New Approaches to Virtual Management

Arthur Cole

Despite initial hype that virtualization relieves the management burden of physical systems, it wasn't long before everyone realized that it introduced a whole new set of management challenges -- except this time it was keeping tabs on resources that only existed in software.

That was an acceptable trade-off in the beginning considering that most data centers were willing to wade carefully into virtual environments, entrusting them with critical data only as their experience and available management tools improved.

But now that virtualization has emerged as the foundation for cloud architectures and other revenue-generating services, virtual management is no longer a luxury -- it's a necessity.

And of course, necessity breeds opportunity, which is why we are seeing a whole new generation of virtualization management technologies this summer.

Many of the latest developments are coming from third-party providers, either bringing new approaches to an old problem or cutting niche markets out for themselves. A company called DynamicOps, for example, says it has a new approach to managing virtual sprawl called "automated resource reclamation" that eliminates the manual steps to removing inactive VMs. Found on the company's Virtual Resource Management (VRM) 3.2 system for Citrix/Xen, Microsoft, VMware and Sun environments, the system features automated identification and reclamation of inactive and abandoned VMs, coupling it with a developer toolkit for integration into existing management stacks and provisioning/commissioning processes. In Linux environments, the system also provides for automated OS installation and customization.

Another newcomer is 5nine Software, which recently launched the P2V Hyper-V Planner system for migration planning in the Microsoft environment. The package seeks to simplify the planning stage of virtualization deployment by evaluating available CPU, memory, I/O and storage resources, offering up optimal and cost-effective rollout strategies. The package includes an agentless data collection module, as well as integrated TCO/ROI reporting and an Ongoing Value feature that continues to monitor the environment as new workloads and resources are introduced.

5nine is also offering a free edition of the software, which is just as well, considering that Windows Server 2008 is expected to include Microsoft's Live Migration system. The stack will include a new processor compatibility mode that allows migration between processors of the same family -- say, various levels of Xeons -- with plans to add multivendor migration in the near future.

Management issues are also bringing top-tier vendors together. HP and VMware recently agreed to incorporate the HP Discover and Dependency Mapping application to the vCenter control software, which should give HP users running vSphere greater visibility into the system for improved mapping across physical and virtual environments. HP has also extended support for VMware's ThinApp software to its Client Automation package for improved application management.

That virtual management tools continue to confront the real-world issues that enterprises face is a good sign that virtualization is not getting too far ahead of itself that it creates more problems than it solves. But because virtualization and cloud computing are so intertwined, it would be helpful if some of those management capabilities could be integrated as well.

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