Long before virtualization was used to run applications in production, it was used for test and development, quality assurance, training and the like. You could say that those were the applications on which early x86 virtualization platforms cut their teeth.
SkyTap, a virtual lab management software provider has taken things one step further and has told customers to run their labs not just in virtual machines, but in virtual machines (VMs) running in the cloud.
“Highly dynamic environments where you need to quickly build up and tear down environments are a good fit for the cloud,” said Steve Brodie, SkyTap chief product and marketing officer. The availability of on-demand, shared resources brings speed, while multi-tenancy makes a cloud-based virtual lab more cost-effective than hosting virtual lab management software in-house, he said.
For example, SkyTap says its customers can get to a cloud-based virtual lab for as little as $500 a month. Surgient, the granddaddy of virtual lab management software, prices its traditional hosted and in-house virtual lab management software starting at $25,000.
Brodie attributes this discrepancy to the fact that Surgient uses a traditional managed hosting model, in which it dedicates physical resources for its individual customers. Setting up new lab management resources is thus expensive, to say nothing of being time-consuming.
Cost aside, SkyTap is announcing a couple of other new features to help grease the wheels of its cloud offering. For one, customers can now run their virtual lab VMs on their VPNs, giving the VMs in their virtual lab access to in-house resources. SkyTap calls this “hybrid cloud computing,” and its appeal is simple: “Customers don’t want to have [their virtual lab] in house, but they want to feel like it’s in-house,” Brodie said.
Second, SkyTap has given developers access to a REST-based Web services application programming interface to give developers programmatic control of a virtual SkyTap lab. This way, a SkyTap virtual lab can be integrated into a customer’s development environment or learning management system, for example.
On another note, SkyTap confirmed that it will participate in a VMware announcement at VMworld next week. Brodie would not specify what VMware would announce, and certainly not why, but for months now, VMware has been beating the cloud drum.
If you are thinking about Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization but aren’t sure how it will fare against VMware in your data center, a new tool from Toronto, Ontario-based CiRBA Inc. might help.
This week, CiRBA announced the availability of packaged analysis templates that compare Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V versus VMware-based virtualization.
Using CiRBA’s analysis, data centers can examine the suitability of each hypervisor for a given environment, see consolidation ratios, long-term management considerations and financial returns from each platform.
CiRBA’s analysis templates for Hyper-V and VMware-based virtualization are driven by specialized Rulesets for each platform in combination with utilization analysis.
The new comparative analysis templates for Hyper-V and VMware essentially provide a vendor-agnostic analysis, data, and organization-specific business and technical constraints to determine the best option for any given environment. Examples of comparison points between the two competitor products include:
*Per-guest resource limits: Hyper-V and VMware offer different per-guest maximum resource configurations, meaning the number of virtual CPUs, memory and network interfaces supported, which could impact compatibility.
*Memory over commit: Hyper-V and VMware differ in their ability to share memory between VMs, making efficiency gains through “over-commitment.” This differentiating factor can impact consolidation ratios and infrastructure design.
*Workload mobility: The two technologies differ in their support for the live migration of workloads between physical servers. Hyper-V doesn’t offer live migration yet, VMware does (VMotion).
CiRBA customers can access these new analysis features through CiRBA Central, a central repository of analysis rules that allows organizations to stay up to date on the latest best practices in data center optimization. CiRBA Powered Partners will also have access to these rules in order to help guide their clients through the selection of optimal technology for their environment.
For more information on CiRBA’s comparative analysis for Hyper-V versus VMware, contact the company.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware Inc. expects a record 14,000 attendees at VMworld 2008, the company’s fifth annual virtualization conference being held at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas starting Sept. 15. Last year’s VMworld conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco housed some 10,000 attendees.
