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Virtually Speaking: When Physical and Virtual Collide

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Nov 3, 2006


Amy Newman
New software from IBM is designed to improve manageability and equalize virtual and physical servers.

As applications and IT infrastructures grow in complexity, the role of management continues to increase. Management, for example, was a key area of focus at this week's Storage Networking World conference, with heavyweights such as Microsoft and IBM unveiling products designed to simplify how storage (both physical and virtual) is managed within the data center.

Management is also a critical component of virtualization, and IBM hopes to hold the lasso here as well.

The OEM this week unveiled Virtualization Manager, the latest component of System Director, which itself is an outgrowth of IBM Director, Kevin Leahy director, Marketing Virtualization Solutions, told ServerWatch.

One of the selling points of a virtualized infrastructure is a simpler infrastructure. Leahy said, "As customers look for higher value from virtualization — values beyond cost — manageability is becoming key."

"The next phase will be all about management," he added.

This is a sentiment many industry pundits share, and one to which vendors are beginning to respond. Will the virtualization battle be won based on management, as some believe? If so, IBM's Virtualization Manager will no doubt play a role.

So what do Virtualization Manager and its System Director foundation bring to the table? Leahy describes System Director as "a tool and framework that allows you to manage your infrastructure as a single environment."

And by infrastructure he means the entire infrastructure. The framework is designed to work with industry-standard systems from IBM mainframes to Unix and x86 boxes from IBM and other OEMs. Today, Systems Director consists of IBM Director server management software and TotalStorage Productivity Center, Enterprise Workload Manager, Usage and Accounting Manager, the z/OS Management Console, and Tivoli Monitor Systems Edition for System p. It also integrates with the entire Tivoli management family.

Virtualization Manager is the first original software in the product family, however. It seeks to do for the virtual what other components have done for the physical. Enterprises can use it to map the physical to the virtual and move workloads around as needed among physical and virtual spheres, Leahy said.

Initially, Virtualization Manager includes support for VMware, Microsoft Virtual Server, Xen, System p and System i virtualization based systems. Clients can also leverage the capabilities of VMware's VirtualCenter by integrating it into IBM Director to provide a single point of management.

Systems Director now ships with all new systems.

Virtualization Manager is now available free of charge for download for IBM System x, BladeCenter and System p servers. Down the road, it will be able manage Windows and Linux boxes, physical and virtual servers, and hardware from multiple vendors as well as storage servers, Leahy said.

By giving the virtual the same priority as the physical, IBM recognizes that a disorganized virtual infrastructure is as problematic as a disorganized physical one. Keeping track of the workload and apps running on 200 virtual servers isn't all that different from tracking the same information on 200 physical ones — especially when they are used interchangeably.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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