Virtualisation could hardly be hotter as a trend, yet virtualisation management and security tools are still in their infancy. At first, it defies logic. But CIOs on the front lines of virtualisation efforts know the reality of the problem: VMs can be deployed in minutes, which is a big advantage on the tactical side-and a big worry on the management side.
After initial virtualisation deployments wowed business people with their ability to save money and speed up processes like IT provisioning, the number of VMs quickly escalated in enterprises. Issues like balancing workloads on virtualised servers and tracking all those VMs became much more important. The big vendors in the space, VMware and Xen (now owned by Citrix), were, to some extent, learning along with the customers about the everyday management headaches and concerns.
Only as more of those worries arose did rival companies come knocking on CIOs' doors with products designed to provide a comprehensive look at the virtualised data center, manage it and protect it.
Sure, VMware and Citrix/Xen have their own management tools. But who are the other key companies innovating in this area? We talked to CIOs and industry analysts to narrow down a list of ten virtualisation management and security vendors that should be on any IT leader's radar screen in 2008.
CiRBA's Data Center Intelligence Software can help IT leaders analyze and visually map how to migrate and consolidate servers to a virtualised environment. For instance, CiRBA's tools help you figure out which servers and applications can coexist efficiently. The tools analyze factors such as application middleware, database configurations, required service levels and workload patterns. Then CiRBA's tools can help manage the virtualised environment. "CiRBA's planning tool is extensible, allowing planners to add custom evaluation criteria to any planning scenario," says Burton Group senior analyst Chris Wolf. "This is extremely valuable." CiRBA's tools can also be used in planning for OS virtualisation, application stacking and migrations to blade environments-and prove helpful for virtualisation security audits, notes Wolf.
Who's got your virtual backup? Many CIOs continue to choose Vizioncore, which has become well-known for its VM backup tool, vRanger Pro. But Vizioncore tackles performance management as well. Vizioncore tools like vCharter, which examines what's going on inside each VM, can provide a window into utilization and performance questions..
Akorri's BalancePoint suite can help solve one of the toughest questions IT teams have around virtualisation: How far can I push this physical server by adding on more VMs without affecting application service levels? BalancePoint's analysis tools can see across server, storage and software issues to help you plan and manage workload balancing issues. Monster.com, for instance, uses Balance Point to see which apps are competing for storage and server resources-and ensure IT's ability to meet service-level goals. BalancePoint also can help decipher why a particular VM is not performing as well as expected.
4. Platform Computing
Also fighting on the workload automation front, Platform Computing's VM Orchestrator and Enterprise Grid Orchestrator products could get the attention of more IT groups in 2008. "Platform Computing has a history of expertise in grid computing and workload automation," notes Burton Group's Wolf, "and I believe several virtualisation vendors will look to leverage Platform Computing's proven architecture as they build out products to compete with workload automation alternatives such as VMware's Distributed Resource Scheduler."
Embotics calls itself a "VM Lifecycle Management" company. That's the kind of jargon that not everyone likes. But the company's V-Commander software (which integrates with VMware's VirtualCenter management suite) deserves interest, says IDC Research Director Stephen Elliott. The product aims to reign in the problem of "rogue VMs" that IT may not know about, and lets IT apply policies and automation to the job of tagging and tracking each VM in the company. Embotics claims early success with customers in regulated industries who face extra audit pressure. "They are taking a lifecycle perspective, really looking at integrating security controls, change management and policy from one dashboard," Elliot says. "The goal is to help users drive an integrated governance approach to managing virtual machines-notably from the use of policies that dictate the virtual machine lifecycle from creation to retirement."
Storage firm EqualLogic, recently acquired by Dell, became known for its iSCSI storage-area network (SAN) products, which have now been optimized for virtualisation. These products can help enterprise IT radically reduce storage costs using a SAN. (Before iSCSI, the only other mainstream option was fibre channel, a technology that's too complex and expensive to manage for many companies.) Within storage, iSCSI is a hot growth area: IDC expects 25 percent of all external storage sold in 2011 to be iSCSI-based.
Known for its physical-to-virtual conversion tools and workload management tools, PlateSpin continues to win over customers even as some free conversion tools have become available, says Burton Group's Wolf. PlateSpin's P2V conversion tool, PowerConvert, has remained relevant due to its expanded use models, including disaster recovery staging and virtual-to-physical conversion capabilities, Wolf says. Also, PlateSpin added chargeback reporting to its PowerRecon product, an interesting reporting and management tool, just as many IT groups are trying to figure out how to do chargebacks to business units in the virtualised world.
8. Marathon Technologies
How do you deal with planned and unplanned downtime in a virtualised environment? Marathon's everRun HA (high availability) and everRun FT (fault tolerant) products have won acclaim-including a recent VMworld Best of Show award-for their ability to help IT ensure availability to end users. That award is even more interesting given that Marathon's products today work with Xen virtual environments, not VMware's. "VM high availability will be a significant concern in 2008 as virtualisation technology improvements allow more high-end enterprise applications to run inside virtual machines," Wolf says.
9. Blue Lane
CIOs looking for an extra layer of security protection in the virtualised environment are tuning into the possibilities of Blue Lane's VirtualShield product for VMware, which aims to protect virtual machines even in cases where certain patches are out of date. The software can also automatically scan for possible problems, update problem areas and protect against some remote threats. That could be an added layer of comfort while the traditional security and management vendors catch up, some security experts say.
10. Reflex Security
Reflex's Virtual Security Appliance (VSA), which security guru and Unisys' chief architect for security innovation Chris Hoff describes along with BlueLane's software as one of the few emerging virtualisation security products worth attention right now, essentially serves a virtual intrusion detection system (IDS). It adds a layer of security policies inside the physical boxes where the VMs live. Some CIOs are investigating Reflex's VSA to block potential threats like hypervisor attacks, among other possible future troubles.
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