Virtualization management takes center stage

As virtualization evolves over the next several years, management will play a bigger and bigger role.

Test: Virtualization management

Management's importance will increase coincident with the growing competitiveness of non-VMware hypervisors, especially Microsoft's Hyper-V, industry watchers agree. "In coming years, Microsoft will catch up with VMware on the backend and what will separate those two environments are the management tools," says Bob Pate, network operations manager at McGlinchey Stafford PLLC, a large New Orleans law firm.

"You're going to start seeing cross-platform management tools. Some will handle VMware and Microsoft, or Citrix and Microsoft, for example. This is really what's going to create your top runners," he adds.

One management view

Multivendor hypervisor environments already are on the rise, says Bob Meyer, worldwide virtualization solutions lead for HP. "The reality is, going forward, people will prefer different types of hypervisors for different types of applications. The business will require that you have a single view, and from an IT perspective you don't want multiple management tools, repositories, teams of users. You want a single pane of glass," he says.

Data from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) confirms the trend. In a survey conducted in mid 2008, EMA found that only 7% of respondents had only one virtualization supplier in their test and development and production environments, reports Andi Mann, a research vice president with the firm.

Going forward, Mann says, IT will need to distinguish virtualization management from virtual system management. "A multi-disciplined approach to virtual systems management has to be the real goal," he says.

Virtualization management is about managing the low-level capabilities dedicated to the virtualization system itself. Virtualization management takes care of managing the hypervisor, memory allocation, virtual machine migration and such functions. As a rough estimate, Mann says he figures about 75% of enterprises are grappling with virtualization management issues.

Virtual systems management addresses higher level needs, Mann says. He has identified three main areas of virtual systems management: managing the life cycle of the virtual system, monitoring servers being provided by the virtualization system and automating operations of that virtual system. About 18 management disciplines fall under these categories, he says.

IT executives overseeing the most mature virtualization environments are starting to understand virtual systems management now, but everyone needs to be working toward this goal, Mann says. "This is what you need to do if you want to manage your environment properly. Otherwise you're wasting your people -- having senior-level architects doing low-level management while IT administrators sit around because they don't have the right tools," he says.

Third-party support

Virtualization vendors, of course, are scrambling to distinguish themselves on the management front. VMware focuses on boosting its capabilities for managing its own hypervisors, recently adding functionality such as application mapping and chargeback. Microsoft touts the ability to manage multiple hypervisors in Virtual Machine Manager.

But opportunities are ripe for third-party management platform and tool vendors, Mann adds. IT managers will find a lot of value in external toolsets from big vendors such as BMC, CA and HP, as well as more targeted players such as DynamicOps; PlateSpin, a Novell company; and Vizioncore.

Chris Wolf, a senior Burton Group analyst, says he expects to see consolidation and attrition in the virtualization management space. While enterprises do need management tools that help them address challenges of their maturing virtualization environments, they almost have too many choices, he says. “It’s almost overkill.”

Schultz is a freelance IT writer in Chicago. You can reach her at bschultz5824@gmail.com.

This story, "Virtualization management takes center stage" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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