When companies move to virtualizing their existing servers, they typically find that some applications are easier to manage than others. Additionally, those that are less easily managed can really slow down the virtualization process. In these situations, the first few virtualization projects will generally work smoothly until the need for dedicated support becomes apparent with these more difficult applications. This is why vendor support is a critical part of being a top-tier virtualization vendor. Post-virtualization, IT managers have to ensure that the same leve of service or better is provided by the virtualized application, since critical company functions can be at stake in this process.
While companies looking to virtualize worry about control and recovery of data, they often do not have the necessary tools and expertise to handle the transition to and management of the new infrastructure once it is in place. A number of competent vendors have emerged to fulfill this need. Major vendors in the virtualization space - VMware, Microsoft and Citrix - are on everyone's radar, but there are many smaller firms that are doing well in compliance, security, KVM management, I/O virtualization and related activities. These also need to be watched closely, and any good company will have the capability to improve performance across virtual and physical assets.
Going beyond the three major companies already mentioned, here are a number of the smaller companies which specialize in aspects of virtualization:
VKernel – Before you commence your project, you need to analyze the capability and capacity of what you have. Capacity management is a complex skill. While many free tools are available to help you estimate the number of virtual machines your servers can accommodate, there are few tools that can look at both the physical and the virtual servers and examine the relationship between them and how they will interact or interfere with each other. VKernel works with both VMware and Hyper-V from Microsoft. Unless you work with real data you will not be able to do real capacity planning. VKernel allows you to do just that.
Hyper9 – This promises to optimize your virtual environment. It keeps track of workloads on virtual machines, looks at them geographically or by any other parameter you define and creates detailed reports on their performance levels and resource usage. It is a fact that you cannot optimize your virtualized resources unless you can see their performance. Hyper9 allows you to do that and more.
DynamicOps – The company Credit Suisse decided to create a its own product because it could not find anything to match its needs. What developed was so good that Credit Suisse decided to launch it in the market. The product looks at both server and desktop virtual machines and across all the virtual platforms that have already been deployed. It has built- in limits for various business units and can monitor their performance from creation to end of life. The commercial version can help create virtual machines faster and can track their performance through their operational life.
Embiotics – Many virtual administrators complain about managing virtual machine sprawl, and Embiotics keeps this in mind. Over a period of time, the ease of creating virtual machines and deploying applications creates a proliferation of VMs that can be very difficult to manage. Embiotics runs a discovery and inventory management service that allows users to manage virtual machines on a life cycle basis rather than as a one time event. It works with VMware, Microsoft and Citrix virtual machines and provides detailed reports that help IT managers handle their virtual machines better.
HyTrust – With a strong presence in security of the virtual machine, the HyTrust Appliance is designed to give administrators a single point of control for their virtual machines. The range of features covers policy based management, access control, security and managing regulatory compliance. The application allows you to drill down and observe very granular details of your architecture and gives excellent audit capabilities. Using HyTrust makes both security and management of virtual machines a much simpler task.
Catbird - This performs much the same functions as HyTrust, and its vendor has also won awards for great performance and its support for security of virtual architecture. Its flagship product is Catbird V-Agent, a virtual machine that can run inside a virtual machine keeping track of the parent’s activities, checking inter-process communications and streaming its data to a central agency that collects, summarizes and presents data.
Liquidware Labs – This vendor is focusing strongly on the virtualization of desktops. While this appears to be a less glamorous task than creating and managing virtual servers, it is arguably just as important. The service allows users to create desktop profiles and store these on a server so that the user can get the same profile, desktop, documents and rights every time he logs in from any location. The application also ensures compliance to company policy and regulatory issues and generates very flexible and comprehensive reports. Using an application such as this to manage your desktops takes the pain out of the process and virtually eliminates personal visits to client cubicles. Out of the same box, you get applications to analyze your physical desktops to detect those that are fit to work in a virtualized environment as well as those that are not.
There are two more competitors to Liquidware Labs that deserve serious mention. These are AppSense and RingCube. AppSense focuses on managing user desktop personalities in such a way that users get very consistent performances and rapid log-ins. AppSense is very closely tailored to the Citrix platform and we may see an acquisition here in the near future. If Citrix is your chosen platform, AppSense makes a great choice of a desktop manager. RingCube provides an equally efficient way to manage virtual desktops, and has a workspace virtualization philosophy rather than a simple focus on the desktop environment.
In summary, you generally need professional help when you begin your journey to virtualize your servers or desktops. A good project has the capability of improving your efficiency ratios by several notches. With so much at stake, it makes sense to go for a tried and tested product that can anticipate and meet your requirements.
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