Virtualization has run far ahead of the management systems most enterprises use to control their IT environments. That's a problem because this lack of control means many enterprises can't unleash the full potential of server virtualization.
A recent survey called "VMware Management with Enterprise Management Systems from the Big 5: Microsoft, HP, IBM, CA and BMC" commissioned by Veeam Software, a maker of virtual infrastructure management software, gives some interesting insights into where management systems have fallen behind. The survey includes the views of more than 250 CIOs from the United States and Europe.
Almost 90 percent of the companies included in the survey use either Microsoft's System Center, IBM Tivoli or HP OpenView to manage their corporate infrastructure. But when it comes to their VMware estates, these management frameworks appear to be inadequate -- something that will sound familiar to anyone using VMware extensively. The survey found around 80 percent of the companies were using specialist tools primarily for virtualization because only these tools, rather than their management systems, gave them the granular control they need.
One of the key points about centralized management systems is that they offer a single management console that provides a view of an enterprise's whole infrastructure. Having to use specialist tools breaks this if there's now two places you must look. And things get a whole lot worse when it comes to managing two virtualized environments -- typically VMware and Microsoft's Hyper-V. Two thirds of those surveyed emphasized the importance of be able to manage both VMware and Hyper-V from a single management console, yet almost three quarters currently have problems doing that.
The result of this is that despite the many features VMware and Hyper-V offer, and the healthy competition driving virtualization technologies to become more powerful over time, many enterprises are restricting usage of these features to those that can be easily managed. In fact, the survey found that in almost half (48 percent) of all cases, companies based their hypervisor purchasing decision not on what it could do, but rather on how easily it could be managed. Perhaps more worryingly for the hypervisor vendors, about the same proportion (45 percent) said that management concerns are responsible for "VM stall" and a moratorium or slowing in their adoption of virtualization technology.
When you think about it, this is clearly a ludicrous state of affairs. Virtualization is here to stay, and most enterprises will be using virtualization technology to a greater or lesser degree as part of their IT setup for the foreseeable future. But as far as management systems are concerned, it's a part of the enterprise IT setup that can be controlled only to a limited extent, or with the help of third-party, hypervisor-specific plugins. The result of this lack of visibility into what's going on in the virtualized part of the IT setup is that 49 percent of the companies surveyed experienced delays resolving IT problems.
The good news is that it's a state of affairs that surely won't persist in the long term. It's in nobody's interest -- not the hypervisor makers', not the management system vendors', and certainly not the enterprise end users' -- that virtualized resources of any type must be treated differently to physical machines running the same operating systems. VM stall helps no one, but as virtualization technology matures and the pace of change slows, it's likely that management systems will catch up with the virtualized infrastructures they'll be expected to manage.
But until that happens, don't expect to get the most from your virtualized infrastructure easily or efficiently.
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.