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Virtualization Tools Power Up

By Richard Adhikari (Send Email)
Posted Aug 5, 2008


A slew of contenders old and new are coming out swinging in the market for add-on software and services for virtualization.

As enterprises continue investing heavily in virtual environments and infrastructure, more vendors are going live with tools to manage the proliferation. 3Leaf, Hyperic and SunGard announced new offerings this week.

The latest contenders looking for a share of the enterprise virtualization dollar are focusing on monitoring and management software and virtualized test management. These are key support technologies to ensure compliance and make sure new virtual machines (VMs) work as intended.

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At the Next Generation Data Center and LinuxWorld conferences, held concurrently at San Francisco's Moscone Center this week through Thursday, open source Web infrastructure management provider Hyperic is showing off its management and monitoring offering, Hyperic HQ, for Citrix XenServer.

Hyperic HQ lets administrators assess IT decisions within their XenServer environment. Hyperic has offered the same capability for VMware for some time.

"We provide enterprise management for the complete infrastructure, whether virtualized or non-virtualized," Stacey Schneider, Hyperic's senior director of marketing, told InternetNews.com. "Rather than just using XenServer-specific management tools at the hypervisor, we manage physical hosts, virtual guests and anything else that's hooked up to the environment, including mainframes, databases, clouds and SaaS 'Software as a Service'."

While acknowledging that Hyperic is getting into the ring with the Big Four — IBM, CA, HP and BMC — Schneider said tools from those companies "are not as friendly for production infrastructures that have a high rate of change, which you typically see in infrastructures with virtualization.

"Eighty-five percent of our end users update their production-level systems more than once a week," Schneider added, citing customers including CNet, Microsoft and eBay.

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"As a rule, XenServer isn't well managed in the ecosystem yet, and Hyperic's all about managing that environment — monitoring performance and resources, and adjusting them automatically," Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates, told InternetNews.com. "For what they do, they're the first such product for Citrix XenServer."

Another contestant is 3Leaf Systems, which is pushing version 2.0 of its V-8000 Virtual I/O Server. This version offers disaster recovery, streamlined management and enhanced availability for large x86 server deployments.

Virtualization-friendly input/output servers are increasingly important as enterprises adopt the technology, Mann said. "Servers have physically been designed to handle one environment and the I/O that goes with it, including interfaces to storage and the network. They aren't optimized to run multiple environments simultaneously, so when you run lots of different environments on a single server, you have the potential for them to conflict with one another as they try to get to storage and network resources — and that's a real bottleneck," he said.

While Citrix and VMware do "some balancing" of I/O, it's "not really efficient enough so you need something like 3Leaf."

Failover and Recovery

One additional benefit of using 3Leaf V-8000 v2.0 is that it runs on inexpensive, commodity x86 servers and uses off-the-shelf fabric. "We drive mainframe-class features into x86-class commodity servers," said Rob Reiner, 3Leaf's senior director of marketing.

Elsewhere in the virtualization arena, SunGard Availability Services, which currently offers an outsourced, remote disaster recovery service, has extended this to the virtual environment. It today unveiled its Virtual Server Replication Services. SunGard currently offers an outsourced, remote disaster recovery service it is now extending to the virtual environment.

The offering marks the first fruit of its recently announced partnership with VMware, under which the two are working to deliver fully managed virtualization-based services.

Virtual Server Replication Services is for enterprises running their business applications on virtual machines. It lets these companies implement a comprehensive second site recovery program for virtual and physical IT environments, with failover within six hours.

That's a mighty long time for a virtualized environment, EMA's Mann noted. "I'd think if you have mission-critical applications you'd want to recover them in a lot quicker than six hours."

"Microsoft and VMware are battling over milliseconds in terms of virtualization for disaster recovery and business continuity," he added.

Customers using SunGard Virtual Server Replication Services can recreate their virtual machine infrastructure and store the server operating system, data and applications in a dormant state at a SunGard data center.

When a customer's existing environment crashes and the customer activates failover, SunGard brings the virtual disk file up live at one of its secure data centers so the customer can use that instead.

The failover copy runs on a virtualized IT infrastructure provided by SunGard using VMware technology.

Also vying for a greater share of growing enterprise spending on virtualization is StackSafe, which provides pre-production staging and testing solutions for IT operations teams through its Test Center offering.

Staging takes place when IT sets up an environment just as it would be in production, but doesn't connect it to other production systems, Mann explained. The upshot is that IT staff can then test it without worrying about its effect on the rest of the enterprise.

The newest version of Test Center, announced Tuesday, automatically imports of virtual infrastructure components into a test environment together with physical components, so users can stage both their virtualized and physical production environments for testing.

Users can test physical production machines running Windows, Red Hat Linux and CentOS Linux, and virtual machines running VMware ESX 3.x. They can also stage and test external infrastructure components that cannot be virtualized, such as large databases, mainframes and storage tiers, as well as network components not owned by the IT department, such as cloud and SaaS applications.

"Test Center meets the needs of IT operations teams no matter what their production environment looks like," said Loren Burnett, StackSafe's president and CEO.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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