What does it take to manage virtual servers?
Virtualisation demands IT managers take a closer look at management processes, tools
By Denise Dubie, Network World | Network World US | Published: 01:45, 12 November 2007
4. Can tools that come bundled with virtualisation hypervisors do the job?
The consensus is that the management tools that come bundled with VMware or Xen hypervisors won't cut it in a large virtualisation deployment.
"If your virtualisation provider is your main supplier of management gear, then you are in for a world of hurt," Noel says. For instance, the software provided with the hypervisor can tell IT managers how many virtual machines are running on a host, but provides little visibility into applications and their performance. "Remember the only reason servers exist is to give business applications the power to perform," she adds.
While the software provided with, say, VMware's hypervisor, enables management of the hypervisor and that environment, industry watchers say the capabilities don’t go much beyond availability to cover performance or other vendors’ products.
"I think IT managers have to decide if 'good enough' tools will cut it for robust management in large environments," IDC’s Elliot says. "IDC predicts most IT organisations will have more than one hypervisor in their environment in the next three years and that will demand a heterogeneous approach to virtual server management."
Plus the technology available today from virtualisation vendors won't work as well when IT managers look to scale their virtualisation deployments from dozens to hundreds of servers. While virtualisation vendors are expected to differentiate themselves with management capabilities in the future, today's tools aren't up to snuff for large multi-vendor, multi-site networks.
"Most of the virtualisation vendors have a built-in scalability issue, which they are working on, but their management tools will need to work across an entire environment with subnets and multiple sites," EMA’s Mann says. "Currently hypervisor providers are not equipped to perform management tasks across a large environment."
But that doesn't mean IT managers getting started with virtualisation can't put the tools to use.
"Out of the box, ESX Server can connect to [VMware's] management suite, VirtualCenter. You automatically get hardware monitoring for CPU, disk, memory and [network interface card] resources. These metrics are available for both the ESX hosts as well as the [virtual machines] hosted within," Bowdoin’s Antonowicz says.
Mark DiPofi, network administrator of the Cohoes New York School District, uses a combination of the HP Integrated Lights Out, or iLO, and VMware management tools that came with the respective server products along with Network General Sniffer products to track network bandwidth issues that could originate from additional traffic coming out of the server environment. He has about 20 virtual servers running and doesn't see an immediate need to add more management tools.
"I use iLO to remotely manage hardware; it has features that tell me if a physical box will overheat. And I use VMware to get into the back door of the ESX servers," DiPofi says. "For our needs right now, the management tools that came with my servers work excellent."