The Next Phase of Virtual/Cloud Management

Arthur Cole

The initial challenges surrounding management of virtual systems are well-known: virtual sprawl, network provisioning, traffic and data management.


But as virtualization gives way to even more advanced architectures, namely cloud computing, a whole new set of challenges arises, leading to a new generation of management software designed to combat it.


One of the challenges is maintaining a consistent management environment even as new forms of virtualization are introduced into the enterprise. That was a key consideration for Red Hat's Enterprise Virtualization 2.2 platform, which seeks to bring both server and desktop virtualization under one roof. The package provides hosting and management capabilities for Windows and Linux virtual machines and incorporates the company's Hosted Virtual Desktop module that provides a Web-based connection broker, open source SPICE-based remote rendering and desktop pooling capability. And in a bid for greater market share, it has a V2V automation tool that simplifies the conversion of VMware and Xen images into Red Hat.


Extending virtualization management into the cloud has emerged as such a hot topic in which numerous startups hope to steal some thunder from established players. One of them is ManageIQ, which recently teamed up with Service-now.com to provide an integrated virtual/cloud stack said to marry automated IT control with self-service customer autonomy. The package combines ManageIQ's Enterprise Virtualization Management Suite with Service-now's ITSM SaaS system, providing automated provisioning, management, discovery and continuous CMDB sync inside and outside the data center. The system uses Web services and open APIs to simplify integration with third-party applications.


Scalability is also a (pardon the pun) huge issue. As the number of virtual elements -- servers, machines, desktops etc. -- increases, it will take increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to keep them functioning as a cohesive whole. That's the thinking behind Dell's recent acquisition of Scalent, developer of advanced data control and coordination software. The Scalent system, most likely to be integrated into Dell's Advanced Infrastructure Management portfolio, sits on top of the hypervisor layer, but extends control down to bare metal server, storage and networking. The plan is that by tightening coordination between the virtual/cloud realm and Dell's traditional data center offerings, the company can provide a unified environment to compete against the HPs and Ciscos of the world.


For some, though, the issue isn't so much monitoring and managing infrastructure as it is monitoring and managing applications and services. CA is moving in this direction with a new version of the Nimsoft Unified Monitoring architecture, the first upgrade since the acquisition of Nimsoft back in March. The package now sports a unified monitoring portal with customizable Web dashboards, as well as an expanded resource capability that gathers data from more than 100 points, including those on Google or Rackspace clouds. The package also includes a power-monitor module that draws both efficiency data and UPS status into a single dashboard.


The big risk in data management systems is that as the environments themselves become more complex, so does the management stack -- to the point where it becomes too unwieldy to provide effective management. And as data loads continue to increase in size, the management challenge increases as well.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Jul 8, 2010 8:50 AM Peter Spielvogel Peter Spielvogel  says:

Virtualization and cloud management are the issues I speak to most with customers (I work in product marketing for HP). Sprawl is a big problem as is the ability to map applications to the virtual servers through the hypervisor to the underlying infrastructure. Without up-to-date service maps, it takes much longer to troubleshoot problems and isolate the cause so you can fix it. That is where HP has been investing. So far, customers seem to appreciate the simplicity of using a single set of instrumentation to monitor physical and virtual infrastructure.

Two relevant blog posts on this topic:

http://h30507.www3.hp.com/t5/Infrastructure-Management/Virtualized-service-management-for-real-world-environments/ba-p/80126

http://h30507.www3.hp.com/t5/Infrastructure-Management/Is-Managing-Virtual-Servers-Just-Like-Managing-Physical-Servers/ba-p/42561

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