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An inside look at the vCenter Operations Management Suite

In a recent update, vCenter Operations Manager received a makeover, with VMware adding new features and packaging it with additional products to form the vCenter Operations

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Management Suite.  Let’s take a look at the products it contains and how they can be used together.

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VCenter Operations Management Suite tiers
VMware offers four editions of vCenter Operations Management Suite at different prices. The Standard edition provides a limited set of features from Operations Manager at a price of $50 per virtual machine (VM). The Advanced edition includes the full functionality of vCenter Operations and  CapacityIQ for $125 per VM. The Enterprise edition introduces the full Infrastructure Navigator and Chargeback products as well as Configuration Manager for vSphere host-compliance checking for $195 per VM. The Enterprise Plus edition provides the full functionality of Configuration Manager for physical devices and guest-level compliance, in addition to automated remediation. (VMware does not list a price for the Enterprise Plus edition on its website.)

VCenter Operations Manager updates
People familiar with vCenter Operations 1.0 will see some similarity to vCenter Operations Manager 5.0. (Yes, VMware jumped the version number with this release to align with the vSphere 5 release number.) But they will also see many, new things.

The badges are still the center of the interface. But, with the addition of minor badges, this upgrade provides a lot more detail about how the major badges are scored.

The goal of the Operations Manager's interface is to distill the numerous statistics within the vSphere environment into a series of easy-to-understand badges that reveal the source of any problem, within a few clicks. The three, main badges give a quick diagnosis of the Health, Risk and Efficiency of your virtual environment. These badges are made up of several, minor badges.

  • Health is determined by analyzing the workload, anomalies and faults, each of which appear as minor badges.  A high workload doesn't necessarily cause a poor Health score, however. The Anomalies badge utilizes patented analytics to set dynamic thresholds of what the norm is for each entity. If the workload value is high, but it’s still within the dynamic threshold (low Anomaly score), then the Health remains high. Faults is the final, minor Health badge, and it indicates the number of faults an entity has experienced. If the value of the Faults badge increases, it will decrease the Health score, regardless of the value of the Workload or Anomalies scores.
  • Risk is a measure of the Time Remaining, Capacity Remaining and Stress that has historically been observed in the environment. Operations Manager calculates these metrics using the analytics previously contained in VMware's vCenter CapacityIQ product. CapacityIQ is now integrated into Operations Manager and is no longer available as a separate product.
  • Efficiency is a combination of the Reclaimable Waste in the environment and the VM-to-host density. Reclaimable Waste, also from the CapacityIQ analytics, identifies the resources that have been assigned to VMs, but are not in use. The Density rating is based on comparing the actual VM density to the optimal VM density, which is based on the demand and available capacity. A large amount of wasted resources, combined with a low density ratio, makes for a poor Efficiency score.

Configuration Manager
VMware now offers Configuration Manager as part of the vCenter Operations Management Suite, but it’s also available as a standalone product. Its purpose is to help maintain consistency across the entire infrastructure.

Similar to Host Profiles’ compliance-checking functionality within vSphere, Configuration Manager can compare hosts, servers and desktops to a standardized baseline. There are many baselines already built into the product, including hardening and security best practices from VMware, Microsoft and governmental regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. When Configuration Manager finds a system that is out of compliance, an admin can quickly remediate the problem from within the Configuration Manager interface or document the exception.

Admins can use Configuration Manager to track configuration changes and correlate those changes with the data in Operations Manager to determine what changed and how the change affected performance. 

Chargeback Manager
Admins need to understand the virtual infrastructure costs to completely understand how well an environment operates. Once an administrator enters some basic costs, Chargeback Manager analyzes the environment based on a selected cost model. There are many different cost models built into the product, including pay per use, reservation based and several designed specifically for use with vCloud Director

Tying these costs to the Waste metrics in Operations Manager can help identify how to make the vSphere environment operate more efficiently. Because these actions usually require the reduction of VM-level resources, such as reducing the number of virtual CPUs assigned to a VM, having a cost justification to back up the actions will be an invaluable tool. 

Chargeback Manager is still available as a standalone product.

Infrastructure Navigator
The final piece of the vCenter Operations Management Suite offers automatic application dependency mapping. It provides both a listing of all the applications on a VM and the interactions between these applications and the applications on other VMs. This information results in a better understanding of the infrastructure and application dependencies. 

Admins can overlay data from VMware's Disaster Recovery product and Site Recover Manager onto the Infrastructure Navigator mappings to ensure that failover groups are properly map to the application dependencies.

Infrastructure Navigator is only available through the vCenter Operations Management Suite.

All put together, the vCenter Operations Management Suite is a very powerful grouping of infrastructure-management products. Each tool is a powerful, standalone utility, but packaged together within the Operations Manager Suite, and the sum is greater than the parts.

This was first published in April 2012

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