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The top 10 VMware products to try in 2009

In addition to vSphere, VMware is slated to release several new products in 2009. Fault Tolerance, vCenter CapacityIQ, vCenter Data Recovery and the new virtual switches are a few worth trying.

When you think about VMware products today, you likely think of VMware ESX 3.5 and the VMware Infrastructure Suite. While that suite includes many useful features, such as VMware High Availability (HA) and VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB), most enterprises today have a list of third-party VMware-related products that they need to use to manage their virtual infrastructure and a wish list of features that they need but don't have.

This year, VMware will release more products than it ever has. Many of these products fill the holes on that wish list and other products take aim at many of the third-party virtualization products in use today. This poses a few questions:

  • With its new offerings, will VMware put third-party management and other products out of business?
  • Will direct competition from VMware benefit end users?
  • Will end users get better products and/or lower prices from this competition?

VMware has created products that compete with existing third-party products and that increase its product breadth. (Does Microsoft come to mind, anyone?)

Before we answer these questions, here are the top 10 VMware products you should try in 2009 (listed in their order on the VMware products website).

1. Fault Tolerance (FT)
VMware's FT is a major improvement over its current availability product, VMware HA. With HA, if an ESX host goes down its guest OSes are automatically restarted on another ESX host. Guest OSes must be rebooted, causing downtime for end users and potential data loss. VMware FT eliminates these issues. With Fault Tolerance, any guests in the FT resource pool are mirrored on another ESX host. Thus, the same amount of memory is used on the backup host as is used by the VM guest on the primary host. But if the primary ESX host goes down, VM guests covered by FT won't have to reboot, thus preventing data loss.

You can use HA and FT in your virtual infrastructure. I recommend using High Availability for lower-priority guest OSes and FT for higher-priority guest OSes. VMware FT is included only in the vSphere 4 Advanced , Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus editions, so you can't use this feature with vSphere 4 Standard.

FT may replace some third-party high availability tools, because FT makes high availability for virtual machine (VM) guest OSes faster, cheaper and easier to administer.

2. VMsafe.
VMsafe isn't a product, but rather a security framework with an application programming interface (API) for third-party security vendors, allowing them to develop products that better secure your VMware infrastructure. Unlike some of the other products in this list, VMsafe actually empowers third-party vendors instead of competing with them.

VMware already has more than 24 partners that are developing security products with VMsafe. Here's an example of how these partnerships could work: An vendor could develop an antivirus virtual appliance that protects both online and offline virtual machines in a virtual infrastructure. These kinds of security applications wouldn't be possible without the VMsafe API, which gives third-party software companies the visibility and control needed to secure the virtual infrastructure.

3. The vNetwork Distributed Switch and Cisco Systems'Nexus 1000V virtual switch
The new distributed switch will be a part of ESX 4. The switch allows virtual networking to be configured across all ESX hosts as though the hosts were one big ESX host. In other words, VMs could move across a wide area network (WAN) from subnet to subnet using VMware Site Recovery Manager without having to adjust their network configurations.

The vNetwork Distributed Switch will be part of the next version of ESX. Cisco Systems' Nexus 1000V will use features of the new ESX and add a Cisco Internetwork OS (IOS) interface and allow you to configure network interfaces across all ESX hosts as if they are on the same Cisco switch. For an enterprise that already uses VMware and Cisco, upgrading to the Nexus 1000V is a no-brainer.

4. VMware vCenter CapacityIQ
As you consolidate physical machines into virtual machines and increase the performance utilization of new physical host machines, performance monitoring is critical. For example, how do you know when you need to add a new physical host machine? VMware's new CapacityIQ will allow administrators to answer hypothetical questions, see current performance, and forecast future utilization.

Today, you likely use a third-party program for performance monitoring. That program could be either specialized for the monitoring of your virtual infrastructure and does a great job because it uses the VMware API for insight, or a general performance monitoring application that monitors both physical and virtual infrastructures but doesn't do as good of a job because it uses the Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). Certainly VMware's CapacityIQ will give both of these types of performance tools some competition.

