Umpteen tools to fight VM sprawl

There's a virtual machine born every minute


VMworld There were 12,500 attendees at the VMworld virtualization fest in San Francisco this week, and apparently half of them were peddling software to help companies cope with virtual machine sprawl or otherwise manage virtualization in the data center or on the desktops.

The other half were presumably being sold these tools. No word if anyone is buying.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the virtualization wizardry shown at VMworld this week, but it gives you a taste for the kinds of gadgets that companies other than VMware are building to try to make a little dough from this virtualization wave.

VKernel, which started shipping its first set of virtualization management tools in April 2008 and which has raised $11.6m in two rounds of funding, now has over 200 customers using its Capacity Analyzer tool, which looks at all the physical resources available in a stack of servers sporting VMware's ESX Server hypervisors and helps system administrators figure out where to plunk VMs and their workloads. The tool also helps them figure out where future bottlenecks will be, based on trend data from the running VMs.

At VMworld, VKernel was showing off some new gadgets collectively called the Optimization Pack. Wastefinder sniffs around the servers and their hypervisors and identifies zombie VMs, templates, and snapshots that are using up disk, memory, and CPU capacity so this capacity can be reclaimed by sysadmins. (The problem, apparently, is that VMware's vCenter has tools to create VMs, but doesn't have garbage collection.) In beta tests, VKernal says that anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent of this capacity can be reclaimed by using Wastefinder.

A second feature of the pack is called Rightsizer, which uses historical data culled from the Capacity Analyzer to dynamically adjust CPU, memory, and disk capacity allocated to VMs. System administrators are used to overprovisioning in physical environments, and apparently they are carrying over these habits to cover their butts in a virtual environment. The net effect of this is that instead of getting 10 to 12 VMs per processor socket as their bosses expect, they are getting somewhere between 5 to 7, says VKernel. The third feature of the Optimization Pack is called Inventory, and is a dashboard that shows all the hypervisors and VMs running in an ESX Server environment.

Capacity Analyzer and the Optimization Pack currently only support ESX Server, but Kevin Conklin, vice president of product management and marketing at VKernel, says that in the fourth quarter the company will talk more about what it will do to support XenServer, Hyper-V, and other hypervisors. A bundle with Capacity Analyzer 4.1 (which has only been out for two weeks) and the Optimization Pack costs $399 per processor socket for each managed server node for a perpetual license, which includes a year of maintenance; a subscription license costs $179 annually per socket.

Taking command

Embotics, which has been peddling its V-Commander virtualization management tool since September 2007, kicked out its 3.0 release at VMworld and also announced a partnership with Surgient, which makes a dynamic resource and capacity management tool of its own.

Embotics has a freebie product called V-Scout, which is used to inventory VMs in real time as they run out on the network, replacing the spreadsheets that sysadmins are using as they track VMs by hand. V-Commander is an agentless and driverless VM discovery, tracking, and costing system for ESX Server VMs.

With the 3.0 release, V-Commander is sold as three separate modules instead of one package, making it is cheaper for companies to get started. There is a federated inventory management module, which is a glorified version of V-Scout that includes the basic cost-accounting features. This module costs $85 per processor core on each server under management.

The resource and cost-management module adds a policy layer that helps manage the deployment of VMs not just based on the resources available and application service levels, but on the budgetary constraints for those applications. This module also identifies VMs that can be removed from the system so their resources can be reclaimed for other VMs; it costs $110 per core under management.

The operational and risk-management module locks down security on the VM repository and audits everything that happens with the VMs, making sure people don't launch unauthorized VMs or move VMs to parts of the network where they're not allowed. It costs $130 per core under management.

V-Commander 3.0 integrates with VMware's vCenter management tool, and according to David Lynch, vice president of marketing at Embotics, the tool can interrogate all of the VMs under its control to get historical data on all the VMs in a big network of machines in an hour or two. Right now, V-Commander only supports the ESX Server hypervisor, but with V-Commander 4.0 sometime in 2010, support for Microsoft's Hyper-V will be added. The XenServer hypervisor is slated for support after that, and a few customers (mostly hosting companies) are apparently asking for it now.

The partnership between Embotics and Surgient will see the two cross-sell their respective V-Commander 3.0 management and Virtual Application Platform 6.1 provisioning tools side-by-side. You can find out about Surgient's tools, which were updated in April, here.

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