EMC Gets Smarts About Server Management

by Amy Newman

Virtually Speaking: With Smarts Server Manager, VMware's parent company roots out problems in the physical and virtual, and brings the two environments closer together.

You've got to hand it to EMC. Not only does it have a significant presence in the storage market, it also dominates in the virtualization space with its VMware subsidiary, which, despite rumors it has made it clear it has no intention of giving up.

Back in October, EMC (NYSE: EMC) entered unchartered waters with the introduction of Server Configuration Manager and Configuration Analytics Manager, software suites that added server management to the company's varied offerings.

Those products were designed help customers manage servers, networks, applications and storage, regardless of the systems' physical or virtual footprint.

Now, EMC is adding to this arsenal with the release of EMC Smarts Server Manager. From a 10,000 foot perspective, Smarts Server is about VMware ESX is relation to the rest of the environment. At the ground level, the IP-based application uses EMC's Smarts technology to recognize and eventually manage anything with an IP connection, be it a physical server, a virtual machine, a storage device or a switch. As long as it has a IP address, Smarts Server Manager can manage it.

With virtual servers accepted and fast becoming the default approach to what a server is, the focus has shifted to automation. In some ways EMC has become of a victim of its own success. (The company owns about 84 percent of VMware.)

"VMotion [VMware's migration tool] makes it hard to keep track of things at any given point in time," Brian Lett, senior product marketing manager, EMC, told ServerWatch.

This brings with it myriad problems, not the least of that the newest addition to the Smarts Server product family is aiming to mitigate.

Lett explained that when EMC customers were surveyed about their most significant management challenges in deploying virtualization in tier-one application environments — in other words, what keeps them up at night — the most common answer was difficulty in isolating root cause across a virtual data center.

Hence, Smarts Server Manager chief value proposition: extending the power of automated root-cause analysis to virtual infrastructures by making EMC Smarts Root Cause Analysis and Codebook Correlation available to the virtual server environment. It isolates the true cause of a problem, as opposed to its symptoms. As a result, time is saved, the potential for introducing human errors is reduced, and fewer resources are consumed in the process.

While Smarts Server Manager does have some auto-discovery capabilities, it is not meant to be used as an auto-discovery tool. For that, Lett recommends Application Discovery Manager, which is also in the portfolio. It can drill gets down to the virtual machine and app level and can map dependencies.

Other Smarts Server Manager capabilities include the following: Monitoring the health of Microsoft Cluster Services and Veritas Cluster Servers, and integration with server hardware monitoring suites from IBM, Dell, and Sun to identify when servers are operating in a degraded state.

Not surprisingly, Smart Server Suite is integrates tightly with vCenter and clustering support is available. It supports only ESX, at this time, but he next release, currently scheduled for third quarter, will add Hyper-V support. No support for Citrix Xen is being planned at this time, as customers have not expressed strong interest.

Smarts Server Manager is available now. Current EMC Smarts customers can add Smarts Server Manager to their toolbox starting at $30,000, based on numbers of managed domains and devices.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been covering virtualization space since 2001, and is coauthoring a book about virtualization that is scheduled for publication in September 2009.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Mar 11th 2009
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