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VMware's System Management Push: CA, BMC, HP Push Back

Traditional systems management vendors lock horns with VMware as it trespasses into their space. In some cases, they remain the better option, say users.

As VMware expands its push into virtualized systems, traditional systems management vendors HP, BMC Software, and CA Technologies are pushing back.

VMware is the undisputed supplier of system and system management tools for its own ESX Server and vSphere 5 environment. The addition of vCenter Operations in 2011 upped the ante with traditional systems management vendors, as it moved into configuration, capacity, and performance management in the virtualized environment. Those had been considered separate functions in the physical world of traditional systems management. If VMware succeeds in putting synchronized, combined systems management behind each virtual machine as it's created, what's left for the traditional systems management vendors to do?

Plenty, say spokesmen for HP, BMC, and CA, citing recent additions to their product lines. At the same time, they point to their heterogeneous approaches as an asset.

BMC customer Kalyan Kamar is head of cross-functional services for HCL Technologies' infrastructure services division (ISD) in Mumbai, India. HCL is one of India's most successful outsourcing firms, and its ISD unit offers customers the equivalent of private cloud operations from HCL data centers in India, the United States, and Europe. That leaves Kamar responsible for 18,000 servers, mostly x86 machines, but also some Unix boxes running IBM AIX, HPUX, and Solaris. That means he can't manage his infrastructure with systems management tools designed for a homogenous x86 world.

[ Want to learn more about how VMware is maneuvering its new products into the data center in the face of traditional systems management? See VMware Vs. The Old School: Data Center Management Battle. ]

Some customers ask him for a side-by-side systems management view of their VMware x86 machines and Unix systems running on HCL servers and their virtual servers they've commissioned in the Amazon Web Services cloud, said Kamar.

"We looked at what Microsoft and VMware had to offer," he said in a telephone interview from his Mumbai office July 25. With acquisitions like VMware's recent purchase of DynamicOps, it is becoming more heterogeneous, he concedes. Likewise, his division is already a large user of Microsoft's Systems Center, which has begun to embrace VMware virtual machine management alongside Microsoft's Hyper-V and Citrix Systems XenServer management.

But he still views them both as still too wedded to a single homogeneous environment. "We are primarily a 90% Microsoft shop," he said. But "Microsoft and VMware are not so good in heterogeneous environments."

For his customers with mixed environments that include Unix, he turned to BMC's Cloud Operations product. With it, he can offer ISD customers a Web portal where they can log in and see how their combined VMware servers, Unix servers, and Amazon EC2 servers are performing.

Cloud Operations was upgraded July 24 to include many features of BMC ProactiveNet Performance Management (BPPM), BMC's existing application performance management product. Kamar referred to both BPPM and Cloud Operations, sometimes in the same breath. But BMC's Lilac Schoenbeck, senior manager of cloud computing, said BPPM still exists as a separate product. Some of its features, such as its analytics engine, have been incorporated into Cloud Operations to provide specific intelligence on servers in both public and private clouds.

The analytics engine collects data on routine operations and includes analytics that recognize when performance is lagging behind norms. It can analyze why performance is lagging by examining different operations in a software stack, including database response times. It knows how "to extract key learnings from operations to make remedial recommendations," she said.

Another BMC systems management feature was announced July 24 as ready for cloud-server management: the Atrium Configuration Management Database (CMDB). CMDBs are described by VMware systems management advocates as outdated technology because of their infrequent updates--daily or perhaps every four hours in most settings. The virtualized environment has too many frequent changes to rely on such a system.

But that may be because VMware doesn't have a configuration management database.

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