Only a short time ago, virtualization management simply meant controlling virtual sprawl. Times have changed, though, as enterprises are quickly realizing that full management encompasses everything from the server to the desktop.
Still, many of the leading management systems lack some of the basic capabilities to ensure that applications have enough resources, according to this report on NewsFactor. These include the ability to detect failures in the OS or application layer, or even in the network connection, and the ability to recover from failures without relaunching the virtual machine. Most management systems also rely on a software agent within the physical server, tying up needed resources.
Another major challenge is managing multi-vendor virtualization environments. With many enterprises starting to employ varied combinations of VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and other solutions, creating a unified management platform is becoming a real challenge. This article from CIO.com's Laurianne McLaughlin offers a number of ways to combat this problem, mostly by planning out your virtual environments first to prepare for things like peer-to-peer workload migrations and cross-platform/cross-OS relationships. It also helps to embrace the upcoming Open Virtualization Format (OVF) that allows the movement of VMs across platforms.
For many organizations, the need to implement virtualization quickly takes a back seat to management of this new environment. That's a big mistake, as the costs of poor management can be measured in real dollars. As Kurt Marko points out in this article on Processor.com, virtual machines left untended use up real resources that have to be supplemented when loads get too high. And they still use up processing power, storage and network bandwidth even when not in active use.
That's why most of the competition among the major virtualization vendors will be among their respective management stacks, rather than the inner workings of their hypervisors, says industry analyst Bernd Harzog. Each of the top three vendors have their advantages, with VMware adept at monitoring things like server response times and service level violations, and Microsoft focusing more on transferring VMs between its Hyper-V platform and VMware. Meanwhile, Citrix seems to have the upper hand when it comes to managing virtual desktops.
Third-party management systems are also starting to proliferate. Tek-Tools recently launched the new version of its Profiler Suite that promises full management across server, storage, backup and application environments from a single console, while Embotics' new V-Commander 2.0 offers automated lifecycle management and a new simplified troubleshooting toolkit.
For large firms, the need for virtualization management is pretty clear. Smaller firms, however, might feel they don't need to worry about it if they intend to ease into virtual environments slowly. But the pattern so far is that once the advantages of virtualization become apparent, the pressure is on to expand very quickly. It's better to have a management regime in place first so that expansion can proceed in an orderly fashion with minimal disruption to service.