At the end of last year we carried out a survey on all aspects of virtualization and whilst the results were interesting there were few knock me over surprises. However the findings did show, very, very clearly that there were some aspects of the virtualization solution ecosystem that real world users identified as needing to be addressed, preferably sooner rather than later. One of these concerns the small matter of the management of virtualized environments where today it appears that the chief solution deployed is the expensive, and frequently scarce, resource known as skilled IT manpower. Well it appears that the management of virtualization platforms, especially in heterogeneous environments, is now recognised by several vendors for having the undoubted importance it has to enable such systems to really deliver the potential benefits promised.
As the figure highlights almost no one considers that vendors support the management of virtualized systems well. Our research shows that this applies to all areas of virtualization not simply to the case of server systems highlighted in the chart. Coupled with this a very large number of respondents to the survey also highlighted that they expect their management processes and procedures will need to undergo modification to enable these platforms to operate day in day out supporting front line business applications. Given that fewer than one in twenty of the survey respondents felt that vendors do a good job supporting heterogeneous virtualized server systems it is good to see that several of the suppliers of virtualization tools are now getting around to highlighting just what they can do.
Clearly the major systems management vendors can be expected to add this feather to their armouries but so far few of the heavyweights have yet to make an impact. That said it is interesting to see that Hewlett Packard has begun to make noises that it believes it has not just the tools themselves that can have a positive impact but that their capabilities further benefit from many years of experience and know how administering complex virtualized environments. There is certainly some merit in this argument and we shall have to see just how well they can not only deliver heterogeneous management capabilities but also how effectively they can take them to market, especially beyond the company’s established OpenView user base. I expect that the other major vendors will soon follow suit and start promoting their own solution approaches.
Beyond the usual management suspects the field has so far been left open to a number of specialist solution providers, the majority of whom have little in the way of visibility even where effective products exist. There are one two exceptions, most notably VMware’s own management tools that heretofore have focused on their own platform offerings, and perhaps most notably PlateSpin, now in the process of being acquired by Novell. There are however other significant players out there.
For example I expect that Sun will start to actively market its entire virtualization platform suite, in which management capabilities have taken centre stage; it is also clear that Citrix will begin to promote its own solutions as its XenSource acquisition becomes embedded in the portfolio. However, I do hope that vendors such as Parallels can get some visibility for its own heterogeneous management capabilities but this poses no small challenge to an organisation that despite its rapid growth is still small in a world of very large vendors.
Virtualization management and its effective routine administration are essential if the swath of business benefits potentially achievable with virtualization is to be delivered. This especially applies as one begins to look beyond the simple first benefits advantages of improving resource utilization and reducing capital and operational costs. The real medium and long term advantages of virtualization lie in the ability of such systems to not only support flexible IT but to encourage business flexibility based on IT to thereby deliver additional business value. Virtualization Management, especially heterogeneous full infrastructure management is essential and is required now by organizations large and small. I shall watch with interest to see which solution approach and what tools will develop to become the gold standard.