Big Names Rush to Offer Virtualization Tools

Nature may abhor a vacuum, but vendors often abhor it even more because it means leaving money on the table. The latest space that vendors are looking to fill is a lack of tools to manage virtual machines.

Enterprises sorely need these tools as they virtualize. According to a survey of 1,000 IT managers at large enterprises worldwide conducted by Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC), organizations are leaving out 35 percent of their virtual servers from their disaster recovery plans because they don’t have the right tools to manage them.

With an eye on that need, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), BMC Software (NYSE: BMC) and Fortisphere unveiled virtual infrastructure management tools today. For HP and BMC, this means extending their physical IT infrastructure management tools into the virtual environment, while Fortisphere rolled out a new version of its virtual environment management application.

Yet HP, BMC and Fortisphere enter a market already brimming with early movers looking to cash in on a need for management tools. Their announcements also come two weeks before VMworld 2008, VMware’s (NYSE: VMW) user conference in Las Vegas, during which several more vendors are expected to announce new products.

One way the newest entrants expect to stand out is that all three support hypervisors from multiple virtualization vendors, including Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Working with different types of hypervisors is essential because “organizations will have three or four virtualization technologies in their environment over time,” BMC chief technology officer Tom Bishop told

By adding virtual management capabilities to their existing tools for managing the physical environment, HP and BMC are aiming to bring critical management capabilities to the virtual infrastructure — such as application lifecycle management features, combining version control and change, configuration , release and asset management.

“You have to manage virtualization in the context of everything else you have to do,” Bishop said.

It’s also a good selling point because it lets enterprises leverage their existing tools.

Customers “don’t want to have more tools, they don’t want new processes, they want processes and tools they’re already using to support both their physical and virtual resources,” John Bennett, HP’s worldwide director for datacenter transformation solutions, told

The management tools

That’s borne out by the Symantec survey, which found that when it comes to backing up virtual servers, the biggest problem for 44 percent of North American respondents is the plethora of different tools available for physical and virtual environments.

BMC has unveiled nine solutions to manage both physical and virtual environments. These are based on process workflows developed by the firm that automate management of the environment.

That’s important because virtualization “is a trade-off between agility and control, and intelligent automation is the solution to that trade-off,” Bishop said.

Automated recovery tools are critical in disaster recovery, especially when it comes to simplifying the task of recovery on virtual machines. The lack of such tools posed a problem for 41 percent of respondents to the Symantec survey.

Meanwhile, HP has enhanced its Business Service Management (BSM) and IT Service Management (ITSM) solutions with virtualization monitoring and support capabilities. In addition, HP is announcing new agreements with Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) to jointly develop integrated solutions in HP’s BSM and Business Service Automation lines. These will let customers “seamlessly automate the management of Red Hat servers in heterogeneous environments with HP tools,” Bennett said.

HP and Red Hat have been partnering for several years. In November, HP released new Multi-Level Security (MLS) Services for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 to support the latter’s federal government push. In April, Red Hat reciprocated by announcing users could achieve significant virtualization performance gains when coupling high-performance device drivers with Quad-Core AMD (NYSE: AMD) Opteron processors in HP ProLiant DL585 G5 servers.

Fortisphere and other players

Like the larger vendors, Fortisphere is seeking to leverage existing systems and infrastructure management tools. The company, which provides policy-based virtualization management software, unveiled Fortisphere Virtual Essentials 2.0, which can work with existing physical infrastructure management tools from various vendors, the company said.

New capabilities in this release include agentless inspection of offline virtual machines (VMs), more information about VM configurations and an enhanced policy framework.

Several solutions already exist for managing the virtual and physical environments. Players include IBM (NYSE: IBM), ManageIQ, Avocent (NASDAQ: AVCT), Apani, KACE, the SAS Institute, and CA (NASDAQ: CA). Microsoft is scheduled to ship Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 to manage Hyper-V toward the end of the year, and Novell (NASDAQ: NOVL) announced in February that it would buy PlateSpin, whose products manage virtual and physical environments, for $205 million.

BMC’s Bishop isn’t concerned about his company’s late entry to the market. “We wanted to be the best, not the first,” he said.

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