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VCenter Converter, Migrate and other virtualization management tools

Our top-ten list continues with these five must-have virtualization management tools. Choose the best ones for your infrastructure based on cost and your management strategy.

We’re counting down the top 10 virtualization management tools -- in no particular order. If you've checked out the first five must-have tools, here are five more that made the list.

6. Migrate from PlateSpin and vCenter Converter from VMware

The free vCenter Converter from VMware is an essential virtualization management application for VMware environments. It allows administrators to do physical-to-virtual and virtual-to-virtual conversions. Although not as robust as some of the paid conversion applications, it does the job of conversions well and is simple to use.

PlateSpin Migrate is a paid application that converts physical servers into any hypervisor VM format (P2V) including XenServer, ESX/ESXi, Virtual Iron and a variety of image formats. But, Migrate doesn’t just do P2V conversion. It also supports virtual-to-virtual (V2V), virtual-to-physical (V2P) and converts to and from various image formats like Ghost, LiveState, CommVault and more.

When application problems occur in virtual environments, being able to do a V2P is important if an application vendor requests that you reproduce a problem in a physical environment. PlateSpin Migrate has many advanced features, such as the ability to schedule and automate conversions, replication and server syncing before cutover.

7. iSCSI SAN Software from StarWind Software and OpenFiler from Open Source (paid/free)

Having shared storage in a virtual environment is a necessity if administrators want to use any advanced features like VMware’s vMotion or high availability. Not everyone can afford shared storage, which can be expensive. But virtual SAN software can turn local storage devices into shared iSCSI and NFS storage that can be used with virtual hosts.

OpenFiler is a great open source application that can install on a physical server or as a VM to convert a host’s often unused local disk to shared storage that can be accessed via NFS or iSCSI.

StarWind’s paid iSCSI SAN software can also turn local storage into shared storage so it can be accessed via iSCSI. The StarWind virtualization management tool has many advanced features as well, including thin provisioning, replication, high availability and mirroring. For use with Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESX/ESXi, these virtualization management tools make having a virtual SAN affordable because administrators can leverage existing local storage that they already have or can purchase cheaply.

8. vCenter Mobile Access from VMware (free)

With vCenter Mobile Access (vCMA), VMware administrators can monitor and manage their hosts and VMs using a Web interface optimized for a mobile phone display. Administrators can view host and VM information, alarms and events and can perform inventory searches, initiate a VMotion, change VM power states and manage snapshots.

For administrators who are on call or away from their virtual infrastructure, this is a practical application for handling problems and keeping tabs on their virtual environments without carrying around a laptop. vCMA can be deployed as a pre-built virtual appliance that administrators use to manage their virtual environments from their mobile phones.

9. Veeam Backup and Replication (paid)

Veeam Backup and Replication was the first to embrace the many new features in vSphere that took advantage of the vStorage APIs for more efficient VM backups. Backups are critical for virtualization management in any environment, and having a good backup application that is designed and optimized for virtualization is important.

Being able to restore data when necessary is equally important. Veeam’s recently announced SureBackup feature allows users to test VM restores in a simple manner that has no impact.

10. ESX Deployment Appliance from Herco van Brug

For VMware ESX, the ESX Deployment Appliance (EDA) is a must-have virtualization management tool for large environments because it makes deploying new ESX hosts with a pre-defined configuration simple. Using network PXE boot, it has a Web interface to configure and deploy many ESX hosts within minutes.

This virtualization management tool also has a script builder that makes post-configuration of ESX hosts an automated procedure. The EDA is a big time-saver when building ESX hosts and ensures all hosts are deployed to a standard configuration.

Virtual tools vs. physical tools

Many tools are specifically designed to work with virtual environments. One downside to this is although they often work great for virtual environments, many of them can’t manage physical environments. Tools designed to work with physical servers don’t often manage virtual machines (VMs) effectively because they are unaware of the virtualization layer.

Consequently, administrators need two sets of applications to manage the whole environment better -- one to manage the virtual environment and one to manage the physical environment. Because of the recent rapid growth of virtualization, more vendors are adapting applications to work with virtual environments.

Some applications can manage both. For example, Microsoft’s System Center can manage virtual and physical environments, and Symantec’s NetBackup has evolved to support backing up VMs at the virtualization layer. However, as more companies embrace virtualization—with some going 100% virtual—the need for tools that can manage physical servers will decline in favor of those that are designed to specifically work with VMs.

This article originally appeared in the Virtual Data Center E-Zine.

This was last published in March 2011

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