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Virtualization management tool selection

Virtualization management ensures the long-term success of your virtual server deployment, and management tool selection plays a big part in that.

Virtualization management ensures that your new virtualization implementation will meet your organization's needs over the long haul. In this final part of our virtualization deployment guide, you'll learn some best practices for virtualization management tool selection.

Once you have deployed your virtual server infrastructure, how will you manage it? You have several virtualization management tool options, in a variety of categories, from which to choose. Let's categorize them as centralized management tools, monitoring tools, security tools, admin utilities and backup tools. Because there are so many tools out there, we can break them down into even more categories and list additional tools. But for our purposes here, let's focus on this list of core tools in the most important categories.

Centralized virtualization management tool selection
Unlike management tool options listed here, centralized (or native) management servers fulfill most requirements if you have a large number of servers. These virtualization management tools offer several advanced features and ease the management burden for a larger number of servers:

  • Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM). This tool is the centralized management server for Hyper-V, SCVMM can also manage VMware ESX (but not at the level of vCenter), and an evaluation version is available.
  • VMware vCenter. This tool is the centralized management server for all ESXi and ESX servers that enables the advanced features of vSphere (such as host profiles, Guided Consolidation, Distributed Resource Scheduler, Update Manager and many more). VMware vCenter is available in Foundation and Standard editions, and a 60-day evaluation is available.
  • Citrix XenServer Essentials. This virtualization management tool handles XenServer and Hyper-V with a free 30-day evaluation.

When it comes to centralized management tool selection, you will likely make your choice based on your virtualization platform. While SCVMM supports vSphere management, for example, more than 99% of users opt to manage vSphere with vCenter, because it offers many more features than does SCVMM. SCVMM might be used only to manage vSphere if you had several Hyper-V servers and just one vSphere server.

Monitoring tools for virtualization management
While your centralized virtualization management tools provide current and historical performance information and alerts, you may need more feature-rich and flexible virtual infrastructure monitoring tools. Here is a list of three of the most well-known-tools:

  • Vizioncore's vFoglight. This virtualization management tool offers performance monitoring, capacity planning, chargeback and service management.
  • Veeam Monitor. This tool is available in a free and commercial edition, Monitor is coupled with the free business view to monitor and report the way that your business is structured. Monitor also provides the data needed for troubleshooting, trend reporting and capacity planning.
  • VKernel Capacity Planner. This tool is a virtual appliance-based capacity planning technology for VMware ESX and vSphere.

Virtual security tools
While traditional security products can help secure your virtual infrastructure, there are several benefits to having security products that are designed for your virtual infrastructure (and thus understand which virtual machine is on which server). Further, server virtualization security solutions can be so much more efficient for a virtual infrastructure than are traditional tools (i.e., using a physical firewall versus a virtual firewall). Here are some virtualization management tool options for security:

Admin utilities for virtualization management
Every Windows administrator has a list of tools at the ready for daily use. Virtualization administrators are no different. Here are my favorite virtualization admin tools.

  • Veeam FastSCP. This virtualization management tool copies files to and from ESX servers that by default allow only one Secure Shell (SSH)/SCP.
  • PuTTY. This small but powerful SSH client connects to the command prompt of your ESX server.
  • Trilead VM Explorer. This tool moves virtual machines from a SAN to an ESX server, backs up VMs, creates and removes snapshots, and manages ESX servers from the command line. For more information, see "Trilead VM Explorer: A Standalone Free VM Management Tool."

And for additional information on great free admin tools, check out my "Best Free Virtualization Tools Guide."

Backup tool selection
Our virtualization deployment plan included a step to ensure that we backed up our new virtual infrastructure. While you can use your traditional physical server backup program, if it doesn't understand which VMs are on which virtual hosts, it will be difficult to back up these VMs. But there are third-party backup tools available. Here are the top three virtualization-specific backup programs.

  • VMware's Data Recovery. With vSphere 4, VMware launched its own backup application that is included with four of the six vSphere editions. It offers file- and-image level backup and restore, VSS support, vCenter integration, and data deduplication.
  • Veeam Backup. This backup technology offers backup and replication functionality in a single tool, ESXi support without VMware Consolidated Backup, file-level recovery, near-CDP replication, database-consistent backup with VSS, deduplication, and rollback.
  • Vizioncore vRanger Pro. As one of the longest-standing virtualization backup programs available, vRanger Pro offers local area network-free backup, ESXi support and image-level backup support.

David Davis is the director of infrastructure at Train Signal Inc., a global leader in video training for IT pros. Davis has a number of certifications, including vExpert, VCP, CISSP and CCIE #9369. Additionally, he has authored hundreds of articles and six different video training courses, including the Train Signal VMware ESX Server video training series. His websites are Happy Router.com and VMwareVideos.com.

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