VirtualizationVirtual Machine Management on the Cheap for SMBs

Virtual Machine Management on the Cheap for SMBs

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If your organization is a small or medium-sized business (SMB) rather than an enterprise and has started to utilize server virtualization, then chances are good your company uses Hyper-V, the hypervisor bundled with Windows Server.

The problem for many SMBs is that Microsoft’s System Center management system and its Virtual Machine Manager software may be overkill. Virtually SpeakingThat’s because it’s primarily designed for very large organizations.

And while System Center Essentials might have been an ideal alternative for smaller companies involved with virtualization technology, Microsoft has abandoned that product.

One alternative is 5nine Manager for Hyper-V from Boston-based 5nine Software. The company just released version 5.0 of the product.

Now 5nine is not a company we have talked about before in this column, but it’s led by international scientist Dr. Konstantin Malkov, who earned his Ph.D from Moscow State University. Its directors also include Ratmir Timashev, who is the boss of Veeam, a virtualization technology infrastructure company we have looked at in depth in the past. Veeam is also an investor in 5nine.

So what exactly does 5nine Manager for Hyper-V offer? “Our goal is to give SMBs a single enterprise-grade tool to manage Hyper-V Server and Windows Server Core easily, efficiently and affordably,” says Dr. Malkov.

Designed Specifically for SMBs

To start, it’s designed for SMBs, and that means it’s relatively cheap. How cheap? Pricing begins at $199 per host, including one year’s maintenance and updates, or $329 for three years. There’s also a cut-down Free Edition that supports a maximum of two hosts.

In addition to offering most of the functionality of System Center Virtual Machine Manager, 5nine Manager for Hyper-V has some useful tricks up its sleeve, like the ability to manage multiple versions of Hyper-V from a single console. That includes Hyper-V in Server 2008 R2 SP1, 2012 and 2012 R2.

It also introduces a user-friendly graphic user interface to replace PowerShell when working locally on Windows Server Core (or Hyper-V Server) machines. That’s potentially useful if your organization doesn’t happen to have a PowerShell guru on hand.

And if you’re looking for an antivirus solution then you can use the AV plugin that installs only once per host and provides real-time protection of VMs. It also performs incremental security scans up to 50 times faster than competitors, the company claims.

The only catch is that the AV functionality — which uses either Sophos’ or ThreatTrack’s anti-virus engines — is not free: there’s an annual subscription of $249 (or $329 for three years). (ThreatTrack is a company that was spun off from GFI Software in March 2013.)

What Does 5nine Manager for Hyper-V Offfer for VM Management?

In terms of virtual machine management, the software offers:

  • Virtual Machines Guest Connection View – Remotely connect, view and administer individual virtual machines (VMs)
  • Shared Nothing Live Migration of virtual machines from one host to another over a network cable
  • Storage migration without the need to stop running virtual machines (similar to VMware’s Storage vMotion)
  • Automated virtual machine provisioning
  • Copying files between virtual machines and between virtual machines and hosts (through Virtual Transfer Disk)
  • Virtual machine import/export and cloning

And for Hyper-V host management it promises:

  • Virtual network management
  • Hyper-V replication
  • Enable remote management on Hyper-V hosts: Remote desktop, remote event log, ping, etc.
  • Virtual switch extensions management
  • Moving a host to another data center group

Alexander Kariagin, the company’s sales and marketing director, says that other features on the roadmap for future releases include support for virtual machine templates, live encryption and dynamic optimization.

5nine is not exactly a household name, so it would be wise to download and try out the software before committing yourself. But it’s certainly an interesting proposition if you work in an SMB, and one that may be worth looking at more closely.

Its continued existence also proves something we’ve suspected for a long time — many SMBs are now deeply involved in server virtualization technologies. What they need are simplified tools that can help them carry out the sorts of operations on their virtualized infrastructure (like live storage migration) that a few years ago would have been the preserve of large enterprises with highly skilled virtualization administrators.

Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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