By: Frank Ohlhorst dnu
Managing an ESX or ESXi server can be a daunting task, especially when things go wrong. Administrators trying to troubleshoot thorny issues need an effective ally, a friend that can be counted on to always tell the truth-Xangati is aiming to be that trusted friend to administrators managing balky VMware ESX and ESXi servers. Xangati offers its management tool in different editions, such as the Xangati for ESX virtual appliance and Xangati Management Dashboard in Standard, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions, to meet the needs of both small and large enterprises.
According to the company, Xangati for ESX can be downloaded for a free 14-day trial or at an immediate cost of $299, while Xangati Management Dashboard Standard Edition is available for $4,999 and the Enterprise edition for $9,999. Xangati is also making available a Starter Kit at a discounted rate of $9,999, which includes Xangati for ESX for up to 20 hosts and Xangati Management Dashboard Enterprise Edition.
Xangati’s role in the virtual arena comes from an all too common problem faced by network administrators: needing to play detective to solve the various problems that seem to arise. While that situation may not be unique to those running VMware ESX and ESXi servers, those administrators face an additional challenge-a lack of integrated monitoring and management tools that offer a fast way to identify, track and ultimately solve the problem. Xangati’s products aim to do just that.
I downloaded Xangati for ESX to take a look at what the product can offer a harried ESX administrator. Installation was straightforward and required only importing the virtual appliance, which comes as an .ovf file, onto my ESX server. Once the virtual appliance is launched, Xangati for ESX is accessed via a Web browser.
The product’s main console offers a status view of all of the active virtual machines on the ESX server, along with the traffic traveling across the endpoints, locations, ports in use and many other critical, traffic-driven elements. With its aid, an administrator can rapidly determine how well a virtual infrastructure is performing.
Key Xangati Features
What makes Xangati for ESX unique is the product’s ability to record activity on the network for playback later. That proves to be a valuable capability for those trying to troubleshoot specific issues or schedule-related problems. For example, if there is a certain time of the day when VM performance drops, an administrator can record that period of time and then review the recording to see where the congestion happened or what caused the slowdown. That capability could save days of investigative work when troubleshooting a network load or processor usage issue.
Administrators can quickly drill down into particular VMs to track activity and load, both in real time and using recordings. The information, when displayed in real time, shows a scrolling activity graph that gives a quick visual reference of bit rates and endpoint counts. Most of the elements on the dashboard are customizable, allowing administrators to define views that best fit their particular needs.
The key word here is “views;” Xangati excels in offering a visual look at activity on a virtual infrastructure. The product’s ability to offer information on traffic traversing the network from endpoint to VM proves to be one of the most compelling aspects. All elements that make up a virtual infrastructure are incorporated into the product’s monitoring capabilities, allowing an administrator to track what exactly is happening on a virtual network.
Among the critical elements Xangati offers a real-time view into are the vSwitches located on an ESX host. vSwitches are usually hard to monitor in an end-to-end situation, with administrators having to rely on non-real-time analysis tools to determine how traffic is flowing from an ESX host through a vSwitch ultimately to an endpoint. Incorporating that information allows administrators to narrow down whether a connectivity or performance problem is related to an ESX server or some other network element-a critical capability, especially since most performance problems are first attributed to an ESX server, instead of any other component of a virtual infrastructure.
One very cool feature is the product’s ability to record activity on a schedule defined by the administrator. That proves very handy when trying to pin down performance issues during overnight backup sessions or problems related to cross-site synchronization chores needed for business continuity. The recordings can also be used as part of an access audit or security compliance policy to make sure that the activity on VMs is only occurring when it is expected to.
The Xangati for ESX dashboard integrates with vSphere and vCenter clients, allowing administrators to quickly access the dashboard from within VMware’s management tools. Although that is a minor feature, it proves to be a major time saver, allowing management chores to be consolidated.
Xangati for ESX offers a logical progression into the realm of monitoring and troubleshooting for ESX platforms. Administrators will find the ability to drill down into and record information about any element that appears on the dashboard an invaluable capability that speeds the troubleshooting process and allows them to demonstrate the effectiveness of a virtual infrastructure solution. What’s more, the product allows administrators to properly assign blame for problems that were once reflexively blamed on ESX.