RealTime IT News

Face Off in Virtualization Management

Two rivals are mixing it up in the virtualization management space today.

Opsware Inc.  and Egenera have created software that allows corporate customers to manage physical and virtual servers from the same platform, representing a new growth opportunity at a time when server sprawl threatens to hinder operations.

Opsware Virtualization Director, which will appear in Opsware System 6 by the end of the year, manages the complete physical and virtual servers in companies that employ hundreds or thousands of servers.

Virtualization Director manages physical and virtual machines from VMware, Microsoft, Sun, XenSource and others, said Tim Howe, CTO of San Jose, Calif.'s, Opsware.

But the software also creates secure virtual servers for large deployments; locates and analyzes the dependencies of virtual machines between applications, servers, network devices and storage; and tracks relationships between virtual machines and their hosts.

Think of it as a change and configuration management database (CCMDB) for virtual servers.

Why does the market need this? Howe said Opsware wants to provide an enterprise-class virtualization management option that virtualization vendors don't currently offer.

"What you get from them is a very localized management solution that allows them to control virtual machines running on a single hypervisor," Howe said. We've put an enterprise layer on top of them."

Citing a Forrester Research report, Howe said that 76 percent of all deployments have been limited to test and development on less than 500 servers.

In the cases where 1,000 or more servers were involved, the virtualization software did its job but administrators had a hard time managing the virtual machines.

The problem is that too many virtual managers are created too quickly, often with one click of a button, creating a massive server sprawl with very little organization. These virtual machines need to be configured, patched regularly and secured.

This can get unwieldy for 1,000+ deployments.

Virtualization Director was designed to solve that problem, Howe said.

"The big question in such a hot market is: why hasn't virtualization cracked the mainstream on large deployments," Howe said. "The answer revolves around the management of those virtual machines."

Meanwhile, in Marlboro, Mass., Egenera has created its own answer to the virtualization management problem.

vBlade, an extension of Egenera's PAN Manager software that incorporates the XenEnterprise hypervisor operating system from Egenera partner XenSource, offers one console for configuring, provisioning and managing both physical and virtual servers.

Susan Davis, vice president of marketing at Egenera, said customers using server virtualization and hypervisors are struggling with the new layer of management software required to manage multiple virtual machines.

"If these applications didn't require high availability before when you had a one-to-one relationship between the application and the server, once you put 10 of them on a server you've raised their importance in terms of being up and running," Davis said.

"You're adding complexity where your goal is to try to eliminate complexity," Davis said, noting that vBlade with the XenEnterprise hypervisor should prevent customers from adding additional more management.

vBlade will be priced as a separate add-on to the Egenera BladeFrame system. BladeFrame customers can get a preview release now; vBlade will be generally available in 2007.

Opsware's and Egenera's announcements indicate the virtualization management market is heating up. IBM recently unveiled Systems Director to manages physical and virtual servers and storage through one console.