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ManageIQ Says Virtual Machines Present Unique Challenge

The company's latest version of its Enterprise Virtualization Management suite expands its policy-based, virtual configuration management capabilities.

A company that started out managing the configuration of virtual machines, ManageIQ, believes it brings special insight to managing virtual environments.

In version 2.0 of its Enterprise Virtualization Management suite -- basically a pair of management products, EVM Insight and EVM Control -- it expands EVM's policy-based, virtual configuration management capabilities, said Joe Fitzgerald, CEO and co-founder, in an interview.

Companies rapidly adopting virtualization face "major configuration management challenges that simply didn't exist in the pre-virtual world. VMs are going to be a bear to manage," he said in an interview.

Virtual machine users love the ability to be able to move a running virtual machine from one physical server to another, as in VMware's VMotion, but Fitzgerald said that's part of the problem. "There's no physical tether. You used to be able to keep score based on what you had done in the physical world. Now VMs are just file sets that move around. Someone can change them and you may have no evidence of it," he said.

Virtual appliances are a convenient way to download and test software -- they come with an operating system designed for the application, so there's no skilled server set up. But that's part of the problem too. "IT didn't build it. You know nothing about its configuration. They should be run in a sandbox," he said, but some have been known to creep into production use when they solved a problem for the business.

"We said, 'Wow, this is a whole new world,'" recalled Fitzgerald. Version 1.0 of EVM was launched in November last year.

Configuration management is the foundation discipline of virtual machine management. If you don't know what you've got running as a virtual machine, you will fail to keep it secure and manage it properly after provisioning, he said.

That might be considered a bit of hyperbole by those who have already waded into virtualizing servers and feel they're doing OK without ManageIQ or other management software. But Fitzgerald has overseen ManageIQ's application for patents on what it considers its special discovery and configuration capabilities.

Version 2.0's EVM Insight has expanded discovery that is capable of finding not only VMware, Microsoft, and Citrix Systems virtual machines, both running and in storage, but also VLANS, virtualized storage LUNs, virtual appliances, Open Virtual Format containers, detailed images of virtual machine resources, including snapshots, Fitzgerald said. It also detects a virtual machine's unique registry settings, files and configuration parameters.

EVM Insight also provides a picture of the baseline virtual machine -- from what image or source was it cloned? What's been added to it since? Minor variations in virtual machines require "drift comparison," Fitzgerald said, to know when and how much they have evolved.

EVM Insight can also provide a map of a virtual machine's relationship to a variety of physical and virtual resources, including its host server, its geneology, connections to other virtual machines and virtual appliances. Mapping a virtual machines dependencies aids problem identification and resolution when they occur, he said.

And EVM Insight has expanded visualization and reporting capabilities, including the ability to construct a timeline of how the VM evolved and events associated with it.

Version 2.0 of EVM Control provides policy-based management and compliance, but Fitzgerald adds that changes to policies can be implemented in near "real time." Times can be designated for checks on and updates to compliance with all policies assigned to a virtual machine. Policies may be updated at the start of the day when a virtual machine is being cloned or during the day as snapshots are taken of its current state. Policy updates can be made a pre-requisite before any other updates are executed on a virtual machine, he said.

EVM Control has an adaptive policy engine that can apply multiple policy profiles to a particular type of virtual machine, providing additional controls over virtual machines that may be constructed the same way, he said.

The ManageIQ product is not a monitoring application and doesn't assess VM performance, he noted.

EVM 2.0 will be available in July and has a starting price of $25,000. ManageIQ was founded in in April 2006 in Mahwah, N.J. and has 31 employees. It is privately held.

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