Manage virtualized sprawl with VRMs
The essence of my work is coming into daily contact with innovative technologies. A recent example was at the request of a partner company who wanted to answer- which one of these tools will best solve my virtualized datacenter headache? After initial analysis all the products could be classified as tools that troubleshoot VM sprawl, but there was no universally accepted term for them. The most descriptive term that I found was Virtual Resource Manager (VRM) from DynamicOps. As I delved deeper into their workings, the distinction between VRMs and Private Clouds became blurred. What are the differences?
What is a VRM?
A Virtual Resource Manager provides agile and dynamic management in virtualized environments. Kinda vague, so what does this actually mean? Well, with today's data centers migrating their infrastructure from hard metal to virtualized resources (storage, VMs, networking etc.) admins need the power to manage this new landscape efficiently – VRMs enable this with:
- Dynamic provisioning of virtual resources – VRMs provide one-click VM provisioning. Clients select their template, and submit their order. Within minutes the machine is deployed and started ready for use.
- Work-flow management – enabling automation of key management processes i.e. periodic heavy computation benefits from automated provisioning of virtual resources. VRM management API's allow applications to manage their own virtualized resources.
- High availability – VRMs monitor and take action (restart, create new instances) when virtualized resources fail.
- Usage statistics and billing – users are billed for what they use according to their pricing model.
- Single point management of heterogeneous virtualized infrastructure – if my finance department uses Citrix Xen virtualization and my HR uses VmWare, these can be managed by the IT department from a single web interface
The key thing to take away from this list is flexibility. In essence, rather than admins managing the infrastructure, this power is given to accountable users. Effectively users are now customers and can manage their own virtual resources.
Available VRM products
A quick overview of available VRM products and their supported features is shown. At a glance we can see that products from the established big players, VMware and Citrix, have been recently joined by in-house developed solutions, such as Zimory's management layer. We can only assume that these were developed to solve problems with existing virtualization management tools.
Time restraints meant that I could not get my hands dirty, so I can only quote what the vendors say. Additions, comments and corrections are welcomed!
|VMware vCloud||Citrix Essentials||DynamicOps' Virtual Resource Management||Zimory's management layer||FastScale Composer Suite||Surgient Virtual Automation Platform|
|VM life cycle management||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Supported virtualizers||VMware||Citrix Xen,Microsoft Hyper-V||Citrix Xen, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V||Citrix Xen, VMware||VMware||VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V|
|Workflow management API||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes|
|Usage and billing||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Web based management console||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes
VRM = Cloud?
VRM functionality seems strikingly similar to products that enable the creation of Private Clouds. Last month my colleague blogged about Eucalyptus to create IaaS. Key functionality, such as dynamic VM management, usage statistics and billing are found in both. So are there any differences?
One notable difference is that VRMs provide hooks (VRM management API) that allow applications to take control of the virtual environment. A novel use could be applications that are responsible for their own load balancing. Application developers know where the limitations of their apps performance are. A highly efficient environment can be created by enabling developers to write code that takes decisive action, such as utilizing another cluster, when performance suffers.
In my opinion the differences between VRMs and Private Cloud are only going to get smaller as one takes from the other.