Virtual Management Expands with the Times

Arthur Cole

It seems that the more diversity we see in virtual environments, the more diversity we see in virtual management stacks.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, considering the wide variety of management requirements that come into play once simple virtual infrastructure expands to suit ever more complex data environments. But it does lead to a fair amount of guesswork when it comes to selecting the right management stack, not only for today's virtual layout, but tomorrow's as well.

A good place to start laying out a virtual management portfolio is the virtualization vendors themselves. VMware, Microsoft and now Oracle all provide integrated management components. Oracle claims to have the most comprehensive suite in the Oracle Virtualization Manager, which provides a single management point for all virtual environments, from the desktop to the server. That company also says it concentrates on more than simple infrastructure and consolidation tasks in favor of a multi-layered approach designed to improve application and service deployment and performance.

This isn't to say that the hypervisor vendor always has the best solution. Sometimes a third-party system can break new ground, as is the case with Xangati Inc., which is claiming a number of firsts for ESX environments, including continuous scroll-bar views, auto-thresholding, real-time VM visibility log-in and single-pane virtual views covering servers, VMs, network, storage and apps. The company also supports heterogeneous environments, including Citrix and Microsoft.

That last point might prove vital to many larger organizations that, willingly or not, find themselves in multi-vendor, multi-platform situations. That's why many third-party management vendors are stressing heterogeneous support as a way to differentiate themselves from the internal management platforms found in most hypervisor environments. Akorri, for one, prides itself on cross-platform virtual infrastructure management with its BalancePoint system. The company stresses predictive analysis and resource utilization capabilities as a way to keep Hyper-V and vSphere environments in check. It also provides storage support for NetApp and HP virtual storage systems.

Part of the problem with virtual environments, however, is that they tend to grow and change on their own, making it difficult to control with a static management stack. Companies like Netuitive are hoping to overcome this challenge through "behavior learning tools," a sort of self-learning system that uses statistical processing to keep pace with the overall data ecosystem. The key is to establish normal behavioral patterns and then constantly check for deviations in those patterns and to react to changing conditions before minimum performance thresholds are breached.

It's been said that the great tradeoff in virtual systems is that you improve your hardware and physical infrastructure management capability at the expense of a new free-wheeling virtual and cloud-enabled one. Today's management stacks promise a new level of control over those environments without allowing management itself to become so complex as to be unwieldy.

That could be a tough promise to keep, though, as virtual environments continue to scale up to accommodate ever-increasing data loads. But until virtual systems become self-regulating (which is to say, never) there's really no other choice but to ensure that management stays a step ahead of the environment.

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