A new wave of virtualization management systems is due to hit the market in the latter half of the year, a testament that vendors want to spare the broad enterprise community the realization that early adopters have already encountered: Vast new numbers of virtual servers and partitions can produce a data management nightmare.
This week sees the preview of a new Systems Director Virtualization Manager for IBM's Power-based servers. The company is betting that a Web-based interface will be the preferred means of automating management tasks across multiple virtual and physical platforms.
Key to the system is its ability to manage logical partitions (LPARs) within the Power-based virtualization engine. LPARs can be created either with the Integrated Virtualization Manager of the System p or i servers, or with an external Linux-based Hardware Management Console. Because the two types of partitions communicate with the wider network in different ways, the new Systems Director offers a common interface to both that allows admins to oversee processor cores, main memory, I/O subsystems and even storage partitions, regardless of which operating system is being used.
A virtual network without a proper automation stack is like an orchestra of the finest musicians without a conductor, says Novell's Joe Wagner. Lack of centralized automation not only leads to virtual server sprawl, but can significantly hamper business-critical applications and systems in the event of a physical failure. It also makes it nearly impossible to perform routine maintenance without costly blackouts.
That's part of the reason many leading networking firms are partnering up with virtual management solutions providers, rather than taking the more time-consuming approach of developing them in-house. NEC, for one, recently forged an alliance with XenSource to deliver what the two companies are calling "Integrated VM" on NEC's Real IT Platform. The goal consists primarily of marrying the XenEnterprise system with NEC's SigmaSystemCenter and packaging the solution across Intel Xeon 5300-based hardware configurations.
Despite the development of new management and automation tools, overseeing an ever-widening menagerie of virtual server, storage, I/O and other elements will be no cakewalk. But the flexibility you get from virtualization at least ushers in the possibility of a management regime in which policies, not network limitations, determine how data is used.