With its Cloud Manager software released on Monday, Novell hopes to address the vendor lock-in problem facing enterprises building private clouds.
Cloud Manager allows IT staff to manage virtualized resources that may be based on different hypervisors, including VMware, Microsoft's Hyper-V and Xen virtual servers, all from a single management tool, according to Novell.
Today, companies that have private clouds based on different hypervisors typically have to manage them separately, using tools from different vendors. But that can be complicated.
With a single management console, companies may be more likely to use a mix of hypervisors based on their needs, said Ben Grubin, director of data center management at Novell.
"What this allows you to do is make infrastructure choices based on what you need to do to support your business services, rather than trying to maintain a single unified stack," he said.
Microsoft is moving in a similar direction. Its Systems Center software can manage VMware as well as Hyper-V environments today, and Microsoft has said the next version, due next year, will manage Citrix XenServer as well. VMware's tools can manage only its own hypervisors.
Businesses may want to use hypervisors from different vendors depending on the applications they're running, Grubin said. VMware's software has the biggest market share and the most features but it is also more expensive, he said, and some applications don't require all those capabilities. He argued that companies can keep their costs down by using a lighter-weight, less expensive hypervisor for some applications.
Cloud Manager also includes tools that allow end users to provision their own computing resources, even those that may be hosted across data centers on multiple hypervisors. The provisioning console can display a catalog of services, as well as service tiers with different prices, that the end user can choose from.
When workers or business units want access to new services they typically have to call the IT department and work through a provisioning process that could take months. They may also have to pay for new hardware and software. Allowing them to self-provision resources from a private cloud cuts the time it takes to set up new services and allows them to pay only for the resources they use.
To use Cloud Manager, an enterprise connects the application server, which runs the self-service portal, to orchestration servers at data centers. Each orchestration server can communicate with infrastructures built on different hypervisors.
Novell has created an adaptor that will let users incorporate services running on Amazon EC2, but that capability is at the technology preview stage and not yet shipping, Grubin said. Novell's customers have told it they will want the ability to combine public and private clouds into a single management tool, he said. He expects that in the future, Cloud Manager will support any of the public cloud services that customers ask for.
Novell is not publishing pricing for Cloud Manager. It will sell a version that can run up to 25 workloads, to let customers try it out. They'll then be able to buy add-on packs that support up to 50 additional workloads, he said.
In addition to helping companies realize the benefits of private clouds, Cloud Manager may also help them to get past so-called "VM stall." Some organizations don't get past virtualizing 20% or 30% of their servers, because business units are reluctant to give up the "visibility, security or compliance" that they feel they get from physical servers, Grubin said.
"One thing the Cloud Manager offers is the ability to give that power back to the app owner, through things like the self-service portal and the ability to manage your own workloads," he said. "You have the visibility, cost transparency and accountability that are critical steps to getting over that hump."