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Startups Fill Heterogeneous Virtualization Management Void

Credit Suisse rolled its own virtualization layer, putting management tools on top of all the leading hypervisors, letting it sustain a cross-vendor infrastructure.

When Credit Suisse wanted to virtualize the 10,000 servers that powered its worldwide operations, it found its numerous investment banking divisions had selected many different computing environments. Choosing any single virtualization vendor--Citrix Systems, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, VMware--presented problems as the bank ran up against the limits of what each vendor was willing to support. So Credit Suisse rolled its own virtualization layer, putting management tools on top of all the leading hypervisors, letting it sustain a cross-vendor infrastructure.

"There are lots of knobs and dials on those other tools," says Steve Yatko, managing director of Credit Suisse's global development group. "But most of them are not designed to reach outside their own product domain. Most don't want to interact with other systems."

Credit Suisse thought its resulting Virtual Resource Manager had so much potential that it spun off a company to market it elsewhere. DynamicOps is just one of several venture capital-backed firms focusing on cross-hypervisor management.

Another is Vizioncore, a unit of Quest Software. Earlier this year, it finished buying out VirtualFabrix, which orchestrates the use of different hypervisors. Quest has been quick to add the VirtualFabrix capability to Vizioncore's vConverter product, which can migrate a physical server into a Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, or VMware ESX virtual machine. VConverter also is able to convert an existing VM into one managed by a different hypervisor. A second product, vFoglight, monitors ESX VMs; next year, it will add the ability to monitor Hyper-V.

Startup Fortisphere in January launched Virtual Essentials, a policy enforcer for VMs, whether they're generated by ESX, XenServer, or Hyper-V. Priced at $10,000 per host, Virtual Essentials also performs discovery of both existing VMs and their hosts and monitors them for any configuration changes.

Q-layer, founded in 2005, also has adopted a multihypervisor approach, covering Sun's xVM as well as ESX, XenServer, and Hyper-V. Q-layer's Delegation Manager, rolled out June 30, generates what the company calls a cloud layer over a company's virtualized computing, and manages all elements from a Web console, with user-chargeback capabilities. It's priced at $1,995 per host.

Perfman, founded in 1987, is the oldster of the group. Its PointView allows one management dashboard for both x86 server and IBM server virtualization logical partitions--it sees both ESX virtual machines and System z LPARS and System p LPARS. It's a form of VM on mainframes and AIX servers.

Until the major vendors acknowledge it's a heterogeneous world, even in hypervisors, enterprises are going to have to come up with their own, as Credit Suisse did, or go with a vendor-neutral third party.

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