For the last year or so this column has been closely tracking the thriving market for third-party management software products — the ones that are designed to make it easier to manage your virtual server estates than is possible using the software typically supplied by the hypervisor vendors.
In fact, just last week we looked at the remarkable HotLink's SuperVISOR for VMware, a product that snaps into VMware's vCenter, allowing administrators to manage Hyper-V, XenServer or KVM-based virtual machines from the vCenter console.
By all accounts it's a good product with a very cool name, and there's certainly a need for it. That's because many – most even – early adopters of server virtualization technology chose VMware as a virtualization platform and continue to manage their VMs using vCenter. But now that alternative platforms based on other virtualization technologies are more credible and available at a lower cost, it makes sense to take advantage of them, often while continuing to use vCenter as mission control.
But what about companies that are coming to server virtualization from, if you like, the other direction? We're talking Microsoft shops that use System Center as mission control — not just for their virtual estates but for their entire computing infrastructure.
What if these companies want to run VMware-based virtual machines as well? They may well want to do so for a wide variety of reasons.
One company that would be very pleased to help make that happen is Veeam. Veeam's Management Pack lets System Center users monitor VMware environments from within System Center's Operations Manager. And this week the company announced that it is giving away its Management Pack for nothing.
Why is Veeam doing this? From the kindness of its heart? Hardly. "We are doing it to sell more software of course," says Doug Hazelman, Veeam's chief evangelist.
"Lots of Microsoft's System Center customers use VMware, and we want them to know that they can get deep monitoring of their VMware VMs through Operations Manager. If their management platform is Operations Center, why should they use vCenter?"
Inevitably, there's a catch with Veeam's free Mangement Pack. Three actually. To qualify for the free management pack you can't be an existing Veeam Management Pack customer, and you have to be – or about to be – a System Center 2012 user.
And finally, the free Management Pack includes a perpetual license (as well as a year of maintenance and support) for just 10 sockets, which probably translates to about 5 hosts. With an average consolidation ratio of 5 servers per host (according to data collected by Veeam's own V-Index), that works out at about 25 VMware VMs.
Hazelman says that as the move to private clouds builds momentum and Microsoft customers start to build them using System Center, they won't have to be tied to Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor. "The underlying hypervisor shouldn't matter," he says. "But from an operations perspective, you'll still need to know what's going on, what network bottlenecks are becoming problems, and whether power supplies are about to fail."
Given that Veeam's software – and System Center – is aimed at medium to large enterprises with probably a minimum of 10 virtualization hosts, and probably more like 50 or 100, you can see that a 10 socket license was no arbitrary number chosen by Veeam. It's just sufficient to pique the interest of administrators, without being enough to be operationally useful. And fair play to them for that.
Still, Veeam doesn't get everything right. Back in July last year, Veeam launched its V-Index with great fanfare, promising a useful free resource for tracking things like virtualization rates, consolidation ratios and primary hypervisor usage around the world. But recently, Veeam has gone rather quiet about V-Index, and yesterday Hazelman confirmed that V-Index will be discontinued — for reasons left unspecified.
It's a shame, but if you're a new customer that plans on using System Center 2012, it's a case of Veeam giveth and Veeam taketh away. Such is life.
Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.