Getting a grip on multivendor virtualization

Most shops already use products from different providers, survey says

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Such a coordinated view is highly desirable among enterprise IT managers, says Stephen Elliot, vice president of strategy for CA's Infrastructure Management and Automation business unit. That was among the findings of a study conducted in December 2008 and released late last month by the IT Process Institute.

Jointly sponsored by CA and VMware, the study collected data from 323 North American IT organizations.

"A lot of customers are recognizing that virtualization is great, and works wonders, but certain environments will not be virtualized and so they need to figure out how to manage and automate both worlds together," Elliot says.

Microsoft, on the other hand, provides cross-platform and heterogeneous management tools in its System Center Virtual Machine Manager. "That's unusual, but very positive," EMA's Mann says.

Today, Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) can manage the Microsoft Hyper-V and Virtual Server hypervisors plus VMware's ESX and ESXi hypervisors through integration with VMware vCenter Server (formerly Virtual Center). Management of Citrix XenServer will be forthcoming, but not in the VMM release planned for this fall, says Edwin Yuen, a technical product manager with Microsoft's virtualization group.

"From one management pane, you can sort through and look at virtual machines on a per-server basis, from a logical point of view or by owner. We're trying to provide one software tool that an administrator can use for day-to-day management of all virtual machines," Yuen adds.

Input into Virtual Machine Manager is through a Windows PowerShell command-line set for consistency across platforms, Yuen says. "If you want to create a new virtual machine, it's 'Create VM,' not 'Create new VMware' or 'Create new Microsoft.' We're trying to not just unify the view but the management and the automation of the management of all these systems," Yuen says.

The strengths of third-party vendors

Still, Mann says, for the most part enterprise IT staffers may find most of what they need from third-party vendors, including big management players such as BMC Software, CA and Hewlett-Packard. Smaller vendors such as Dynamic Ops, Vizioncore and PlateSpin, a Novell company, also provide heterogeneous virtualization management.

DynamicOps's Virtual Resource Manager (VRM), for example, has enabled one global investment firm to finesse management of different virtualization technologies in its server and desktop environments -- VMware ESX for the former, and Citrix XenDesktop in the latter. "VRM is already helping to break down these barriers and remove the discussions around the technology. It helps us focus more on service offerings," says an IT engineering manager at the firm who requested anonymity.

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