Getting a grip on multivendor virtualization

Most shops already use products from different providers, survey says

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One of the smartest moves an enterprise IT manager can make is to find a way to create processes for functions such as provisioning and monitoring that can be repeated across any hypervisor environment, says Matt Brooks, senior enterprise architect at Dell. "If you don't, the risk is building up mini-infrastructures around each hypervisor, and that's really what we're trying to get away from with virtualization," he says.

Brooks speaks from experience -- lots of it. Dell has a massive virtual infrastructure, currently comprising more than 6,200 virtual machines in a mixture of hypervisors split 60-40 between the test/dev and production environments. "We see this as being a multi-hypervisor world, and although we'd like to have the fewest amount of hypervisors as possible, anything that enables us to optimize we're very happy about," he says. Brooks wouldn't specify which vendors' hypervisors Dell is using.

"We had so many different processes to manage in our physical environments, we really want to consolidate that down to build up same velocity in how we manage, deliver and monitor in the virtual environment," Brooks explains. "The key is looking for commonalities and making sure organizational and management practices, from a processes perspective, are repeatable," he says.

A single pane of glass

The right management tool is critical. "Skills for managing virtualization are among the biggest inhibitors for deploying virtualization technology. So the best advice I can give [enterprise IT organizations] is to look for toolsets that will manage across vendors," EMA's Mann says. Unfortunately, he adds, these aren't too common today.


"For the most part, virtualization management and virtual system management tend to focus on VMware. That's fair, since it's an 89% market leader at the moment. But I'm seeing adoption of Hyper-V and Xen in many enterprises," Mann says. Citing the mid-2008 survey, he says more than 30% of respondents planned on bringing Hyper-V into their IT infrastructures and upwards of 40% planned on adopting one Xen hypervisor or another.

VMware, for its part, has a sophisticated management toolset, but it's focused on its own hypervisor. The company says it has not seen the need among its customers for management of multiple hypervisors in a production environment, a company spokeswoman said. As such, its development resources are best spent at this point on providing more value for vSphere, according to Bogomil Balansky, senior director of product marketing.

VMware does, however, coordinate with vendors of management tools used for managing physical servers. It shares APIs and has a plug-in architecture that aims to provide "seamless" management of the physical with the virtual, the spokeswoman added.

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