Virtually Speaking: Big Guns Go Virtual

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 11, 2008


Virtually Speaking: Big Guns Go Virtual CA, Symantec and ManageIQ unveiled products this week to streamline VM management.

One starts a precedent, two starts a pattern, three is the start of a trend. Or, as the saying goes, things always happen in threes.

CA, Symantec and ManageIQ unveiled products this week to streamline VM management.

Granted, there's nothing terribly new about the concept of management tools for virtualized environments. But when the big guys show up, it's pretty clear the ante has been upped.

It's only Wednesday, and so far this week, Symantec, CA and Manage IQ all announced management tools to make managing the virtual as straightforward as dealing with the physical.

CA's Advance

On Monday, CA announced a host of new and updated products. It's CA Advanced Systems Management will both integrate with VMware VirtualCenter and support Sun's Logical Domains (LDOMs). CA ASM r11.2 lays claim to being the first solution to support Sun's LDOM platform. It will help enable discovery and administration of Sun's virtual platform. It also offers performance and event management, and dynamic reconfiguration of virtual resources.

CA ASM r11.2 integrates comprehensively with VMware VirtualCenter, enabling administrators to provision, monitor and manage virtual data centers through a single interface. It also improves monitoring and management of VMware ESX hosts. The products complement each other by leveraging the unique combination of CA ASM's patented Dynamic Resource Brokering and VMware’s Dynamic Resource Scheduler, which are part of the VMware Infrastructure virtualization platform and continuously monitor utilization across resource pools to intelligently align resources with business needs and changing priorities.

CA ASM r11.2 expands centrally managed and multivendor platform coverage, as well as provides unique insight for virtual and cluster environments through physical-to-virtual mapping of the entire enterprise server infrastructure.

CA will extend the software's support to Hyper-V when it goes gold, Don LeClair, senior vice president of CA Technology Strategy, told ServerWatch.

Other enhancements to CA ASM include: high availability for clustering, increased support for IBM's System p5 Server Series (including VIO Server monitoring), support for IBM’s HACMP Concurrent Resource Groups, enhanced CPU and memory monitoring that allows for selective monitoring of key system resources, and integration with CA eHealth Network Performance Manager (CA eHealth).

Think this is a lot of new features? It's only the tip of the iceberg. CA ASM r11.2 is but one of eight products in the refresh.

Among these products is a new process automation offering. IT Process Manager is "keyed toward driving processes around automation in the IT organization," LeClair said. It has integrates with related products from CA and is strongly focused on extending Auto Systems. LeClair described it as "useful for any enterprise with heterogeneous datra centers."

And heterogeneous data centers are fast becoming the norm. LeClair said that in the past nine months, he has encountered virtualization in production across every enterprise he has encountered. While that data point runs counter to what many analysts have been saying, another observations goes even further: Enterprises are using products from more than one virtualization vendors. In other words, more than one hypervisor and surrounding environment is in play.

Whether these enterprises are hedging their bets or choosing the hypervisor based on the task is unclear. What is clear, and should not be surprising, is that a mixed environment will likely be the norm in many data centers for a while.

CA developed IT Process Manager to meet these challenges. IT Process Manager is the newest addition to its stable of Data Center Automation solutions. The product is intended to the facilitate process of designing, building, orchestrating, managing and reporting on automated workflows that support IT operation processes.

CA IT Process Manager is made up of three components: CA IT Process Manager, a visual mechanism to design, monitor and report on the end-to-end process; CA IT Process Manager Integration Packs, which enable admins to read and modify data and control or initiate tasks in all IT management products; and CA IT Process Manager Templates, for creating dynamic, rules-based workflows that run across multiple systems.

Symantec Gets Zen

CA picked VMware for its dance card, but Xen is hardly a wallflower this week.

On Tuesday, Symantec introduced Veritas Virtual Infrastructure, a solution that aims to bring advanced storage capabilities to large, x86 virtual servers in production environments.

Sean Derrington, director, storage management and high availability at Symantec, described the product as a "complete virtual solution for enterprises looking for a deployment option that combines Xen-based capabilities with distributed storage capabilities to work with storage technologies."

And that is indeed what Veritas Virtual Infrastructure sets out to do. Although the product itself is new, the technology is not. It basically "leverages" functionality found in the physical world into the virtual one. It combines storage management capabilities from the Veritas Storage Foundation with those of Citrix Systems' XenServer virtualization technology and has "integrated them into a consistent management interface for visibility and control," Derrington told ServerWatch.

"Through a single console, users can leverage capabilities from the physical server world into a virtual environment," he added.

Symantec is not limiting this integration to Xen environments. Derrington noted that in addition to working Citrix, it is also working with Microsoft and Sun to develop similar solutions for Hyper-V and xVM, respectively.

What about VMware? It boils down to a block-based architecture issue, Derrington said.

The three architectures Symantec will work with can manage storage down to the application level without impacting application availability. VMware, on the the hand, adds a layer of abstraction that extends to all virtual machines (VMs), inhibiting the ability to manage storage.

Among the functionality Veritas Virtual Infrastructure brings over from the physical world is direct control of block storage from a guest virtual server, the ability to block storage functionality (e.g., mirroring across heterogeneous arrays), and SAN multipathing to ensure data availability.

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure uses a client/server architecture to establish a unique, individual relationship between each virtual server and its underlying storage, treating it as if it were a physical server. It can also share boot images across virtual servers, Derrington said. Finally, because it leverages Storage Foundation, enterprises can continue using whatever heterogeneous SAN storage systems they currently have in place.

Veritas Virtual Infrastructure runs efficiently, allocating only the storage needed. Installation takes only five minutes and provisioning often requires as few as three mouse clicks, according to Derrington, making it a nearly plug-and-play solution.

Derrington said Veritas Virtual Infrastructure is scheduled to be released this fall. It is currently in beta. Its $4,595 per 2-socket server price tag reflects the "large-scale enterprise data center" market at which it is aimed.

Up Your Management IQ

ManageIQ's release completes this virtual trifecta. Like CA, ManageIQ has hitched its wagon to VMware.

On Monday the company released version 2.0 of its Enterprise Virtualization Management (EVM) suite, software that makes makes it easier to monitor a VM and track VM clones.

Two components comprise EVM suite, EVM Insight and EVM Control.

EVM Insight offers real-time visibility with continuous, agent-free discovery and tracking of configuration information, configuration drift, genealogy and relationship mapping. Enhancements in 2.0 are comprehensive real-time discovery, baselining and drift comparison capabilities, relationship and dependency mapping, and visualization and reporting.

Control provides real-time, policy-based management, security, and compliance capabilities for virtualized environments. It enables the user to "take a policy position in real time to evaluate what's going on in real-time and assert policies," CEO Joe Fitzgerald told ServerWatch.

"The ability to take that kind of policy control is unique," Fitzgerald added.

Enterprises can also integrate EVM into their console and provisioning workflow before the VM is rolled into the environment, Fitzgerald said. Plans to integrate EVM with lab manager offerings (VMware's and those of other vendors) are under way.

EVM Insight and EVM Control is expected to be generally available in July.

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

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