The Virtualization Practice

Virtualization Management

Virtualization Management covers all aspects of managing a modern virtual or software defined data center. This includes managing across virtualization platforms and clouds, monitoring the performance and availability of the virtualization platforms (hypervisors) and the clouds, monitoring the capacity of the virtualization platforms and clouds, ...
monitoring the performance of the applications running on these platforms and clouds, automatically provisioning these environments, securing these environments, and ensuring that the data in these environments is always protected and available.

While we may well be on the road towards VMware becoming the layer of software that talks to the hardware in the data center – removing Microsoft from that role, this is not the end of Windows. If Windows were just an OS, it would be severely threatened VMware insertion into the data center stack. But Windows is not just an OS. Windows is also a market leading applications platform with .NET have a far greater market share and base of developers than vFabric. Windows is also in the process of becoming a PaaS cloud – one that will be living at Microsoft, at thousands of hosting providers, and at probably every enterprise that is a significant Microsoft customer. This incarnation of Windows is at the beginning of its life, not the end.

Distributed Virtual Switch Failures: Failing-Safe

In my virtual environment recently, I experienced two major failures. The first was with VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch and the second was related to the use of a VMware vShield. Both led to catastrophic failures, that could have easily been avoided if these two subsystems failed-safe instead of failing-closed. VMware vSphere is all about availability, but when critical systems fail like these, not even VMware HA can assist in recovery. You have to fix the problems yourself and usually by hand. Now after, the problem has been solved, and should not recur again, I began to wonder how I missed this and this led me to the total lack of information on how these subsystems actually work. So without further todo, here is how they work and what I consider to be the definition for fail-safe.

Todd Nielsen has already succeeded twice at what he is now being asked to do at VMware – once at Microsoft and once at BEA. This time what hangs in the wind is VMware’s ultimate destiny. Will VMware be the device driver to the dynamic data center (vSphere), or will VMware be that and the next generation application platform for IT as a Service and Public Cloud based applications?

Monitoring the performance of the infrastructure, applications and services in IT as a Service environments will require that monitoring solutions become multi-tenant, can be instantiated by ITaaS management tools without any further configuration, and that they automatically “find” their back end management systems through whatever firewalls may be in place. These requirements will probably be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the heavyweight complex legacy tools that were in place prior to to the onset of virtualization, the public cloud and now IT as a Service. ITaaS is the tipping point that should cause most enterprises ignore every monitoring tool that they have bought in the past and to start over with a clean sheet of paper.

Mainstream virtual desktop solutions have focused their efforts on providing the best platform for hosting virtual desktop environments. Hypervisors, image management, and connection brokers are the top feature sets that companies have looked at during their comparisons. Moving up the stack, these vendors are now focusing on user personalization management, but do not have what is considered to be a full desktop management solution. So are our end-to-end virtual desktop solutions really complete?

The acquisition of Akorri by NetApp demonstrates the importance of Infrastructure Performance Management solutions as virtualization progresses into the realm of business critical applications, and as public clouds hope to do the same. However rather than signaling a “game over” this acquisition really raises both the visibility and the importance of both the problems that Akorri solved, and the true end-to-end problems that remain.

Given that vSphere provides significant benefits in terms of cost savings and business agility, those benefits are tied to and constrained by the ability of vSphere to provide backward compatibility with existing legacy enterprise systems. This backward compatibility makes it impossible for vSphere to provide infinite horizontal scalability. Moving to the same architecture as the most highly scaled out public cloud vendors provides for a more radical set of benefits, but at the cost of breaking backward compatibility for many applications.