VMware, Microsoft and Citrix all include management tools with their offerings. Every enterprise customer of VMware, Microsoft and Citrix virtualization platforms typically uses the default management tools provided by the virtualization platform vendor. However, there are strong reasons to look beyond these tools, and consider offerings from vendors like DynamicOps, Embotics, Fastscale, Fortisphere, Hyper9, ManageIQ, Platform Computing, Reflex Systems, Tripware, Surgient, Veeam, and VizionCore.
The top 10 reasons to consider a third party virtualization management tool are:
- Lack of platform lock in. The more you become dependent upon tools from the virtualization platform vendor, the more you are locked into that platform. Third party tools typically support more than one virtualization platform, and are more objective in terms of how they support features in virtualization platforms.
- Depth of scope. Tools from virtualization platform vendors tend to focus upon the management of the virtualization platform and its guests. Third party tools often go up the stack into the applications running in the guests, and down the stack into the supporting server hardware, SAN and storage arrays – leading to a more comprehensive ability to manage the entire environment.
- Cross-platform discovery and identification. Management tools from platform vendors can discover their own guests and ensure that each guest is uniquely identified. However, discovering guests across resource pools, and across platforms while ensuring that each guest is uniquely identified can only be done with third party management tools.
- Enterprise scale. With vSphere, VMware has created a layered scale-out architecture where one Virtual Center can manage multiple other Virtual Centers. This approach does not fully satisfy the needs of enterprises that need to manage large environments in one management console.
- Business aware governance and access control. Third party tools typically support more robust policy based provisioning, self-service, control, and automation of the virtual environment than do the management tools from the virtualization platform vendors. This allows the physical resources in the shared resource pool to be parceled out to various business constituencies according to these policies, providing autonomy to the business constituents while maintaining a single view of the virtualized environment for IT.
- Sprawl control. Third party tools typically contain fairly advanced sprawl identification and sprawl control features. The elimination and prevention of sprawl can often lead to a hard dollar ROI for the purchase of these tools.
- Virtualizing business critical applications. Business critical applications are managed differently than the tactical or infrastructure applications that are supported by IT Operations. Business critical applications often have dedicated support teams who are responsible for maintaining the layers of the software above the core OS. Third party tools allow the OS team, the security team, the networking team and the applications team to collaborate through a set of policies to consistently provision the application environments. Flexible image management is a key part of the required functionality as maintaining a large number gold master clone templates can become problematic. Many companies either have existing image/software management applications like BladeLogic, Opsware, IBM, CA, etc. or are looking at thin image deployment options like Citrix Provisioning Server, Atlantis Computing, VMware Composer or NetApp File-level Flex clones to deploy space efficient image deployment options. The latter is very important for virtual desktop deployments. Traditional hypervisor management tools rely exclusively upon cloning which does not provide the flexibility needed for these types of complex applications.
- Robust configuration and change control. Third party tools typically dive deeper into guest OS and application configuration issues allowing greater assurance of consistency and compliance than is typically possible with tools from the vendors of virtualization platforms.
- External cloud integration. In addition to supporting multiple data center virtualization platforms, some of the third party vendors are starting to add support for external clouds like Amazon EC2. This is essential for supporting the first and most likely use case for external clouds in the enterprise which is using the external cloud for development and test and then bringing the application onto the internal cloud as it goes into production.
- More effective leveraging of IT staff. The key to realizing continued ROI from virtualization is to be able to drive virtualization deeper into the enterprise, without proportionately growing IT Operations staff. Especially in the current economy, few IT organizations are going to get a doubling of their headcount when they double the number of virtualized guests. Therefore the ability to leverage the existing staff with policies and automation is key to the ability to achieving further gains from virtualization.
In summary, enterprises that plan on rapidly growing their virtualized environment by addressing business critical applications with federated management requirements while not proportionately growing their IT staff should strongly consider these third party tools. For a complete review of the requirments in this area, and all of the vendors in this are, please download the Managing Enterprise Scale Virtualized Systems, from the White Papers section of this site.