Keeping the Virtual Visible


It seems that the IT industry is finally catching on to the challenges of managing virtual environments, so much so that issues like visibility and managing virtual sprawl are starting to show up in conversations about "Virtualization 2.0."


To be fair, management issues have been front and center among the top virtualization platforms for several years now. It's just that with so many more environments leaving the physical realm, the realization of how virtualization actually works is finally dawning on the user community.


This article by Srinivas Ramanathan, founder of systems monitoring firm eG Innovations, lays out a number of the basic considerations for a virtual management stack. He says the most basic challenge is establishing a single system that can oversee all of the various layers in a virtual environment -- everything from the application and protocol layers to the OS, the VM and the basic virtual platform. Since some of these layers exist outside the virtual infrastructure, the ability to track down the root cause of any problem is a key consideration.


Maintaining visibility will be a major challenge as environments evolve from the physical to the virtual to the cloud, according to IDG's John Fontana. That's one of the areas the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) is targeting as it works up a virtualization management framework over the next year or so. The group is looking draw up plans for system interoperability and portability and machine lifecycle management as well, most likely incorporating some or all of the Common Information Model (CIM).


New management systems are already looking to address the complexity issue. Avocent Corp. this week introduced the latest version of the DSView management software specifically targeted at hybrid virtual and physical server environments. The package now offers full support for Citrix XenServer as well as a new set of iPDUs, Avocent's own energy management hardware devices.


Extending management insight into virtual storage is also on the rise. HP unveiled the StorageWorks SAN Virtualization Services Platform (SVPS) this week designed to centralize virtual SAN environments to improve management of heterogeneous midrange arrays. The system uses a unique approach in that it separates data flow from management processes, allowing you to scale data processing separately from management.


It's nearly impossible to gauge the effectiveness of any management system without a lot of in-depth analysis. But as environments become more complex, the need for effective management is so great that the reward will be well worth the effort.