Mental Ward

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Managing the Infrastructure

The virtualization market is becoming quickly saturated with management products. That's a good thing: virtualization, far from simplifying management, normally increases management problems and needs. The ability to spin out a new VM means it takes you 20 minutes to get that new Web server into production, rather than days or weeks. It's hard for admins to resist the temptation.

The downside is that you have so many more servers to manage. Seeing this, traditional management vendors as well as a plethora of startups are jumping into the fray.

One of the more interesting vendors I've talked to lately is eG Innovations, which makes the eG Monitor for VMware. Srinivas Ramanathan, the company's president and CEO, is a former senior research scientist for HP, so he knows his stuff. He points out, correctly, that a chief weakness of VirtualCenter (VMware's primary management tool for ESX) is its inability to see what's happening inside a VM, into the application itself.

He claims that eG Monitor is different in that it looks not only inside the VM into the app, but looks at the entire infrastructure, at all levels, to troubleshoot. How is this different? "Most [of the] competition's [products] take information from VC [VirtualCenter], without getting inside the VM," Ramanathan says.

The limitations to VC are pretty clear. If you have a problem affecting your Web site response, for example, where does the problem lie? The back-end database server? The VM housing the server? Disk I/O? Network latency? VC can't see most of that. The eG Monitor specializes in tracking down the source of the problem, cutting down analysis time and allowing your admins to be more proactive, instead of spending all their time putting out fires.

Another problem is silo-based monitoring. The company provided a slide deck with its presentation, and one slide in particular was hilarious, because it rang true. When each admin group -- domain admin, virtualization admin, LAN admin, client admin, database admin and the like -- is responsible for only one small piece of the puzzle, passing the buck becomes a tradition. "Hey, my firewall's working OK." "Don't blame me; the DHCP server is running fine." "Nope, our resource utilization is right where it should be." And so on. Using the product to drill down and pinpoint the source of the trouble won't allow your admins that wiggle room.

One of eG's specialties is monitoring a VDI infrastructure; very handy if you're using it, but the value proposition is lessened if you're not.

Another differentiator, according to Ramanathan, is eG Monitor's ability to "autolearn": basically, instead of the admin setting performance thresholds, the Monitor starts gathering information to form the baseline. The Monitor uses "statistical techniques to determine what your norms should be," he adds. It appears that this "autolearn" functionality is getting more popular: Netuitive, another management company, is claiming similar abilities.

In all, these are encouraging trends. But sifting through the deluge of management tools is sure to get you plenty wet. If you've used some of these and would like to review them for us, let me know. If you're not using them, but would like to try them out, also let me know; reviewers get to play with this cool stuff for free!

Posted by Keith Ward on 06/24/2008 at 12:48 PM


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