By Chris Ward, CTO
I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently, both internally and with customers, around management strategies and tools related to virtualized and cloud infrastructures. There are many solutions out there and, as always, there is not a one size fits all silver bullet to solve all problems. VMware in particular has several solutions in their Cloud Infrastructure Management (CIM) portfolio, but it can get confusing trying to figure out the use cases for each product and when it may be the right fit to solve your specific challenge. I just finished giving some training to our internal teams around this topic and thought it would be good to share with the broader community at large. I hope you find it helpful and know that we at GreenPages are happy to engage in more detailed conversations to help you make the best choices for your management challenges. The core solutions that VMware has brought to market in the past few years include vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS), vCloud Automation Center (vCAC), IT Business Management (ITBM), and Log Insight. I’ll briefly cover each of these including what they do and where/when it makes sense to use them.
What is it? vCOPS is actually a solution suite which is available in four editions: Foundation, Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise. The core component of all four editions is vCenter Operations Manager which came from the acquisition of Integrian back in 2010 and is essentially a monitoring solution on steroids. In addition to typical performance and health monitoring/alerting, the secret sauce of this tool is its ability to learn what ‘normal’ is for your specific environment and provide predictive analytics. The tool will collect data from various virtual or physical systems (networking, storage, compute, virtual, etc.) and dynamically determine proper thresholds rather than the typical ‘best practice’ model thus reducing overall noise and false positive alarms. It can also provide proactive alerts as to when a problem may arise in the future vs. simply alerting after a problem has occurred. Finally, it also does a great job analyzing VM sizing and assisting in capacity planning. All of this is coupled with a very slick interface which is highly customizable. The Advanced and Enterprise editions of the suite also include vCenter Configuration Manager (vCM), vCenter Hyperic, vCenter Infrastructure Navigator (VIN), and vCenter Chargeback Manager (vCBM). vCM automates configuration and compliance management across virtual, physical, and cloud environments. Essentially this means those pesky Windows registry key changes, Linux iptables settings, etc. can be automated and reported upon to ensure that your environment remains configured to the standards you have developed. Hyperic does at the application layer what vCOPS does for the underlying infrastructure. It can monitor operating system, middleware, and application layers and provide automated workflows to resolve potential issues. VIN is a discovery tool used to create application dependency maps which are key when planning and designing security boundaries and disaster recovery solutions. vCBM is utilized for showback or chargeback so that various lines of business can be accountable for IT resource utilization. Where is it best utilized? The vCOPS suites are best suited for environments that require robust monitoring and/or configuration management and that have fairly mature IT organizations capable of realizing the toolset’s full potential.
What is it? Stemming from the acquisition of DynamicOps, this is primarily an automation/orchestration toolset designed to deploy and provision workloads and applications across multiple platforms be they physical, virtual, or cloud based. Additionally, vCAC provides a front end service catalog enabling end user IT self-service. Like most VMware product sets, vCAC comes in multiple editions as well including standard, advanced, and enterprise. Standard edition provides the base automation toolsets, advanced adds in the self-service catalog (the original DynamicOps feature set), and enterprise adds in dynamic application provisioning (formally vFabric AppDirector). Where is it best utilized? If you have a very dynamic environment, such as development or devops, then vCAC may well be the tool for you. By utilizing automation and self-service, it can take the time required to provision workloads/applications/platforms from potentially days or weeks down to minutes. If you have the issue of ‘shadow IT’ where end users are directly utilizing external services, such as Amazon, to bypass internal IT due to red tape, vCAC can help solve that problem by providing the speed and flexibility of AWS while also maintaining command and control internally.
ITBM What is it? Think of ITBM as more a CFO tool vs. a raw IT technology tool. Its purpose is to provide financial management of large (millions of dollars) IT budgets by providing visibility into true costs and quality so that IT may be better aligned to the business. It too comes in multiple editions including standard, advanced, and enterprise. The standard edition provides visibility into VMware virtualized environments and can determine relative true cost per VM/workload/application. Advanced adds the physical and non-VMware world into the equation and enterprise adds the quality component. Where is it best utilized? The standard edition of ITBM makes sense for most mid-market and above level customers who want/need to get a sense of the true cost of IT. This is very important when considering any move to a public cloud environment as you need to be able to truly compare costs. I hear all the time that ‘cloud is cheaper’ but I have to ask ‘cheaper than what.' If I ask you how much it costs to run workload X on your internal infrastructure per hour, week, month, etc. can you honestly give me an accurate answer? In most cases the answer is no, and that’s exactly where ITBM comes into play. On a side note, the standard edition of ITBM does require vCAC so if you’re already looking at vCAC then it makes a lot of sense to also consider ITBM.
What is it? Simply stated, it’s a dumping ground for just about any type of log you can imagine but with a google type flare. It has a very nice indexing/search capability that can help make sense of insanely large amounts of log data from numerous sources thus helping greatly in event correlation and troubleshooting as well as auditing. Where is it best utilized? Any environment where log management is required and/or for enhanced troubleshooting/root cause analysis. The licensing for this is interesting because unlike similar products it is per device rather than a per terabyte of data model, which can potentially provide a huge cost savings.
vSOM and vCloud Suites
vSOM (vSphere with Operations Management) is simply a bundle of traditional vSphere with vCOPS. The editions here are a little confusing as the standard edition of vCOPs comes with every edition of vSOM. The only difference in the vSOM editions are the underlying vSphere edition. The vCloud Suite includes most of what I have described above, but again comes in our favorite three editions of standard, advanced, and enterprise. Basically, if you’re already looking at two to three a la carte solutions that are part of a vCloud Suite edition, then you’re better off looking at the suite. You’ll get more value because the suites include multiple solutions and the suites, along with vSOM, remain licensed by physical processor socket vs by the number of VMs. Leave a comment if you have any other questions or would like a more detailed answer. Again, GreenPages helps our customers make the right choices for their individual needs so reach out if you would like to set up some time to talk. Hope this was helpful! D
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