VMware vCenter guide: An overview of VMware management tools

The VMware vCenter product line covers everything from basic monitoring to disaster recovery, and the number of VMware management tools continues to grow.

The VMware vCenter product line consists of several VMware management tools, and it's constantly growing.

The flagship product is VMware vCenter Server , and other popular products include Site Recovery Manager, Update Manager and Orchestrator.

In 2010, VMware acquired several Ionix management products from its parent company, EMC, and added them to the vCenter family. Ionix Application Stack Manager and Ionix Server Configuration Manager were rolled into one new product, vCenter Configuration Manager, and Ionix Application Discovery Manager became vCenter Application Discovery Manager. (A new VMware pricing structure for vCenter, based on a per-VM model, also went into effect at this time.) And in early 2011, another new VMware vCenter product, Operations, hit the market.

But one VMware vCenter product won't be around to enjoy this growth much longer. VMware has announced that it is killing Lab Manager, its testing and lifecycle-automation product, to focus instead on vCloud Director.

VMware has also expanded vCenter's capabilities through the use of third-party plug-ins. Several vendors now offer VMware vCenter plug-ins to add new features and improve integration with their own products.

The following resources provide in-depth information about VMware vCenter products and how these VMware management tools can help virtualization admins.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
VMware vCenter Server  | VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager |
Other VMware vCenter products
 



VMWARE VCENTER SERVER

VMware vCenter Server provides configuration, monitoring and automation capabilities for vSphere virtual machines (VMs). VCenter Server also unlocks the power of vSphere's advanced features, including vMotion, High Availability and Fault Tolerance. This section covers how to install vCenter Server and take advantage of some of its new capabilities.

VMware vCenter Server installation requirements
Before starting the vCenter Server installation process, you need to know the product's requirements. VMware allows vCenter Server to be installed on physical servers or VMs, but there are some limitations. It must go on an x86 processor from AMD or Intel with at least 2.0 GHz, and there needs to be at least 2GB of memory. Other vCenter server installation requirements cover storage, networking and operating systems.

VMware vCenter Server installation steps and components
The vCenter Server installation process is fairly straightforward, but it requires additional components to unlock its full potential. After completing a vCenter Server installation, you should also install vCenter Guided Consolidation, vCenter Converter and vCenter Update Manager.

Configuring VMware vCenter Server Linked Mode
With vSphere 4, VMware added a new vCenter Server feature called Linked Mode. This tool makes vCenter Server more powerful; for example, a single vCenter instance that normally supports up to 3,000 VMs can support up to 10,000 VMs in Linked Mode. VMware vCenter Server Linked Mode also provides streamlined management, and it comes with vSphere's Essentials Edition and higher.

Forwarding event logs for compliance
The event logs in VMware vCenter Server provide information on the health of your infrastructure and can help troubleshoot problems. But if your organization must follow compliance regulations, you may need to create a centralized logging system. Luckily, there are several tools -- including Syslog servers and even Windows itself -- that can help.
 



VMWARE VCENTER SITE RECOVERY MANAGER

VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is software that automates disaster recovery (DR). It relies on third-party storage arrays and supports NFS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel datastores, as well as shared recovery sites. In addition, SRM works with other VMware vCenter features, including Fault Tolerance and Distributed Power Management. This section explains how SRM works and what it can do for your DR strategy.

VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager disaster recovery best practices
To get the biggest bang for your SRM buck, you need a high-speed (and preferably dedicated) network connection, array-based replication at both sites and sufficient hardware, storage and network resources. Developing, testing and executing a DR plan are also Site Recovery Manager disaster recovery best practices.

Customizing VMware vCenter SRM recovery plans with PowerCLI 
Sure, you can use Microsoft batch files to perform SRM commands, but that's like taking a horse-and-buggy ride across the country when you have your own private jet. The private jet in this case is the combination of Microsoft PowerShell and VMware PowerCLI. These commands and scripts give you more control over your recovery plan. You can use PowerCLI to reduce the amount of memory VMs use during the recovery process, for example.

Resignaturing VMFS volumes: The forgotten VMware SRM subject
Virtual machine file signature (VMFS) resignaturing is an important aspect of VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager. There are two different approaches to SRM resignaturing, but both will take a snapshot and make it visible to the host -- an important aspect of DR. You can either perform the resignaturing manually or use scripts to automate the process.

VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager: An exclusive look at the future
In the future, VMware Site Recovery Manager will include host-based replication, automated failover, planned migration and other advanced capabilities. Host-based replication will likely allow replication from one storage type to another (say, from Fibre Channel to NFS). And planned migration will help VMware SRM become more of an overall site management tool.
 



OTHER VMWARE VCENTER PRODUCTS

VCenter Server and SRM are only two of many VMware vCenter products available for admins looking to manage their virtual infrastructures. This section covers other VMware vCenter products, how they work and what they do.

VMware vCenter Orchestrator 
VCenter Orchestrator, a free tool that comes with vCenter Server, automates workflows in VMware infrastructures. It uses plug-ins to perform workflow automation with other VMware products, such as vCloud Director, and with third-party hardware platforms. Users can also import and export workflows to and from vCenter Orchestrator.

VMware vCenter Update Manager 
There are lots of different ways to patch and update VMware hosts. You can use remote and local command line utilities, or you can use vCenter Update Manager. Update Manager is a vCenter Server plug-in that adds additional patching capabilities, but you must meet certain hardware and network requirements to take full advantage.

VMware vCenter Operations 
VCenter Operations is VMware's foray into the operations management market. The product, announced at Partner Exchange 2011, monitors and manages capacity and performance in both physical and virtual infrastructures. And it has drawn early intrigue among VMware shops eager for simpler IT management.

This was first published in April 2011

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