Virtual Speaking: Betting on a Mixed Environment

Amy Newman
Recognizing the heterogeneous nature of virtualized environments, Opsware and InfoVista are taking a hypervisor-agnostic approach in the latest version of their management tools.

Two more irons went into the virtualization management fire this week. On Monday, InfoVista announced VistaInsight for Servers 3.0, and on Thursday, Opsware released Opsware Server Automation System 6.5.

Opsware Server Automation System 6.5 represents a major overall to the vendors's flagship offering. Its enhancements are centered around automation and integration in Information Technology and Infrastructure Library (ITIL), security and virtualization.

It also is the first major release to leverage the technology picked up in the iConclude acquisition in February.

New in this version of Opsware Server Automation System is integration with Microsoft Windows PowerShell, deeper Windows management and compliance, integration with the Opsware Process Automation System with out-of-the-box workflow automation for ITIL best practices and other standards, and the capability to set policies for the automatic download of Red Hat Linux updates and vendor recommendations to Opsware.

In the area of virtualization, Opsware added process controls. Version 6.5 also adds discovery and application dependency mapping for virtual systems and process and workflow automation. This is enabled through integration with Opsware's Visual Application Manager product and Opsware's Process Automation System.

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With Server Automation System 6.5, Opsware looks to provide a management layer that enables admins to manage the entire virtual infrastructure though a single interface. While the idea of adding a layer may be less than desirable to some, Opsware Vice President of Product Management Frank Chen said he believes the consistency will win out. He notes that users who want to take advantage of vendor-specific enhancements, such as those unique to VMotion, will have to use the vendor's interface directly.

Like Opsware's latest release, VistaInsight is also focused on integration. Its focus, however, is on the beginning stages of the process.

Like other planning tools, VistaInsight for Servers 3.0 helps admins determine which servers to virtualize, correlates the virtual machines with the physical, and plans how to respond to problems before they occur.

VistaInsight collects and stores data on an enterprise's server landscape in one unified view, which it obtains by gathering information on not just on the servers, but the surrounding network infrastructure, including switches, firewalls and load balancers, as well.

New in version 3.0 is embedded support for the Windows Messaging Interface, Solaris DTrace and VMware APIs; embedded support for industry standard agents (BMC Patrol, IBM SSM, NetSNMP and HP SIM) enabling aggregated views across heterogeneous server platforms; built-in support for common virtualization platforms; and a variety of business- and service-oriented reporting options.

Covering Their Virtual Bets

Perhaps more interesting than the solutions themselves is the approach they are taking. Both solutions are hypervisor-agnostic. Just as the vast majority of data centers are heterogeneous in operating systems, so too are they when it comes to virtual environments.

Opsware's Chen told ServerWatch that although VMware is currently king, it is by no means the only player enterprises are betting on. Data centers with AIX servers, for example, by and large use LPARs, he said. Many Opsware customers are using Sun Containers. Everyone is watching Microsoft, waiting to see what it will do with virtualization in Longhorn, and with Xen being incorporated into the next versions of Red Hat and SUSE, "people are kicking its tires," Chen said.

This heterogeneity represents a shift from the single-platform uniformity of a few months ago. It makes sense considering that certain platforms work better in certain circumstances and with certain operating systems — DTrace, for example, works only with Solaris. It is smart of ISVs to recognize this and embrace the heterogeneity. And should heterogeneity not turn out to be the prevailing trend, they are hedging their bets on who will be the market leader.

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

This article was originally published on May 25, 2007
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