Here Come New Virtualization Tools

Companies are moving to virtualization to cut costs. But many do not manage or back up their virtual machines because they don’t have the tools or don’t know which tools to use.

Some virtualization vendors want to change that.

Take some of the recent offerings by the big boys in virtualization – VMware (NYSE: VMW), Citrix (NASDAQ: CTXS), Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Red Hat (NYSE: RHT). Each announced virtual environment management capabilities, although these will not be available until later this year at best.

No wonder vendors are moving with product plans — analyst firm Gartner predicts that worldwide server virtualization management software revenues will climb 42 percent, from $913.9 million in 2008 to $1.3 billion in 2009.

“Server virtualization management will be the primary source of growth in the virtualization market as hyper visor software functionality -– key to virtualizing a server -– rapidly moves to hardware,” Alan Dayley, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

Citrix, Microsoft and Red Hat are trying to challenge VMware in management capabilities, which VMware is banking on as its next area of growth. But Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates, thinks VMware will remain king of the hill in virtualized systems management, at least in the near future.

“Many of the management capabilities Microsoft and Citrix announced are just catching up to VMware’s advanced add-on features,” Mann told by e-mail. And Red Hat is not even in the picture, as far as Mann is concerned.

“Red Hat’s KVM is way back in the pack in terms of even the most basic features and manageability,” he said. “Red Hat is trying to get into the virtualization fight, but it is leading with a glass chin, and is just going to get a bloody nose for its trouble.”

VMware unveiled VMware vCenter Server Heartbeat, which uses technology licensed from its partner, Neverfail, at VMworld Europe 2009 in Paris. Heartbeat will monitor and manage the automatic failover of VMware’s vCenter Server, which centrally manages, controls and automates both physical and virtual systems.

“With a combination of VMware and Neverfail or another third party high availability tool your whole physical and virtual data center is covered,” Mann said. Solutions for automated recovery and disaster recovery of virtualized systems make businesses more competitive and profitable because they speed up recovery from crashes and system failures, he added.

Taking VMware head on

Meanwhile, Citrix has unveiled Citrix Essentials, which offers dynamic virtualization management tools for both its own XenCenter and Microsoft’s Hyper-V, and Red Hat has announced its own set of virtualization management tools for the desktop and server.

Citrix’s stance is particularly strong, as, earlier this month, it entered a partnership with VMLogix under which it will integrate VMLogix LabManager and StageManager into its products, bring application lifecycle management capabilities to XenServer. These capabilities span different virtualization platforms, giving Citrix more oomph, as the other major vendors have platform-specific products.

Large tool vendors such as Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), IBM (NYSE: IBM) and CA (NASDAQ: CA) have extended their tools to manage the physical IT infrastructure to virtual environments, but many experts say these are not quite up to scratch because virtual systems need to be managed differently from physical ones. And smaller players like ManageIQ, Avocent (NASDAQ: AVCT) and Apani are – well – smaller vendors, so their impact on the enterprise market, which tends to be wary of small players, is limited, experts say.

On the other hand, all the major virtualization players focus mainly on their own environments, so that will hamper their growth. “The average environment has multiple hypervisors, and will retain a mixed physical-virtual deployment through 2010 at least,” Mann said.

“Solutions that manage multiple hypervisors, and both physical and virtual systems, are going to be the winners in the long run.”

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