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Virtualized management: Choosing the right tools

This virtualized management checklist offers eight quick tips to help you select the right virtualization management and monitoring tools for your organization.

Virtualized management can make your life as an IT administrator a lot easier. But it takes a lot of planning to make your virtualized management efforts successful.

The biggest factor is how you choose your virtualization management tools. If you don't pick the right virtualization management software for your infrastructure, you won't have optimal virtualized management.

Virtualized management tools
As a rule, you should include your virtualization vendor in any tool search.

VMware vCenter and Citrix Essentials each provide a suite of tools for tasks like performance monitoring, configuration management and automated provisioning. Keep in mind that Citrix Essentials is also available for Microsoft's Hyper-V as well as XenServer.

For devout followers of Windows, Microsoft touts its System Center Virtual Machine Manager for Hyper-V.

If you cannot find suitable tools from the three major virtualization vendors, consider a wealth of offerings from third-party vendors including -- but certainly not limited to --Fortisphere Virtual Essentials 2.0, Hyper9, Netuitive Service Analyzer, a variety of tools from Vkernel, VizionCore vFoglight, Surgient Platform 6.1 and ToutVirtual VirtualIQ Pro.

When considering third-party tools, select a product that is compatible with your hypervisor.

Use this virtualized management checklist to make sure you select the best tools to meet your virtual infrastructure management needs:

Meet the platform requirements. Every tool must be installed in your environment, and this imposes installation requirements that must be met on one or more servers. Decide whether to install the tool on a physical server or on a virtual machine. Be sensitive to the tradeoffs in either approach.

Select the feature set carefully. One of the first decisions must be to identify the features and functionality needed for virtualized management. Define the needs, wants and nice-to-have elements. Understand the available budget for a tool purchase. Once a feature list and budget are in-hand, you can shop much more confidently.

Ensure heterogeneity in your environment. A core benefit of monitoring and management tools is the ability to see virtual machines and other infrastructure from a single console. So be sure the tool you select will interoperate with the physical servers and virtual machines in your data center. Otherwise, you may need to use multiple tools.

Test the tool thoroughly before purchase. Start by running the tool in a lab environment to gain familiarity with the product, and roll out the trial software to several noncritical systems for virtualized management testing. Try the key features, gather and review actual data and compare results to other tools being tested. It may not be possible to try the product across your entire infrastructure, but you should conclude testing with a clear assessment of the product.

Consider the learning curve. Administrators will avoid features and capabilities that are hard to use, so part of testing should also involve an ease-of-use evaluation to assess the relative difficulty of product features. Powerful tools that are hard or confusing to use will waste time and money.

Look at the product's update path. See how often the tool is patched and updated, and consider the new features and functionality that the vendor expects to include in the next 12 to 18 months. Avoid tools that have no defined upgrade path or are reaching end of life. This means the vendor will want to sell you a new tool later.

Limit the number of tools in your environment. You may have to use many virtualized management tools to monitor or manage specific behaviors or portions of your data center. This is certainly undesirable, but it may be unavoidable. Make every effort to limit the number of different tools. That will minimize costs and complexity in the data center and mitigate the learning curve for administrators.

Think about developing your own tools. Virtualization vendors may have APIs and other development tools you can use to create custom monitoring and management tools. Although this is rarely less expensive than purchasing a third-party tool, it does allow you to tailor the tool to your specific needs rather than sorting through the features of a commercially developed product.

About the author
Stephen J. Bigelow, a senior technology writer in the Data Center and Virtualization Group at TechTarget Inc., has more than 15 years of technical writing experience in the PC/ technology industry. He holds a bachelor of science in electrical engineering, along with CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications, and has written hundreds of articles and more than 15 feature books on computer troubleshooting, including Bigelow's PC Hardware Desk Reference and Bigelow's PC Hardware Annoyances. Contact him at sbigelow@techtarget.com.

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