Virtually Speaking: Laying the Foundation

by Amy Newman

If management is key to a successful virtualized infrastructure, planning is its foundation. Cirba claims it can make it easier for organizations to pour the virtual concrete.

Amy Newman

We've stressed time and again that for a virtualized infrastructure to accomplish its goals, it must have effective management. Thus, the key to establishing a virtualized infrastructure lies, not surprisingly, in the planning.

Easier said than done, no doubt. Determining which servers to virtualize and which workloads to run on them can be complex — especially in heterogeneous server rooms with hundreds or thousands of servers running apps on platforms that aren't always compatible.

Ontario-based Cirba, is one company offering a way to simplify the process.

The software is designed to be used before the consolidation gets under way. It pulls in server room workload audited data from any agent or agentless source, with MOM [define] being the most common, Co-founder and CTO Andrew Hillier told ServerWatch.

After gathering the needed information, Cirba runs various patent-pending algorithms to analyze the information and determine possible configuration conflicts (e.g., operating system and platform incompatibilities), workload patterns (e.g., CPU utilization and network and disk I/O) and business constraints (e.g., geography, business service or maintenance windows). It then makes recommendations for virtualization and other consolidation endeavors.

The results are visually displayed on grid maps that can then be broken out based on the type of constraint or over-layed for a cumulative picture. They can also be modified and re-evaluated to illustrate possible changes.

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Hillier describes the typical end user of the product as, "someone in capacity management, an IT analyst or someone with a technology background who will sit down and look at the data."

Cirba was founded in 1999, back when server sprawl was a modus operendi and underutilization was the norm. The software was developed to ease the pain associated with consolidation, an obvious byproduct of today's modus operendi for virtualization.

In addition to virtualization, Cirba's consolidation focus makes it well-suited for organizations undergoing a database consolidation, application or operating system stacking, sprawl or diversity avoidance, and migrations or transformations.

On Tuesday, the company announced version 4.0 of its flagship product. Key enhancements in version 4.0, according to Hillier, are a new and improved user interface and increased interactivity.

Interface elements and drill-down menus are now accessible directly from the analysis screen. Users can change color mapping to better visualization potential changes within complex environments, and then drill down for the underlying details and settings that would be required to act on a given plan.

Since Cirba is particularly well-suited for virtualization, and virtualization is an area of great growth, version 4.0 offers additional VMware reporting capabilities in the form of a "VMware Configuration" report. It provides detailed configuration information about a VMware ESX host server and its guest VMs.

Version 4.0 is available now. It's sold in a subscription model on a per-OS, per-month basis based on the duration of the commitment, Chuck Tatham, vice president of marketing and business development, told ServerWatch. It includes training in how to perform the analysis.

With version 4.0 Cirba's software is now available in two flavors: The Enterprise Edition lets admins analyze all aspects of the data center and play the what-if games with multiple consolidation strategies. Organizations that prefer to cut right to the virtualization chase, however, can take advantage of the Departmental Edition licensing option. It analyzes for virtualization and examines only workloads.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

This article was originally published on Friday Jan 19th 2007
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