The Growing Need for Virtual Management

Arthur Cole

IDC released a survey this week backing up what we at ITBE have been saying for quite some time: that once the initial blush of virtualization has faded, there needs to be some serious thought given to managing the new virtual environment.

The research organization recently polled 100 North American IT executives charged with maintaining virtual infrastructure. They found that as the virtual environment grows more complex, the need for a robust management regime increases correspondingly. In organizations described as having a "mature" virtual infrastructure (those with 50 or more virtual machines), 56 percent say management is a critical element, compared to just 26 percent in less complex environments.

The more complex organizations also showed overwhelming preferences for sophisticated management tools, automation, ITIL and various best practices when it comes to managing virtual environments.

These numbers jibe with what other organizations are finding out. Gartner, for instance, expects revenue from virtualization management software to jump nearly by half this year, from just over $900 million in 2008 to $1.3 billion in 2009, driven largely by an increase in virtual desktop infrastructures.

It's no wonder then that much of the development among the leading virtualization platforms is centering on management. Citrix Systems, for example, recently unveiled a new management stack for the Hyper-V called Citrix Essentials, part of the company's Project Encore designed to bring broader capabilities to the Microsoft platform. Citrix Essentials brings in capabilities like the StorageLink integration system for improved connectivity to legacy storage arrays, and a new dynamic provisioning service that provides central management of master images. The package is in anticipation of broader penetration of the Citrix platform now that the company is issuing it free of charge.

Meanwhile, VMware users are still seeing a steady stream of third-party solutions offering a wide variety of systems management tools. One of the latest is Veeam Software, which recently gained VMware Ready certification for its nworks management pack. The system can be tailored to either Microsoft System Center or HP Operations Manager, allowing VMware environments to be controlled through either platform.

On one level, virtualization eases the management burden in most data centers because the provisioning process for virtual machines is generally much simpler than for physical ones. But that simplicity is a double-edge sword because a plethora of newly provisioned VMs can tax physical infrastructures unless someone is watching over things. Now that virtual environments are becoming more common in the enterprise, the tools to simplify that task are starting to creep onto managers' wish lists.

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