The advent of virtualization has created a burgeoning market for systems management tools that can handle the complexities of virtualized environments. Now along comes KACE Networks Inc. with a systems management tool with a virtual twist: The Mountain View, Calif.-based vendor has just introduced the Virtual KBOX System Management Appliance or V-KBOX, the first virtual systems management appliance.
As with virtual appliances, V-KBOX is a fully pre-configured and pre-configured application. After installing the V-KBOX on a network, all that’s required to get the application up and running is an IP address.
The new V-KBOX provides the same systems management functionalities as KBOX, KACE’s physical hardware-based systems management appliance. The big difference, of course, is that V-KBOX is solely a software-based tool, and it that runs in VMware’s Infrastructure 3 environment. Unlike physical systems management tools, V-KBOX does not require dedicated hardware in order to run, which makes it a less expensive alternative particularly for organizations that have not already invested in systems management tools.
Once installed, V-KBOX performs typical lifecycle systems management functions, such as hardware and software discovery and inventory, software distribution, scripting and configuration, patch management and alerting.
According to KACE, there are two significant advantages of a virtual systems management appliance that are similar to the advantages of virtualization itself: a virtual appliance is quick to provision and it is easy to scale.
Jason Cummins is an IS services manager at retailer Jordan’s Furniture, and he is in the process of evaluating the V-KBOX appliance. Jordan’s already uses KACE’s physical appliance for systems management, and Cummins says the functionality is identical. He added that Jordan’s may implement the V-BOX for testing situations, due to VMware’s inherent ability to provide snapshots. (Currently, Jordan’s doesn’t run VMware, but may do so within the year.) “The ability to take snapshots is really attractive about the virtual appliance,” he said. Such a capability would allow Jordan’s to quickly test and recover snapshots for its Windows-based environment of 1,100 networked PCs and servers.
The V-KBOX systems management appliance supports VMware ESX Server 3.x and 3.i, VMware Server 1.0 and 2.0, and VMware Player. Managed operating systems include Linux (Red Hat Linux AS and ES versions 3, 4 and 5), Mac (OS X 10.2+), Solaris (9 and 10) and Windows (Vista, XP, 2003, 2000).
The V-KBOX systems management appliance is specifically geared to midsized organizations that have already invested in VMware platforms, but don’t have the financial resources or manpower for traditional systems management tools. There are two models of the V-KBOX systems management appliance: The 1100 (recommended for 100 to 1,000 nodes) and the 1200 (recommended for 1,000 to 8,500 nodes).
With the addition of a virtual systems management appliance into the mix, the ongoing debate among systems administrators is bound to get more interesting. It’s no longer an issue of appliance versus a traditional software tool for systems management. Now system administrators can argue the multidimensional pros of cons of physical appliance, versus virtual appliance versus systems management software.