vCenter Operations combines several system management functions into one product, such as configuration management, performance management, and capacity management. In VMware's view, these functions, which used to be considered separate data center tasks, have merged together into one in the virtual environment.
The addition of the vCenter Operations Management Suite to VMware's product line in 2011 is one reason its revenues continue to grow, even as the virtualization software market matures. VMware increased revenues 32% in 2011, with net income doubling over the year before to $724 million.
Traditional systems management vendors, including CA Technologies and BMC Software, are contending to be the supplier of systems management for the future enterprise data center, but VMware has placed virtualization at the heart of its approach and looks out from the vCenter management console on what it expects to be a fully virtualized environment--servers, storage, and networking.
[ Want to learn more about Microsoft's competing System Center 2012 approach? See Microsoft Makes Cloud Management Move On VMware. ]
That's not where most people are coming from today, and many data center managers will settle for tools to manage virtual machines that are provided by their traditional systems management suppliers, an approach that requires no change in their overall management approach or systems.
But VMware in this version of vCenter Operations is saying that pools of virtualized resources allow you to manage differently. In the first version, vCenter Operations offered a view of the overall vSphere environment. In Version 5, that view is extended down into individual virtual machines themselves.
Instead of keeping many devices running all the time, IT departments can consolidate operations as the day winds down and move virtual machines to servers with freed up capacity to handle them. To accomplish such a savings, the storage and security settings attached to each virtual machine will need to migrate with them. Through vCenter Operations and vSphere, VMware says it provides the means to accomplish that.
There are other and deeper departures from existing system management practices. Version 5 of vCenter Operations, for example, will provide micro metrics--drill down into a single virtual machine and examine how its running--or macro metrics that show the "health" of the whole environment. What's its efficiency? Where do risk factors lie? If vCenter Operations detects a performance slowdown, it doesn't need human intervention to launch root cause analysis of the problem.
In addition, VMware to some extent is betting that it can bring advanced analytics into managing virtual systems, simplifying and automating operations in a way that more traditional vendors can't. Its Integrion acquisition in September 2010 supplies the capability to perform analysis of operational stats that become the baseline for vCenter Operations' alerting capabilities. Deep statistical knowledge of normal operations allows vCenter Operations to filter out many minor events and false alarms to help operations managers concentrate on what really needs attention.
Microsoft, with its Systems Center 2012, is making a counter claim that it's the best manager of virtual resources because it already manages the physical devices on which they're based. There are strengths to both positions. VMware's is more of a virtualization software pure play, but VMware VP of products Ramin Sayar notes it can extract needed stats from System Center and its Virtual Machine Manager component when it needs them.
Microsoft spokesmen say in turn that System Center 2012 can get all the information it needs to manage VMware's ESX Server virtual machines through its links to the VMware's vCenter console.
Martin Klaus, VMware senior product marketing manager, listed the following new features in Version 5, in addition to the dashboard's macro or "super-metrics:"
-- automatic discovery and mapping of the relationships and dependencies between applications and the infrastructure components supporting them.
-- smart alerts, instead of streams of alerts, based on analytics that screen out events falling within parameters of normal operations.
-- tighter integration of configuration and monitoring data with real time performance information, leading to predicting risks and trouble spots before they affect end users.
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