Could it be that the buzz surrounding VMware is so magnificent this year that 30% more people will take flight to Vegas just to learn about virtualization technology? Or is the lure of Las Vegas partially to blame for the increased enthusiasm? Hmmm…
This year’s VMworld conference features 300 breakout sessions in seven tracks: Automating the Virtual Data Center; Building Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery; Exploring Technology and Architecture; Planning and Operations in the Data Center; Running Enterprise Applications in Virtual Machines; Virtualization 101; and Virtualizing the Desktop.
There will also be 13 instructor-led and five self-paced labs with around 8,000 lab seats. More than 200 sponsors and exhibitors have supported the conference, including Platinum Sponsors Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Intel, NEC, NetApp and Symantec, all of whom will deliver keynotes.
The keynote I’m most interested in hearing will be from VMware’s new president and CEO, Paul Maritz, who replaced company co-founder and president Diane Greene this summer.
According to a VMware press release, “Maritz will look back at virtualization history and ahead to the industry trends that are influencing VMware’s future and its solutions. Looking ahead, Maritz sees a future of virtualization expanding from the data center to the desktop and beyond to the cloud.”
He will deliver his keynote on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008, at 8 a.m. PT, which will also be available via webcast . You can read about his keynote from SearchServerVirtualization.com reporters on our VMworld 2008 coverage page.
I hope Maritz will be willing to field questions after his formal keynote, because with Microsoft Hyper-V nipping at VMware’s heels, he really needs to foster confidence in his leadership and vision for the company.
Also keynoting is VMware CTO Dr. Stephen Herrod, on Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008, at 8 a.m. PT, also available via webcast.
This year’s theme is “Virtually anything is possible,” and there will be more than 100 customer stories offering insight into how VMware and virtualization have affected data centers. Featured VMware customers include AT&T, Burt’s Bees, Chevron, eBay, First American, Nationwide, Qualcomm, Siemens AG, United Bancorp and Whirlpool.
Also, like last year, SearchServerVirtualization.com will announce the Best of VMworld awards for the latest and greatest technologies.
Do you use Neterion 10-gigabit Ethernet network interface cards (NIC) in your virtualized servers? If so, you may want to download the latest drivers, because the company has added support for I/O quality of service (IOQoS) and workload prioritization to its firmware.
Even with the full 10 gigabits of bandwidth that 10 GbE cards provide, virtual machines on a server can suffer from poor I/O performance, said Ravi Chalaka, Neterion’s VP of marketing. That’s because without QoS features, I/O traffic is handled on a first-come, first-serve basis, which in turn puts important workloads on the same footing as less critical ones. Now, with support for IEEE 802.1 P and Q, as well as IETF’s IP Type of Server (ToS) standards, an administrator can set workload priority levels and assign minimum bandwidth levels.
Chalaka also stressed Neterion’s nonblocking design, which features 16 dedicated silicon channels for I/O traffic to travel across, rather than the single network processing unit (NPU) design of most 10GbE cards. This approach ensures true I/O isolation between workloads, Chalaka said.
The new IOQoS feature is available starting today across Neterion’s entire line of NICs, including the Xframe, Xframe II, Xframe e and the latest X3100. Support is limited to VMware ESX environments and will be demonstrated at VMworld next week at booth No. 648.
Sun has released version 2.0 of the xVM VirtualBox workstation hypervisor. This major release offers new features including support for 64-bit guest operating systems, an improved GUI console, some performance enhancements, support for VHD disk images as well as some fixed issues from the previous 1.6.6 release.
The installation of version VirtualBox 2.0 is seamless, quick and is still only a small download at 32 MB. The version 2.0 series still lacks the robust native bridged networking offered by VMware products. Further, an upgraded Windows host will lose any bridged network interfaces and will need to be recreated as in prior upgrades of VirtualBox. If you are upgrading a previous version of VirtualBox and used bridged network interfaces, run this command to enumerate your devices:
Here is a previous blog entry about creating network interfaces, which would need to be run again on the new environment. More information on version 2.0 of VirtualBox can be found in the online user manual available on the VirtualBox website.
