The Challenge of Managing Multi-Platform Virtualization

While virtualization has been experiencing widespread adoption over the past decade it was considered an x86-VMware phenomenon. Sure there are other hypervisors, but for most organizations VMware was synonymous with virtualization. Even on the x86 platform, Microsoft Hyper-V was the also ran. Of course, virtualization has been baked into the mainframe for decades, but most organizations only began to take notice with the rise of VMware.

Virtualization provides the foundation for cloud computing, and as cloud computing gains traction across all segments of the computing landscape virtualization increasingly is understood as a multi-platform and multi-hypervisor game. Today’s enterprise is likely to be widely heterogeneous. It will run virtualized systems on x86 platforms, Windows, Linux, Power, and System z. By the end of the year, expect to see both Windows and Linux applications running virtualized on x86, Power Systems, and the zEnterprise mainframe.

Welcome to the virtualized multi-platform, multi-hypervisor enterprise. While it brings benefits—choice, flexibility, cost savings—it also comes with challenges. The biggest of which is management complexity. Growing virtualized environments have to be tightly managed or they can easily spin out of control with phantom and rogue VMs popping up everywhere and gobbling system resources. The typical platform- and hypervisor-specific tools simply won’t do the trick. This will require tools to manage virtualization across the full range of platforms and hypervisors.

Not surprisingly, IBM, which probably has the most virtualized platforms and hypervisors of any vendor, also is the first with cross-platform, cross-hypervisor management in Systems Director’s newest version of VMControl, version 2.4, part of IBM’s System Director family of management tools. This is truly multi everything management. From a single console you control VMs running on x86 Windows, x86 Linux, and Linux on Power. One administrator can start, stop, move, and otherwise manage virtual machines, even across platforms. And it is agnostic as far as the hypervisor goes; it can handle VMware, Hyper V, and KVM.  It also integrates with Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager and VMware vCenter. (I’ve been told by IBM that it also will be able to manage VMs running on the zEnterprise platform soon after a few issues are resolved regarding the mainframe’s already robust virtualization management.)

The multi-platform VMControl 2.4 dovetails nicely with another emerging virtualization trend—open virtualization. In just a few months the Open Virtualization Alliance has grown from the initial four founders (IBM, Red Hat, Intel, and HP) to over 200 members. The open source KVM hypervisor being championed by the alliance handles both Linux and Windows workloads, allowing organizations to dodge yet another element of vendor lock-in. One organization already used that flexibility to avoid higher charges by running the open source hypervisor for a test and dev situation. That kind of open virtualization requires just the kind of multi-platform virtualization management VMControl 2.4 delivers.

Multi-platform is where enterprise virtualization has to go. Eventually BottomlineIT expects the other hypervisors to get there, but it may take a while.

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