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Making The Best Of Both Worlds

Virtualization software brings the same management challenges as physical servers to virtual machines.

Virtualization allows you to multiply your servers, essentially, without multiplying your hardware. But the same problem exists in the virtual world as in the physical world: How do you keep track of those multiplying machines? One of the leading systems for managing physical servers is now able to handle virtual ones as well, and it offers a way to map between the worlds.

The latest version of CA’s Unicenter ASM (Advanced Systems Management), release 11.1, available this week, centralizes in one manager’s console the ability to generate virtual machines from a variety of vendors’ software: VMware Server, from virtualization software leader VMware; Microsoft’s Virtual Server; and IBM’s LPAR Power series, which runs on IBM’s AIX 5.3 version of Unix. Xen support will be added in an update by the end of the year. Unicenter also can manage virtualization across IBM Power and Intel server clusters, reallocating memory and CPU cycles from one virtual machine to another within the cluster. "We can do dynamic resource brokering, maximizing the amount of resources available per application based on real-time demand," says Paula Daley, CA’s director of product management.

Penguins and all: The new Unicenter lays out server resources
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The new Unicenter engages in continuous discovery of physical servers and virtual machines, providing the management console with "an intuitive visual mapping" that links the two, says Daley. The display helps prevent the proverbial "lost server" problem, where banks of servers provide a forest in which a particular tree can be hard to find; the creation of hundreds of virtual machines amplifies that problem, Daley says.

Also, Unicenter now matches the ability of VMware’s VMotion to migrate virtual machines off a failing piece of hardware to another virtual server. But Unicenter does it differently, says Daley, by migrating applications that are underutilized first, rather than migrating the high-demand application first. Migration should be the choice of last resort for an application that’s being heavily used, Daley says.

CA isn’t the only vendor offering cross-platform tracking and management of virtual machines. But even IBM has yet to integrate the view of physical and virtual resources into a single management console, the way CA Unicenter now claims to. Instead, IBM’s Director 5.2 Virtualization Manager presents a dashboard view of the two types of resources alongside each other. VMware’s Infrastructure 3 manages only virtual resources.

A newcomer to the virtualization field is Marc Andreessen’s company, Opsware. Andreessen was part of the team that engineered the original Mosaic browser, and he helped found Netscape.

Opsware recently unveiled Virtualization Director, a single management interface for generating, tracking, and securing virtual machines. Virtualization Director gives a system administrator the ability to assign resources to virtual machines and use buttons, such as Start, Stop, Pause, and Suspend, to manage them, says Opsware CTO Tim Howes. Virtualization Director can view virtual machines across more than one data center, accounting for virtualized resources in a company’s primary data center and its satellite data centers.

Like Unicenter and VMware, Virtualization Director captures a view of the hypervisor, which is a part of the virtualization system that manages more than one virtualized application per physical server. "It’s important to understand their relationships," Howes says. "The system admin can ask, ‘Do I have things configured so compatible applications are together on one piece of hardware? Do I want my database there?’" Unlike VMware and Unicenter, Virtualization Director can manage Solaris "containers," Sun Microsystems’ take on virtualization in which one version of Sun’s Solaris operating system per physical server manages multiple containers, each running an application.

Virtual servers are an attractive alternative to hardware proliferation. The increase in management capabilities should aid that pragmatic trend.

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