Virtual Management: It's Your Problem Now


They call it progress, but have you ever noticed that the other guy's solution often turns out to be your headache?

If you are an IT administrator in a newly virtualized shop, you probably know what I'm talking about.

Although it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, it turns out that virtualization and server consolidation are resulting in an even tougher management challenge than most people, particularly vendors, had predicted. IDC recently held a workshop on the subject, with most panelists concluding that not only is a robust management system a crucial component of even rudimentary virtual environments, but that most management systems today simply lack the tools to keep an effective lid on conflicts and other problems as the environment grows more complex.

Management is particularly crucial now that all the top virtual vendors are offering free hypervisors, ushering in an era when anyone who wants a VM simply has to download the right software. Without new capabilities in online and offline image management, OS and workload compatibility and things like self-provisioning, service level maintenance and the three R's (redundancy, resiliency and recoverability) don't expect your virtual management system to be of much use.

The demand for more robust management is certainly out there. IDC reports that as the number of virtual machines increases, so does the realization that they have to be managed somehow. Among organizations with 50 or more VMs up and running, 56 percent say management is critical, compared to only 24 percent of less virtualized firms. Upwards of 80 percent of larger groups plan to apply ITIL or other models to manage their virtual infrastructure, compared to only about half of smaller organizations.

Anticipation of rapidly evolving virtual environments is spurring a scramble among vendors to get their management stacks in order. Dell recently signed up Reflex Systems to resell its Virtual Management Center (VMC) system across the company's enterprise portfolio. The package provides discovery and mapping tools, network security and reporting.

Oracle is also stepping up its efforts with a new management system for the VM Server Virtualization platform. Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Release 5 offers an application-centric approach to virtual management that allows you to drill down into the environment to pinpoint source of conflicts, whether in the application, a virtual resource or on the physical infrastructure. It also provides built-in configuration tools, automated deployment and lifecycle management and high-availability components.

I know I've been harping on virtual management for some time now, but at least actual field experience has borne out what I've been saying all along: that the time to put your virtual management regime in place is before your virtual environment becomes unmanageable, not after.