The Virtualization Room

Mar 21 2007   4:49PM GMT

Virtual machines: Lost, not found?

Jan Stafford Jan Stafford Profile: Jan Stafford

In this blog entry, I passed on system administrators’ complaints about the difficulty in tracking virtual machines in their large companies. The fact that this is a problem surprised me and also surprises others.

For example, on his blog, Tarry Singh asks:

“What kind of a manager are you anyways to not have a track of the machines (Virtual or Physical) in your environment?”

You’re not an unusual manager, it seems. Tarry was responding to an article in The Register titled “How many VMs are on your LAN — and how sure are you?”

Tarry thinks the Register story is a sales pitch to sell yet another auditing software. I don’t agree. I think that virtual machines are so easy to deploy that IT-savvy employees are creating VMs for their departments.

Somewhat in jest, blogger Dirk Elmendorf wrote that with virtualization:

“Now I can set up my own pet network independent from the watchful eye of IT.”

Kenny Scott responds to that blog, saying:

“Clear policies in the workplace are all that is needed to combat workers installing new Windows boxes on virtual instances, because it’s not any harder to install Windows on a virtual instance than it is on an old desktop that you want to use to do a bit of testing.”

Way back in 2006, Gartner analyst Tom Bittman told us that tracking VMs would be a big problem. In that article, he said:

“It’s a different beast with physical servers. Although server sprawl is always hard, at least you can point to a physical server and know it is there. With a VM, it is a lot easier for it to get lost.”

So, it seems surprising that IT managers didn’t anticipate this problem, but, obviously, some capitulated to the demand for VMs and deployed first without planning. I’m sure that a bunch of IT managers didn’t fall into this trap. However, I bet quite a few are grappling with rogue VMs in their organizations.

I’d like to hear from managers who have a solid VM-tracking plan. How did you do it? Got any VM-detecting tips up your sleeve? I’d also be interested in hearing from those who are having problems. Please share your experiences in a comment to this post or via my email,

-Jan Stafford

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  • Mike Neary
    How about doing an NBTSTAT -A against the machine's IP address and checking the prefix of the returned MAC address? If it's one of the following, it's a VMWare box: 000569 000C29 005056
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