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8/18/2011
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Reflex Shows What's Going On Inside Your VMs

Virtualization tool vendor adds capacity management to help IT right-size VM resources.

VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
VMware Pricing Controversy: Exclusive User Research
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As VMware environments get larger and more complex, they begin to give up some of the cost savings they won through server consolidation--unless a strict management hand is held over them. Reflex Systems, an ambitious 11-year-old company, has put more muscle in that hand by adding vCapacity to its already muscular Virtualization Management Center.

Reflex Systems started out in 2000 as Reflex Security, if that's an indicator of how much times have changed. That's allowed it to take the unusual path of claiming that it can manage both virtual intrusion protection and managing virtual machines, "no mean feat," according to Rachel Chalmers at market researcher the 451 Group in her March 2010 report on the firm.

The automated provisioning and monitoring of virtual machines is a well established field, with both VMware and the third-party suppliers who compete in its environment, such as Veeam, DynamicOps, and the Vizioncore unit of Quest Software, active in the field. Reflex, however, may be a step ahead as it adds vCapacity to its own management center.

VMware itself only recently brought its first capacity management capability to its environment with vCenter Operations. Virtual machines are historically configured liberally, with extra virtual memory and storage to avoid running up against too narrow a set of limits during intense activity periods. The fact that they seldom drew down available physical resources meant that over-provisioning in the virtual world was a less costly guarantee of operations than in the real world.

Having encouraged the practice, VMware got itself in trouble when it proposed recently that future pricing for use of vSphere 5 be based on the configuration of virtual memory in a virtual machines, and whether that memory exceeded limits that it had set for VMs under different editions of vSphere. It was a calculation that many customers saw as a source of price inflation.

In fact, VMware may also have been implicitly lobbying for greater use of capacity management tools that would allow customers to come closer to right sizing virtual memory to virtual machines based on use, then managing them based on trend lines. At least, it claimed its future pricing strategy would be based more on use of virtual resources and less on physical assets, such as CPUs.

Thus, Reflex made a timely entrance Monday onto a stage currently in controversy's spotlight: virtual capacity management. Despite good intentions, it has thus far remained one of the darker arts of IT science.

Capacity management for VMs is one way to move away from old data center over-provisioning of physical resources to "leveraging virtualization to enable the design of next generation architectures, such as private clouds," said Reflex CEO Preston Futrell in an interview. With vCapacity, virtual machine manager can both provision and manage, monitor current needs, and plan for future additions to the virtual infrastructure.

Reflex already has a product suite that offers security monitoring (vTrust), virtual machine monitoring (vWatch), and configuration (vProfile), so vCapacity potentially fits right in. The addition of vCapacity, however, brings a combined view of each tool's data shown in a browser-based dashboard, something that wasn't available before. Previously the tools presented individual views through an on-premises Windows client.

The new combined view, as shown by Futrell and Mike Wronski, VP of products, in a demonstration, is offered in a browser-based dashboard on the Web. The dashboard shows the number of virtual machines running, number of hosts, number of CPUs utilized along with their number of cores, the amount of storage used, the density of virtual machines on hosts, and recent peak usage of each resource by server cluster.

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