Managing virtual servers and network infrastructure requires real management systems. Fortunately, many of the tools IT managers use today will work just fine with many virtual systems. However, based on testing at eWEEK Labs, weve come across some management areas that will require some extra thought.
Well deal with two of the most obvious questions. First, virtual infrastructure platforms such as VMware Inc.s ESX Server also have management tools, so is another management layer necessary? Second, if an organization is already using a tried-and-true management system, is there really any reason to add special tools to manage what are essentially real servers and network equipment?
Well answer these two questions in turn. First, like most platforms, VMware provides tools that expertly manage VMware products. VMware specializes in a variety of virtual infrastructure, ranging from virtual servers to virtual network devices, including switches. VMware also creates virtual servers that run the gamut of operating systems, from Windows to Linux to NetWare. VMwares VirtualCenter capably monitors and reports the condition of each of these virtual machines.
But VirtualCenter, like nearly every other server operating system management tool, knows almost nothing about the specific applications running on the virtual hosts. Furthermore, VMwares ESX Server is very focused on managing only VMwares products. (Its worth noting that other hypervisors from competitors such as XenSource Inc.s open-source Xen and, at the desktop level, Microsoft Corp.s Virtual PC 2004 are equally self-absorbed.)
There is almost no cross-platform management support from one virtualization platform to the next. For most IT managers, this means its only a matter of a few acquisitions before the time-consuming tasks of managing multiple virtual infrastructures eat away the productivity gains that justified the original implementations of these platforms.
This is likely why BMC Software Inc. judiciously gave its product a more generic name. BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers is positioned to support rising stars along with the currently popular VMware. IT managers should carefully consider products with cross-platform potential. Its far too early in the virtualization game (when it comes to machines based on Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. processors) to lock in just one vendor.
As to the second question: Do virtual devices need special management tools? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, because the relationship between the virtual servers and the physical hardware is of vital business and technical interest. As our tests show, VMwares VirtualCenter really addresses only technical concerns. IT managers who provide SLAs (service-level agreements) will need more reporting power than the simple up-down reports provided by VirtualCenter.
The answer to the second question is also no because the virtual platform itself provides all the information that any third-party management tool will ever get. VMwares VirtualCenter actually has neat reports and provides all the information IT managers will need to make decisions about how to allocate physical resources for virtual systems.
Its just that as the number of physical and virtual systems increases, and as business needs for various applications running on the virtual systems change, it is likely that specialized management tools with long experience will provide the best reports, as well as offer operator consoles that will expedite getting the right information to the right people.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.