BMC Corrals VMWare Systems

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2005-09-19
 
 
 

BMC Corrals VMWare Systems


BMC Software Inc.s BMC performance Manager for Virtual Servers helps companies accurately gauge the performance of both real and virtual systems.



Click here to read the full review of BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers.

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BMC Software Inc.s BMC performance Manager for Virtual Servers helps companies accurately gauge the performance of both real and virtual systems.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers uses information provided as a Web service from VMware Inc.s VirtualCenter, the management interface for VMwares ESX Server and GSX Server software. ESX Server and GSX Server are used to create virtual IT infrastructure, including virtual servers, NICs, network switches and SCSI drives.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers covers gaps in the monitoring and configuration provided by VMwares VirtualCenter, which is focused on the operational state of the virtual servers. VirtualCenter reports the impact of virtual systems on the physical host machines, but it is not well-equipped to provide data for an SLA (service-level agreement).

The main reason to consider virtual-system-specific management software—be it from BMC or rivals Computer Associates International Inc., IBM or Hewlett-Packard Co.—is to marry information about virtual infrastructure performance with physical equipment performance and business needs.

IT managers can use the BMC product to get the big picture on how well their virtualized IT infrastructure is performing, based on data provided by VirtualCenter.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers, which is available now, is priced from $815 for what BMC calls a workgroup license to $34,000 for a large-enterprise license. The product also requires a console license that costs $3,500 per concurrent connection.

In tests, eWEEK Labs connected BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers to a VirtualCenter management console running on a Windows 2000 Server system. The VirtualCenter console, in turn, managed the virtual machines that were created by ESX Server 2.5. Our ESX Server software was installed on a Sun Microsystems Inc. Cobalt dual-processor system equipped with Intel Corp. Pentium III processors, two Broadcom Corp. NICs, and 2GB of RAM and 48GB of disk space—about the bare-minimum number of processors, RAM and NICs needed to support ESX Server.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers doesnt require agents on any monitored components. Instead, it requests data from a Web service API supplied by VMware.

We had to do a minimal amount of mucking around with vmaconfig.xml to activate periodic performance reporting, but after minor changes it was a pretty straight shot to access performance data for VMs and VMware host machines. In fact, we were quite happy that we didnt have to install BMC agents because agent management generally adds update and administration costs that can sometimes rival the time savings gained by implementing this kind of system.

However, we advise IT managers to install management agents on VMs, ESX Server and the system running VirtualCenter.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers ability to collect application and server performance information makes it especially well-suited to IT shops that are already running BMCs Patrol management tools. Aside from getting all monitoring and management data in a single console, IT managers who already know how to use Patrol tools will have no trouble integrating BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers, which is just another BMC KM (Knowledge Module).

Next Page: Know your servers.

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When we installed BMC performance Manager for Virtual Servers on a Windows 2003 Server system, we used the BMC Patrol Central console for access and control. IT managers should have a well-documented list of all ESX and GSX Servers before implementing BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers.

We added our ESX Server system manually by opening the KM and then entering the ESX Server name and user credentials. Once configuration was completed, most other operations were performed automatically.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers comes with a good number of useful reports and monitoring capabilities. This is hardly surprising, given BMCs long tenure in the infrastructure management field.

After installing and configuring the virtual server KM, we started getting accurate data about the performance of our VMs, although it took some old-fashioned training to access some of the important features of the product, such as switching between screens for monitoring physical and virtual machines.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers did a good job of showing us the real-time performance metrics of both VMs and physical systems. In tests, we created three VMs: a Windows 2000 server, a Novell Inc. NetWare 6.5 server and a Red Hat Inc. Fedora Core 2 server.

While in the BMC Patrol Central console, we created a real-time reporting graph that showed the physical CPU utilization along with CPU utilization of each of our VMs.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers does a commendable job of showing the relative consumption of resources. For example, VirtualCenter could report that the NetWare 6.5 test VM was running at 40 percent of the VMs virtual CPU capacity, but it was difficult to see how this performance compared with the physical CPUs in the ESX Server host system, which could easily be running at only 5 percent of CPU capacity.

The weakness of BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers is that CPU utilization is one of the only specific metrics that can be correlated in this manner. BMC officials indicated that a raft of performance measures would be added in subsequent releases of the KM for virtual servers.

In this first version of BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers, we obtained a wide variety of measures for both the physical and virtual machines in our test network. On the ESX Server, it was simple to pull over information via VirtualCenter for all the virtual machines. The detailed reports showed the operating system version and disk, memory and network status, among other things.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers neatly organized information about the physical memory, disk, network and processor utilization on the physical machine running ESX Server. As usual with BMC products, we were able to set a variety of thresholds to trigger console alerts. For example, we received visible alerts on our BMC Patrol Central console when a virtual machine went down or exceeded disk-usage constraints.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers also reports on VMware-specific CPU parameters, including settings that govern the amount of processor resources that are waiting, used or guaranteed to a specific virtual machine.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers includes several rudimentary reports that show ESX Servers and the virtual machines on them. It was simple to access the reports, and we hope that BMC bolsters the number of these reports in future versions.

BMC Performance Manager for Virtual Servers supports only VMware products in this release. However, the product name hints that other virtual infrastructure platforms may be supported in the future, although no official word was given about this possibility. Among the candidates for potential support is the open-source Xen Hypervisor from XenSource Inc. It makes sense that BMC—and likely other management vendors—will support the variety of virtual infrastructure tools that may end up in enterprise computing environments.

Click here to read more about VMwares plans to open its virtualization technology.

For today, however, VMware support is enough, and BMC has done an admirable job creating a useful tool for virtual infrastructure users.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

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Evaluation Shortlist

Computer Associates Unicenter Network and Systems Management Option for VMware Software Discovers hosts and VM instances and incorporates them into a business process view, making it a compelling choice (www3.ca.com/Solutions/ProductOption.asp?ID=4896)

HP hardware HPs hardware division, with integration of VMware software onto ProLiant systems along with HP StorageWorks, is the main VMware competition (h18004.www1.hp.com/products/servers/software/vmware/index.html)

IBMs IBM Tivoli Monitoring for Virtual Servers Monitors server resource and performance availability for VMware ESX server; the Tivoli software can kick off basic remediation tasks to correct problems (www-306.IBM.com/software/tivoli/products/monitor-virtual-servers)

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at cameron_sturdevant@ziffdavis.com.

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