VMware 'Machine Learning' Helps Spot Trouble - InformationWeek

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VMware 'Machine Learning' Helps Spot Trouble

VMware vCenter Log Insight update helps IT recognize potential trouble before it occurs, offers information about into third-party software operations.

Version 2.0 of VMware's vCenter Log Insight uses a "machine learning" capability that groups related server events together so that a virtualization manager can spot developing problems or a set of events that IT should know about.

VMware is also getting its third-party market going in support of Log Insight by making "content packs" available for free download. These content packs know how to use Log Insight statistics for specific storage systems or pieces of infrastructure software, such as Microsoft's Active Directory, Windows Server, Windows desktops, and Microsoft Exchange. Each one is preloaded with intelligence on how to use data collected by Log Insight and includes pre-formulated queries and dashboards to display results.

The addition of machine learning is a significant step toward moving VMware vSphere and vCenter customers closer to a software-monitored and policy-driven data center, sometimes referred to as the software-defined data center. It also heightens the competition with independent and open source log-file management systems, such as Splunk and Loggly.

"Machine learning" comes when data automatically collected by a monitoring system is fed into analytics designed to discover when two software events are related. Log Insight now has the intelligence to group related events together and show the results to the IT manager on a management console. Machine learning, when combined with automated analytics, provides IT managers with information that comes closer to real-time operations, as opposed end-of-the-week or end-of-the-month log-file analysis.

Log Insight is VMware's analytics tool for capturing information from both physical and virtualized server log files. It became generally available last July and the public beta of the second version became available on May 20. General availability is expected in June.

[Want to learn more about how Log Insight fits into the software-defined data center? See VMware Data Center Growth Far From Over.]

The 2.0 version provides automated, intelligent groups of infrastructure software events to identify trends and spot potential hot spots. It can execute queries against the collected data more quickly than the previous version. It collects data up to eight times faster than the previous (1.5) version of Log Insight. And it offers greater visualization of the data in charts, tables, and graphs.

"Intelligent Grouping scans incoming unstructured data and quickly groups messages together by problem type in order to give users the ability to understand issues," said VMware's Sajai Krishnan, VP of product marketing for the Cloud Management Business Unit, in a blog post announcing the release. It can produce actionable results up to six times faster than other log-file analysis products, he claimed.

It's also a product that adds to VMware coffers the more it's used. VMware charges $200 a year for each monitored host operating system, or sells a lifetime license at $1,500 per CPU.

Log Insight 2.0
Log Insight 2.0

Along with the Log Insight 2.0 announcement, VMware officials cited free content packs for Brocade Fibre Channel SAN. It contains best practices filtered from Brocade's 15-years of experience in addressing network issues.

The Windows Operating System Content Pack includes a new Windows agent that can collect logs from Windows-based desktops and servers, enabling customers to use Log Insight to capture and analyze log data across both Linux and Windows environments. The agent can report software events, applications, and logons. There are also content packs for Microsoft Exchange and the previously mentioned Active Directory.

As the number of content packs grows, VMware can drive deeper into data center operations with the help of third parties, who build the content packs. Log Insight is thus a key driver of the more fully software-monitored and -managed data center. If VMware can make enough content packs available, customers are likely to get over their initial sticker shock of adding another VMware product to the data center and focus instead on the management value they'll be getting out of it.

Content packs are downloadable from the Log Insight Marketplace on the VMware Solution Exchange.

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Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 12:54:08 PM
Why produce content packs?
Lorna, Third parties produce content packs because they want their products to become better integrated in the virtualized data center. If Active Directory is easier to manage as part of the operation of virtual machines, then chances are it will be used more extensively in authorizing users who are self provisioning them. Third parties who produce content packs will tend to see their products become more deeply embedded in the data center. That said, I doubt if Microsoft produced the Active Directory content pack. I haven't had a chance yet to check that point with Ramin Sayar or someone else in the Cloud Management Business unit, But there are many third parties with Windows and Active Directory expertise. Microsoft wants to grow Hyper-V and System Center use, not VMware Log Insight. 
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
5/28/2014 | 12:00:02 PM
Charlie, What's the incentive for the third parties who build the content packs? And, are these individual developers, or the companies that make the tech being monitored?
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