Portsmouth, N.H.-based VKernel has released a beta of the SearchMyVM appliance to allow administrators to make queries of their VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 (VI3) virtual environment through a browser search-style interface. The SearchMyVM appliance keeps VKernel’s tradition of delivering very quick and easy-to-use solutions for managing virtual environments.
I had a chance to download the beta and within two minutes of completing the download I was able to see data being collected. Once the SearchMyVM appliance was connected, making queries was a snap. These queries can be a quick list of the canned queries or you can use the built-in query builder to get specific information for your environment. For example, let’s take one of my most frustrating configuration issues with VMotion, the connected optical (CD-ROM) device. Within SearchMyVM, you can determine which VMs have a connected optical drive within the hardware inventory by a simple query. The query below will return the list of VMs in the entire environment that have a connected optical drive:
When the query is run, the result is a list of VMs that have a connected media. This VKernel appliance does this one better in that it also returns to you the path in terms of clusters and resource pools. Finding the VM becomes quite easy with the query results. The screen shot below shows this query:
This can save incredible amounts of time in looking for specific log entries, configuration parameters, determining which VMs have snapshots and endless other possibilities. Needless to say, this is a very simple appliance to stand up and can save time in the ongoing administration of a VMware virtualization environment.
This beta release of the SearchMyVM appliance and the upcoming release of the Modeler product at VMworld later this month build a strong portfolio of products for VKernel. The SearchMyVM beta appliance is available for download from the VKernel website.
“Google knows everything,” said my then 3-year old son Jesse to me one day as I looked up the answer to yet another of his endless stump-the-chump questions. How astute, I thought. And almost true.
It seems Jesse was on to something that several virtualization management providers have clued into of late. Google — or at least search – is a great way to get at just about any kind of information you might be after — including virtual environment configuration information.
That might explain the sudden explosion of search-based virtualization management tools. Splunk Inc., which pioneered the idea of applying traditional search and indexing techniques to IT management data, already has an application targeted at Citrix Systems’ XenServer environments and, in the coming days, is set to announce its VMware equivalent. Hyper9, formerly InovaWave, is also planning to show off a search-based virtualization management tool at VMworld before going into beta. Last but not least, today VKernel announced the availability of its free SearchMyVM tool, whose “Google-like” interface enables administrators to ferret out information about their environments, including virtual machines, hosts, clusters, storage, resource pools, files, snapshots, VMware tools, applications and configuration information, to name but a few items.
On paper, the idea of using search to discover IT elements – even virtual ones — makes sense, but part of me wonders whether search is really as effective when trolling log files and configuration data as Google Desktop is at indexing, say, my sundry email messages and Word docs. Obviously, integration with a virtualization platform’s application programming interfaces provides visibility into key configuration items, but is that enough? If you’ve used any of these IT search tools, I’d be interested to hear how useful you found them to be. Comments welcome.
Houston-based BMC Software introduced several new virtualization management products today, including nine new integrated offerings designed to eliminate the risk and operational expenses associated with management of virtualized data centers.
BMC’s new virtualization management products are fully integrated with virtualization products from Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Inc. and VMware Inc. The new BMC software is based on an automated set of closed-loop change and configuration management (CLCCM) process workflows that reduce the latency, cost and risk associated with change management. All of the new offerings support both virtual and physical infrastructures.
The nine new offerings support goals for performance, compliance and enterprise visibility by addressing the challenges created by virtualization.
Some of the issues addressed include the following:
*Planning a virtualization/consolidation initiative: BMC Virtualization Capacity Management and Planning Service is a packaged services offering that helps customers accelerate their virtualization efforts.
*Simplifying management: BMC Performance Management does complete performance monitoring across virtual infrastructure and applications with enhanced VMware Infrastructure 3 and VMotion support.
*Ensuring availability: BMC Application Performance and Analytics helps IT actively manage service levels in virtual infrastructures.
*Performance: BMC Capacity Management replaces educated guesses with automatic assessment, prioritization of server workloads, and ongoing capacity monitoring. The result is high performance while reducing capital and operational expenses and maximizing server consolidation.
