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IBM Extends Tivoli's Management Reach Deeper Into Cloud

Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.2 geared to spin up hundreds or thousands of virtual machines an hour in the private cloud.

IBM has extended Tivoli's virtualization management capabilities so that it may provision and deploy hundreds or thousands of virtual machines an hour for large scale, enterprise cloud implementations.

Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.2 can deploy a virtual machine in seconds, or dozens in a matter of minutes "and hundreds or thousands at the unrivaled speed of under an hour," said Dennis Quan, director of IBM's Tivoli China development lab. Rapid provisioning of virtual machines is a requirement for companies that want to allow self-provisioning by employees of their computer resources in an internal cloud.

Tivoli is IBM's long-established suite of products for application, service, and system management, which it has been extending over the last year into cloud management. Its latest capabilities were announced at the IBM Pulse 2011 conference in Las Vegas Tuesday.

"For the cloud to work effectively, the resources of the virtual machine must be reclaimed at the end of its use," Quan added, another capability of Tivoli Provisioning Manager 7.2. Users are frequently loath to give up what they've obtained from IT, but lightly utilized servers are a leading contributor to data center inefficiency. "Users are more willing to give up resources when they know they can get them back quickly," he noted, leading to more efficient operations.

The real savings on internal operations comes when users can be provisioned automatically rather than through the manual intervention of a system administrator, network administrator, security officer, and other data center labor. The ability to rapidly provision many users "opens up new opportunities" in how the data center is managed, Quan said in an interview.

Virtual server images are typically 5-20 gigabytes in size and generating them one by one can be time consuming, requiring frequent IT staff intervention. Tivoli Provisioning Manager employs best practices, tracks VMs after they are created, and -- if the IT staff decides to -- imposes an expiration date when their resources will be reclaimed. Tivoli is following a "low touch" design intended to enable a few administrators to deal with a large number of virtual machines, he said.

Provisioning Manager can work either standalone or in conjunction with a suite of other Tivoli management products. It works across IBM Power-based servers and Intel or AMD x86 instruction set-based servers. It can manage IBM LPARs (logical partitions) or WPARs (workload partitions) on AIX servers. It also manages virtual machine images provided by VMware ESX Server, Citrix Systems XenServer, and Red Hat's open source KVM on x86 servers. Quan didn't think that Microsoft's Hyper-V was supported at this time but said it was likely to be included in a future release.

At the Pulse event, IBM also announced the beta availability of new hybrid cloud management capabilities in IBM's Service Management suite. Tivoli Provisioning Manager and other elements of the suite are meant to provide a capability to manage virtual machines across an internal, enterprise cloud and an external public cloud. So far, IBM cites hybrid operations between private clouds built with its software and the IBM public cloud. No timeframe was offered when Service Management's reach might extend to Amazon Web Services EC2 or other public clouds.

Also available as beta software is Tivoli Storage Manager for Virtual Environments, which utilizes VMware's vStorage APIs for Data Protection. By doing so, it can offload the backup function from the virtual machine and ESX Server host to a VMware vStorage backup server. Storage Manager can then order more frequent backups, ensuring greater data protection without placing undue demand on virtualized system resources. It also allows smaller and faster backups that replicate only those data blocks that have changed since the previous backup by making use of VMware's Changed Block Tracking.

Storage Manager for Virtual Environments shifts the burden of producing backup copies from a running virtual machine to itself. The move frees up the virtual machine to keep its users and applications more productive. By creating more frequent backups, Storage Manager reduces the risk of data loss with the virtual machine and eases backup and recovery issues. With a single-pass backup, Storage Manager gives the virtual machine administrator the option of recovering on a file, volume, or image basis.

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