6 Must-Have Products to Enhance Your Virtual Infrastructure

By Kenneth Hess (Send Email)
Posted Jun 26, 2011


Whether you're looking for free tools or ones to buy for your virtual infrastructure, this list will give you a place to start. Infrastructure, whether physical or virtual, isn't easy to manage, but having the right tools makes it easier. Business owners and technical folks alike love having the right tools. And, the right tools aren't always the most expensive tools in the shed. This list of six products to enhance your virtual infrastructure runs the gamut from free software to commercial enterprise data center hardware.

1. Veeam FastSCP

Having the right tool for your virtual infrastructure isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. These six tools are the right ones for any size job, from server room to enterprisewide.

Free tools are usually considered "warm up" products that introduce you to a company's larger line-up of overpriced software suites. This, however, is not true of Veeam. Veeam offers several free tools to use in your virtual environments that are in no way disabled, crippled or bugged. There's no nagware to remind you to upgrade. Just free tools that are production environment worthy. FastSCP is one such tool.

If you don't have FastSCP, you need to stop reading, download it and return to read the rest of the list. Veeam offers a list of other free tools but this one is a 'must have' for your virtual toolbox.

What makes FastSCP so special to elicit such a rant? First, FastSCP is, as the name implies, a secure way to copy files in a VMware ESX environment. Second, it's very fast. It's more than six times faster than standard SCP. FastSCP is also easy to use because it has the familiar explorer interface. Finally, it integrates seamlessly into Veeam's Backup and Replication product.

2. SolarWinds Free SAN Monitor

SolarWinds is another provider of some indispensible free and commercial tools. The SAN Monitor is a "best of breed" in the storage monitoring category. And, the best part is that you don't have to be a storage administrator to use it. If you need real-time storage visibility, then this is one tool that should be included in your bag of tricks.

This free tool delivers at-a-glance capacity and performance monitoring of EMC CLARiiON, Dell, IBM and Sun StorageTek arrays. Like all SolarWinds' products, the SAN Monitor gives you "top" lists by size, busyness and utilization.

You can also view SAN details such as LUN sizes, physical disks, RAID types, total IOPs and IO response times. For those who have to satisfy management with non-performance details, you can easily track asset information from your arrays.

3. PacketMotion PacketSentry

If you're worried about security, you're on the right track, but how do you manage it for a virtual environment? The same way you do for a physical environment. You use PacketMotion's PacketSentry virtual appliance. Using this virtual appliance as part of your overall security strategy, rest assured no one will do anything on your network that you won't know about.

You can monitor access to file shares, databases, web sites, domain logins and much more. The product ties in with Active Directory so that you'll miss nothing that occurs in your domains. You can also track transactions between virtual machines.

All data resides in an Oracle database on the appliance. Appliance refers to the virtual machine running PacketMotion's exclusive blend of open source and commercial software in a lightweight package that offers real-time security monitoring and protection. Contact PacketMotion directly for an impressive, real-time demonstration of this impressive and affordable product.

4. Quest vRanger

Your environment is only as good as the weakest link. For most companies, this weak link is backup and recovery. We all have failed backup and no backup stories that prevent a good night's rest. If you'd like to return to some deep REM sleep, point your browser to quest.com and check out vRanger. vRanger is a VMware Backup, Replication, and Recovery solution.

vRanger is a single installation product that collects all of your VMware environment under one pane of glass, which provides you unlimited scalability. And, vRanger understands that your VM environment is dynamic, and it automatically picks up new VMs as they appear. This saves you from having to constantly change backup jobs by removing deleted VMs and adding new ones to your sets.

Quest offers a "try before you buy" download version of the product and videos showing the product in action.

5. VMware P2V Converter

As long as we're talking about free software for VMware, VMware deserves at least a passing mention. Its P2V (Physical to Virtual) Converter tool is one such honorable and worthy mention. This tool converts running physical Windows systems to virtual Windows systems. Using this tool, you can easily create exact replicas of your physical server or workstation environment. Yes, workstations too.

Although it isn't advertised as such, the P2V Converter is an excellent disaster recovery tool. If you're wanting a live snapshot of your physical systems, this is one way to do it. Instead of just backing up data, now you can grab the whole running system. In case of a physical system disaster, you can deploy the VM and be back up and running within a few minutes. Remember to remove any hardware specific drivers and programs from your VM, since they can impede performance.

6. vBlock

vBlock is an integrated all-inclusive virtual infrastructure package that covers networking, storage, security, and management brought to you by VMware, Cisco and EMC. Sometimes referred to as a "data center in a box," vBlock is a turn-key virtual infrastructure. You don't have to own a huge multi-data-center operation to use one of these modules either. EMC can create one for just about any need or scale, from very small server rooms to entire data centers.

Why try to piecemeal your own solution when EMC can do it for you with the best available technologies that you know will work together? When something goes wrong, you'll hear, "We'll have that fixed for you," instead of the usual multivendor finger-pointing and "These components don't match," or "You should have bought product 'X' for better performance." EMC's vBlock is an excellent way to introduce virtualization into your current infrastructure, expand your current one or standardize on a top product line.

Ken Hess is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of open source topics including Linux, databases, and virtualization. He is also the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, which was published in October 2009. You may reach him through his web site at http://www.kenhess.com.

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