Vendors Tame Virtualization Management Complexity

Smaller companies are looking to fill the virtualization management void.

In preparation for VMworld Sept. 11-13, a host of vendors are jumping into the virtual machine management void to add new tools to help IT get a handle on managing the complexity of the virtual world.

Independent run book automation vendor Opalis Sept. 4 announced its new Opalis Process Catalog for Virtualization, aimed in part at helping IT rein in virtual machine sprawl.

"Its so easy to provision a new virtual machine, they tend to multiply like bunny rabbits. As a result, storage utilization goes through the roof," said Charles Crouchman, chief technology officer of the Toronto-based company.

The Opalis Process Catalog for Virtualization represents a new chapter in the companys overall electronic IT process catalog book for solving specific problems. It includes automation policies based on ITIL best practices for managing virtual environments. Functions range from straightforward automation of maintenance tasks such as patch management to "high value processes such as virtual machine life cycle management," Crouchman said.

The virtualization process catalog includes process flows for both provisioning a new virtual machine and de-provisioning it. "We can watch the help desk system for a ticket requesting a new VM, sense the ticket has been opened, and we can check that it is in compliance with [rules such as] who can ask for a VM, what kind of VM [is acceptable] and which software you can use on a VM. If it passes compliance, we can immediately provision that VM," he said.

The catalog also allows IT operators to automate the enforcement of policies on de-provisioning virtual machines to help address virtual machine sprawl. Other IT functions it can automate include diagnostic procedures and corrective actions in incident management, patching and server audit remediation of virtual servers as a part of configuration management, virtual server and file cleanup for expired virtual server images as part of maintenance, and backup and recovery procedures.

According to recent Gartner research, Opalis is addressing a real need among early adopters of virtualization technology, according to Gartner analyst Cameron Haight. "People want tools to address virtualization sprawl, which leads to inefficient use of resources. Because its so darn easy to create a virtual machine, you can have those that people are no longer using. You have no mechanism to reclaim those virtual machines no longer being used," he said.


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The product is due in the fourth quarter, although Opalis officials will demonstrate it at VMworld in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, eG Innovations at VMworld will take the wraps off new performance monitoring software that can provide the inside view of how applications are performing within a virtual machine guest.

The Iselin, N.J., company will introduce its new eG Monitor for VMware Infrastructures, which shows in real time the internal and external performance views of what the VMware host sees about guests and what the guests see themselves.

"VMwares ESX server knows how many virtual machines there are and how much resources they are using, but it doesnt know whats going on inside those guests. [The eG VM Monitor] does the outside view from the ESX kernel and collects information about how applications inside the guest are doing – the inside view," said CEO Srinivas Ramanathan.


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The patent-pending technology, dubbed In-N-Out Monitoring, gives IT operators visibility into the performance of the VM kernel, the console operating system and each guest inside a virtual machine.

It addresses the challenges of pinpointing the source of performance problems caused by individual applications within one virtual machine that affect the performance of other virtual machines on the same physical server. It also helps to track the migration of virtual machines are they move from one physical server to another, Ramanathan said.

Although other performance monitoring tools are available for VMwares ESX Servers, the eG VM Monitor is unique in its ability to provide business service views that reveal the applications and network devices that support each business service and their interdependencies, he said. At the same time, it maps applications to the virtual machines they run on.

"The bigger problem is how to tie this into an end-to-end business service management framework. Other tools dont tie into what the impact [of performance problems is] on the business service," said Ramanathan.

The new eG VM Monitor is available now and is priced per ESX server monitored. A 25 node VMware environment is about $50,000.

In other virtual machine management news, Virtugo Software Sept. 4 released its virtualSuite r6 software for managing virtual servers and desktops, which is also designed to address virtual server sprawl. In addition, Onaro introduced its VM Insight 1.0 tool for managing virtual machine infrastructures.

While a host of small companies are addressing the differing needs of managing virtual environments, little money is being spent today on those management tools, according to Gartners Haight.

There are "over 70 companies offering over 100 different products across things like performance management, configuration management, data protection, [and so on]. Toss in another 10 to 12 on the security side and there is a great deal of activity, although there isnt a huge amount of money being spent on these tools. They address the needs to come as virtualization moves from niche to [mainstream]," he said.

Although a lot of point tools companies are addressing the management challenges posed by virtualization, none of the large enterprise management companies have stepped in with a comprehensive approach to managing virtual environments, said another Gartner analyst, David Williams.

"Everybodys jumping on that bandwagon. And most of the companies in it are very small. From a management perspective this is highly, highly fragmented. There are lots of small guys doing very specific niche things. There isnt a big vendor thats stepped up with a comprehensive approach," he said.


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