5. VMware vCenter Data Recovery.
In its simplest form, Data Recovery is VMware's application for backing up and restoring virtual machines. This tool has been integrated into vCenter. There are other virtualization-specific backup tools for VMware, but Data Recovery will integrate better than any virtualization backup application that's on the market today. The downside is that currently Data Recovery doesn't scale to back up very large infrastructures, nor does it perform backup of physical servers. For the SMB, though, it could be a very viable option.

6. VMware vCenter ConfigControl.
Many enterprise organizations use the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) management framework for managing their IT infrastructures. A critical piece of ITIL is the use of the common management database (CMDB) for inventory and change management for all servers and applications. The VMware vCenter ConfigControl will integrate the virtual infrastructure with the CMDB – something that, up until this point, was very difficult to do.

For example, ConfigControl could allow you to automate the request, provisioning, configuration and inventory of a new virtual server, and it can also handle the destruction of the VM when it is no longer needed.

7. VMware vCenter Orchestrator.
As virtual infrastructures grow, the need for automation and workflow increases. VMware's new Orchestrator will automate tasks in the virtual infrastructure. It works with VMware's Lifecycle Manager and third-party products. Orchestrator allows you to automate over 800 tasks using drag-and-drop.

There are three components to Orchestrator: Workflow engine, a Web interface to execute workflows, and the Workflow development client.

8. VMware vCenter Chargeback.
VM sprawl can eat up a virtual infrastructure's resources. Which department does a particular VM belong to, and how can you demonstrate the real dollar cost to your company's CIO and other business executives? Chargeback is the answer. Until recently, you would have to use a third-party application for virtualization chargeback. In 2009, you will have a VMware chargeback solution that is built into the VMware Infrastructure Client (VI Client).

9. VMware vCenter AppSpeed.
What if your performance charts look good but users report that their applications run slowly? Virtual infrastructures and client/server applications running inside them are complicated to troubleshoot. Today, we lack real insight into the applications running in virtual infrastructure. So where do you start?

In 2008 VMware bought a B-Hive, which offers a product called Conductor, an application performance monitoring tool. VMware has renamed this tool and completely revamped it to integrate with the VI Client and vCenter. VMware's new AppSpeed will offer real application performance measurement.

10. VMware vShield Zones.
Ever since virtualization became a part of a business's IT infrastructure, security groups and auditors have been concerned about VMware's security. The new vShield Zones technology creates secure zones between groups of virtual machines. This way, security policies can be created for the virtual infrastructure and vShield Zones can enforce and audit those security policies.

Which third-party applications face competition from VMware's new offerings?
With VMware launching more than 10 new products in 2009, certain third-party products could become defunct or at least face stiff competition. I envision third-party products experiencing a challenge from VMware's new offerings in these areas :

 

  • ESX 4 thin provisioning versus SAN thin provisioning
  • VMware Fault Tolerance versus Double-Take Virtualization Edition
  • VMware vCenter Data Recovery versus virtualization backup products such as Veeam Backup, EsXpress, and Vizioncore vRanger
  • VMware vCenter CapacityIQ vs. vKernel Modeler, Veeam Monitor, Akorri, and Vizioncore vOptimizer
  • VMware vCenter Chargeback vs. vKernel Chargeback and vAlign

The above technologies are just some examples of how VMware's vSphere and other 2009 product offerings could compete with existing third-party solutions. Throughout the year, I will compare VMware's new offerings with third-party technologies. I also look forward to competitive comparisons that the third-party vendors may offer.

NOTE: Some of the products mentioned in this article have not yet been released and their names and packaging may be changed prior to release. Also, all the information in this article is publicly available information, taken from VMware webinars or VMware product web pages.

 

David Davis is the director of infrastructure at TrainSignal.com. He has a number of certifications including CCIE #9369, MCSE, CISSP, and VCP. Davis has also authored hundreds of articles and six different video training courses at Train Signal, his most popular being VMware ESX Server. His personal website is VMwareVideos.com. You can follow Davis on Twitter or connect with Davis on LinkedIn.


 

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