Virtually Speaking: VMware Goes Behind the Scenes

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jan 22, 2008


VMware Monday added another spoke to its virtual wheel. This time, the wheel landed on deployment management, as VMware Stage Manager — management and automation software designed to streamline and accelerate the process of bringing new applications and services into production — was released to public beta. VMware Stage Manager takes aim at cleaning up the messy mechanics that precede deployments.

VMware Stage Manager is currently available as a free download. It's expected to go be generally available this summer, with packaging and pricing announced at that time, Melinda Wilken, senior director for marketing with VMware, told ServerWatch.

"Because everything from a business point of view is constantly changing, everything in IT is as well. Stage Manager is about enabling IT to deliver better support to the business in response to business change," she said.

Unlike Lab Manager, which is aimed at developers, Stage Manager's focus is on the transitions inherent with deployments. It's aimed at those in the IT organization who are "focused on getting the apps into production. Specifically, its management and automation capabilities accelerate IT's abilities to deploy software," Wilken said.

Stage Manager does this by building on the management capabilities found in VMware Infrastructure and streamlining the management of application environments, servers, storage and networking systems as new or modified services move along various stages, from integration into testing and then staging and user acceptance, before being released into production.

Specifically, Stage Manager looks at what the deployment aims to accomplish, evaluates the infrastructure assets to be used (e.g., servers, storage and networking equipment), and makes sure they are used only when needed. Thus, server sprawl is minimized and resources are used more effectively. Stage Manger then builds up a pre-production image of complex production environments, cloning directly from production systems to ensure identical environments. Finally, Stage Manager propagates complex system changes through all phases of the process. This makes it easier to enforce change and release management procedures.

The system is organized around the services and processes to be supported, Wilken said. Users can go in and can see all of the services for which they are responsible as well as their level of access control.

Although there is nothing endemically virtual about Stage Manager, it does carry the assumption that it will be used in a virtualized environment — it is from VMware, after all. As a result, it leverages all of the capabilities found in VMware Infrastructure and Virtual Center capabilities.

Much of Stage Manager's value is based on this integration. For example, when IT organizations step through a deployment, they often create "shadow instances" of the production environment as they go through the various stages for testing to actual deployment. As this happens, systems fall out of synch with the production configuration. Stage Manager keeps them in line.

Stage Manger can also be configured for virtual center mapping, thus making resource pools seamlessly inheritable to end users, Wilken said.

If a picture says 1,000 words, these screen shots should tell you much of what you need to know. To see more, consider taking Stage Manager out for a spin.

Service Life Cycle View
Life Cycle View

Services View
Services View

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

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