*Server sprawl: Virtualization allows new servers to be created very rapidly, leading to virtual machine (VM) sprawl. BMC Discovery Solution helps customers keep virtualized environments under control by keeping tabs on virtual servers. Support for VMware, Solaris 9/10 containers and zones, AIX LPARS as well as z/VM dependencies on mainframe (z/OS) mean that all types of virtual servers can be discovered and added to BMC Atrium CMDB.
*VM security: BMC BladeLogic Virtualization Module for Servers adds security and strengthens licensing and regulatory compliance. It includes automatic provisioning and configuration of the entire software stack, including virtual infrastructure, guest VMs and applications, and enforces security best practices, including built-in virtual server hardening rules.
*Compliance: BMC BladeLogic Operations Management Suite establishes automated, closed-loop change and configuration governance over entire virtualized environments. BMC’s policy-driven configuration control prohibits noncompliant servers from being deployed or existing beyond the next audit scan. Automated compliance and remediation capabilities detect and correct any compliance violations.
*Administration costs: BMC Run Book Automation Platform and BMC Run Book Automation VMware Adapter exploit BMC’s CLCCM workflows to automate routine change management tasks.
Of course, BMC isn’t the only game in town when it comes to virtual infrastructure management. There are a number of vendors offering management products for various purposes, including Portsmouth, N.H.-based vKernel and San Francisco-based Hyperic, Inc.
In addition, Austin, Texas-based Surgient announced today its Virtual Automation Platform 6.0, which is designed with physical provisioning and Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V support to manage virtual resources and eliminate physical server and virtual machine (VM) sprawl.
In addition to third-party VM management products, virtualization providers offer their own; VMware sells a proprietary management and automation suite, as does Microsoft for Hyper-V.
Successful physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversions revolve around getting the virtual environment correct before presenting the actual workload to the new VM. In this video blog, Rick Vanover discusses some conversion tasks that can help a VM function optimally as the workload goes virtual from a driver perspective.
Embotics has launched a new product, V-Scout, which provides administrators with an extra view into their VMware-based virtual environments. V-Scout is a free product that complements Embotics’ existing product, V-Commander. I have had a chance to work with the version 1.0 release of the product and will share some of the key features with you.
One of V-Scout’s main objectives is to give administrators a bridge between their business processes and the technology. How many times have you been frustrated with the limited built-in documentation of the annotations notes field? Much of V-Scout’s functionality revolves around putting attributes in place for objects in the VI3 environment, allowing your requirements and information to be configured within the environment. V-Scout takes this one step further and provides a Web-based management interface that allows reporting, chargeback and various views of the VI3 environment in an intuitive fashion. Because V-Scout uses the attributes field within various VI3 objects, don’t be surprised if you see tasks occur that are reconfiguring objects within the VMware Infrastructure Client. Further, objects will start to have various emboticsManager attributes as V-Scout interacts with VI3. These attributes are called fingerprints. For those of you familiar with V-Commander, V-Scout does not offer as many features. Here is a breakdown of the feature comparison between the two products:
Once in V-Scout, one of the core features of custom attributes can be applied to a VM. As shown above, there can be 10 custom attributes assigned within V-Scout. There also many built-in attributes that can be applied, such as an expiration date and approval status for a virtual machine. In my evaluation of the product, I set up a custom attribute of a cost center for tracking purposes. The figure below shows the cost center custom attribute being configured:
The other key feature of V-Scout is the built-in reporting. The built-in reporting offers six main categories of reporting that revolve around the guest OS, the host environment, managed systems, virtual machines, population trends and an overall infrastructure summary. While most of the reports out of the box do not give you much information that you don’t already have access to, it does organize it and make the custom attributes available for criteria and a way to present based on your parameters. Below is a sample report for a particular virtual machine:
Overall, from my first pass on V-Scout, I was impressed with the free offering and will continue to use it primarily for the custom attributes features to track virtual machines. More information on V-Scout can be found on the Embotics website.