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VMTurbo 'invisible hand' control freak grabs more virty servers

Economic engine to be applied to networks, storage, and public clouds

There are a lot of tools out there to allow system administrators to monitor the various aspects of virtual computing capacity and help them figure out how to manage its use. But VMTurbo wants to get humans out of the way and automate the allocation of resources using the "invisible hand" of market economics - pushing the admins out of the loop. And with Operations Manager 3.3, VMTurbo is once again expanding its range of coverage over virtual infrastructure while at the same time adding some projection capabilities to its control freak.

The basic idea behind the economic scheduling engine inside of VMTurbo's Operations Manager is simple enough: People, departments, divisions, and groups within a company are given virtual "budgets" from which they can consume resources and together they constitute a market for the limited compute resources available in the data center. As demand for particular resources rise, so does its price, in very appropriate Adam Smith fashion, and similarly, as demand falls, so does the price. The economic engine is not just about virtual billing, but about the placement and timing of workloads to achieve the most efficient use of those scarce resources.

With Operations Manager 3.3, VMTurbo is adding support for VMware's ESXi 5.1 hypervisor, which was announced last summer, as well as the vCloud Suite, which is a superset of the vSphere tools and helps turn virtualized servers into automated clouds. As long as you have the vCenter console, Operations Manager can talk through it to the ESXi hypervisor APIs - no matter what name VMware gives it or how deep it is into a bundle.

Microsoft's Hyper-V APIs are open, and you don't need Systems Center 2012 to be able to let Operations Manager 3.3 reach in and take control of Hyper-V 3.0. The updated VMTurbo control freak can hook directly into Enterprise Virtualization 3.1, the latest commercial-grade KVM hypervisor from Red Hat, as well as XenServer 6.1 from Citrix Systems. VMTurbo is also adding support for the open-source implementation of Citrix Cloud Platform based on CloudStack with its 3.3 release of Operations Manager.

Aside from the usual expanding hypervisor and cloud support matrix, another key update on Operations Manager 3.3 is that the economic scheduling engine can now be used to take historical data on how virtual computing resources were previously allocated on virtualized servers in the data center and do some forecasting about how they might be run in the future. it will also take a look at where the contention, as measured by the virtual money the engine uses, will be in the system in that future.

"Most other tools out there use one set of logic for where you place a virtual machine, another one for managing the virtual machine, and yet another for forecasting future capacity needs," explains Derek Slayton, VMTurbo vice president of marketing, to El Reg. "When you use different algorithms for each phase of the VM management cycle, they don't always agree with each other."

The interesting bit about the way VMTurbo is doing capacity planning is that it looks at both the demand side and the supply side of virtualized server capacity, and looks at the SLAs to see how to maintain the desired state of all VMs and do so on the least amount of computing capacity.

This is a Tetris game that is probably a bit too complex for mere mortals. (But, then again, mere mortals move at human speed, so their problems also don't tend to explode, as is happening with increasing regularity with high frequency trading, to use an example of where humans have been taken out of the loop.) So will the VMTurbo control freak let you sell a VM short? What about derivatives trading on expected capacity? This could get very hairy indeed, and El Reg is only mostly joking.

Looking ahead, VMTurbo CTO Shmuel Kliger, one of the company's founders, said that Operations Manager would be expanding out from virty server capacity to control freak network fabrics and storage resources associated with VMs. And, as you might expect, it will eventually also reach out over the firewall and babysit virtual infrastructure residing on public clouds. But VMTurbo, as a small startup, is in no hurry to bite off more than it can chew.

"We don't see that the enterprises that we are selling Operations Manager to need to do this today," explains Kliger. "But we will demonstrate this capability by the end of the year. I don't know that we will want to broker between clouds, but comparing internal infrastructure to specific clouds is something we will demonstrate. From day one, this was the vision of the company, which is comparing apples, where you know a lot about your internal operations but you have a finite capacity, to oranges, where all you know is an SLA and a price but you have infinite capacity."

While you can't yet use Operations Manager to control internal virty servers and external ones running on public clouds, there are a number of public cloud providers that use VMTurbo's control freak internally to smack around their own infrastructure and make it behave with economic rationality.

VMTurbo is in no hurry to be acquired, by the way. Slayton says that the company has tripled its revenues in the past year and has expanded from 80 customers to more than 300, with plenty of seven-figure deals in there at companies like BT and CSC, just to name two. "We're doing fine by ourselves, so we are happy to remain independent for a while longer," says Slayton.

For the right price, of course, every company is for sale.

VMTurbo has a Community Edition of Operations Manager that is free and that has more than 8,000 users at the moment, which is double the base for the freebie version a year ago. This Community Edition does basic monitoring and reporting. Operations Manager Enterprise Edition adds capacity planning, dynamic workload orchestration and resource allocation, and proactive performance resolution features; it costs $499 per server socket under management per year (that's a $100 price increase since last year, which hit last fall).

The Cloud Edition integrates with vCloud Director and now CloudStack and has multitenant features such as role-based access, and support for multiple hypervisors from one console. It costs $799 per socket under management per year and OpenStack support is in the works. Operations Manager is packaged up as a virtual machine appliance and is supported in XenServer, Hyper-V, ESXi, and RHEV variants. ®

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