Using Microsoft SCOM to Manage the Performance of Virtualized Applications on vSphere

In “Performance Management Equals Response Time, not Resource Utilization“, we made the point that in order for you to be allowed (by the application owners) to virtualize business critical and performance critical applications that you (the team that owns the virtual infrastructure) are going to have to step up to managing the performance of applications on terms agreed to by applications owners.

Those terms will be that the definition of applications performance is not whether or not the application is using its “normal” amount of resources, but rather that the application is delivering the required level of service to its end users. And the required level of service is not defined as availability or resource utilization, but rather as the response time delivered by the application to its end users.

An understanding of total response time for each virtualized application is however not enough. What is needed is this capability combined with automatic and continuous discovery of applications, automatic application topology mapping (as tiers come and go and get moved around), an understanding of how response time is broken down between the tiers and components of the application, all combined with a robust understanding of the resource utilization and configuration change information in the environment.

With vCenter Operations, VMware has put a stake in the ground saying that resource utilization data for performance and capacity management needs to be combined with configuration management. vC OPS bundles vC OPS Standard, with CapacityIQ and vC Configuration Manager to create this set of functionality in vC OPS Enterprise. However the VMware offering is completely missing an integrated and broad scale view of application topology and applications response time.

Due to some recent efforts on the part of BlueStripe there is now another completely new and different way to attack this problem. Microsoft SCOM is an excellent management solution for both physical and virtualized Windows Servers. There are also plug-ins for SCOM that allows it to manage Linux and various types of Unix Servers. BlueStripe has partnered with Microsoft to integrate its FactFinder solution and the some of the FactFinder data into SCOM. The result is that now for every application that BlueStripe supports (which means all applications running on Windows, Linux, and a variety of high end Unix systems), you can now get automatically generated and updated applications topology views, end-to-end and hop-by-hop response time information integrated with the resource utilization and configuration information that SCOM already collects. This integrated view is shown in the screen shot below.

BlueStripe FactFinder Microsoft SCOM

This raises the very interesting possibility that one of the most productive ways to manage your virtualized applications may well be the combination of Microsoft SCOM, SCVMM, and BlueStripe FactFinder. This approach has the following advantages:

  • It is virtualization platform agnostic. It does not matter where your VM and its application is running – on vSphere, Hyper-V, KVM, Xen – both SCOM and BlueStripe work across all of these platforms.
  • It works across virtual and physical implementations. Both SCOM (with SCVMM) and BlueStripe FactFinder work whether a server is virtualized or running on physical hardware.
  • Since it works applications that are 100% physical, 100% virtual or any combination in between this is a great solution to manage the migration of applications from physical to virtual as this solution will let you establish response time based baselines while the application is on physical hardware that applications owners can demand be met as the condition of virtualizing the application.

Response time based service level agreements might in fact be the key advance that allows virtualization to attack both business critical and performance critical applications. Because if IT can commit that the application will have the same (or better) response time characteristics once virtualized, then applications owners should not care where the application runs.

In summary the integration of SCOM and BlueStripe FactFinder might be the best thing to happen to VMware vSphere adoption for business critical application in the first half of this year. You just have to wonder whether VMware will see it that way.



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