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Virtual Machine Management Tools Take Center Stage

In addition to larger vendors, newcomers such as Embotics, PlateSpin, and Veeam are expanding their list of VM control products.

Virtual machine management is beginning to catch up with the rapid generation of virtual machines. When Microsoft announced it would offer its Hyper-V hypervisor as a standalone product, hardly anyone noticed that it also upgraded its System Center tools to manage virtual machines.

At the same time, newcomers such as Embotics, PlateSpin, and Veeam are expanding the list of tools with which virtual machines may be managed.

After months of describing virtualization as a feature of the operating system, Microsoft relented Nov. 12 and decided its Hyper-V hypervisor, formerly Viridian, would be available as a standalone product. Lost in the shuffle was the upgrade to System Center management tools, which now include System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007 to provision new virtual machines, centrally monitor and manage running virtual machines, ensure virtual machine security, and update virtual machines.

Virtual Machine Manager is meant to work with Microsoft's other System Center products, including System Center Operations Manager 2007, released earlier this year. Operations Manager monitors and manages the servers running in the data center, according to Bob Kelly, corporate VP of servers and tools, in his address at the TechEd IT Forum 2007 on Nov. 12 in Barcelona, Spain.

Embotics recently published the white paper "Controlling VM Sprawl," by Anil Desai, a veteran VM implementer, and has augmented its V-Commander virtual machine management product to help accomplish that purpose.

V-Commander assigns a virtual machine a unique marker that follows it, even when it's rapidly moved from one physical server to another. It's a policy-enforcement engine, separating duties between virtual machines, controlling deployments, and offering a secure repository for a VM library.

"It can spot unauthorized virtual machines coming up in the environment and tell whether they are clones of existing VMs," said David Lynch, VP of marketing, in a recent interview.

It also tracks VM genealogy so that a line of virtual machines, modified from a common base image, can be updated or modified easily, he said. Embotics is a 2006 startup.

Veeam Software provides management tools for VMware's ESX Server environments, and made available the 2.5 release of its Veeam Reporter on Dec. 11. The tool provides automated discovery and documentation of ESX hypervisors and what they're running. It was augmented in 2.5 to include reporting on the virtualized storage connected to ESX Servers. Its Storage Capacity Report creates an Excel pivot table that provides a color-coded bar chart of how much storage a virtual machine is using and the number of virtual machines using a particular storage volume. It also reports on how much disk space has been allocated to each virtual machine.

Veeam Reporter is priced at $120 per CPU. The March 2006 startup also offers Veeam Configurator for configuring and provisioning ESX Servers and Veeam Monitor for performance metrics on all elements of the VMware infrastructure.

PlateSpin, Canada's second-fastest-growing technology company, according to IT consultant Deloitte, on Dec. 6 introduced PlateSpin Forge, a recovery and high-availability appliance for ESX Server environments. It consists of preconfigured hardware and software to protect virtual environments against loss in the event of a power outage or other disaster.

PlateSpin and fellow virtual machine recovery vendors, such as Vizioncore, represent a new wave of virtualization management becoming available as virtualization moves beyond mere data center server consolidation. Virtualization also offers a low-cost way to do disaster recovery, since virtual machines are easy to store and activate upon demand.

"The requirement for disaster recovery is driving the increasing adoption of virtualization in the data center," said Brian Byun, VP of global partners and solutions at virtualization market leader VMware, in a prepared statement marking PlateSpin Forge's release.

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