key to my administration duties. I want to emphasize that you really should get to know this technology and understand how these virtualization platforms can be managed with PowerShell.

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