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What kind of VM management tools help plan growth?

What tools can I use to manage capacity to accommodate further VM growth in a complex IT environment?

Most IT organizations use a suite of VM management tools to track virtual resource usage and the state of the physical IT infrastructure, or infrastructures, that support VMs.

The only way to successfully manage VM growth is with a solid understanding of the platform. Virtual servers are still hosted on physical resources, and VM performance depends on a mix of available CPU, network and storage resources at virtual and physical levels. Watch out for VM management tools that focus entirely (or predominantly) on the virtual aspects: problems arise when the physical systems cannot meet the needs of virtual workloads. Likewise, avoid tools that are more oriented to physical resource monitoring; they are not dynamic enough to provide the required insights to the virtual world.

Managing virtual machine performance

VM capacity growth is not just about available resources, but how they are utilized. Some workloads, such as payroll processing, are cyclical, and the VMs can be spun down when not in use. Look for virtualization management tools that monitor and build a real-world model of existing usage based on empirical data. Use this model for forward planning -- the "what if?" scenarios of adding another VM: Is it better supported on this server, or in a different cluster, and so on.

In some circumstances, a virtual workload should be shunted out to a public cloud -- allowing a mission-critical workload to use the available in-house physical resources. Public cloud can provide bursty resources to support the peaks of a specific workload. Containers (currently Docker in particular) are showing what the future could be for VM provisioning capacity.

Virtual machine management tools

When the IT mix is this complex, you often need multiple VM management tools. However, each vendor is advancing its feature set to more effectively manage an entire VM estate. It is a highly dynamic market with a mix of vendors:

  • Large companies such as VMware, BMC Software, CA Technologies and Dell
  • Smaller proven companies including SolarWinds, VMturbo and Veeam
  • And newer players like ManageEngine and SaltStack

About the author
Clive Longbottom is the co-founder and service director of IT research and analysis firm Quocirca, based in the U.K. Longbottom has more than 15 years of experience in the field. With a background in chemical engineering, he's worked on automation, control of hazardous substances, document management and knowledge management projects.

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