VMware continued its march up-market last week with the release of three new product suites that put it into direct competition with mainline management vendors such as BMC and even smaller enterprise vendors.

The enhancements to its vCenter Operations suite, and the new VMware vFabric Application Management and VMware IT Business Management suites, seek to speed the deployment, operations and management of virtualized cloud environments by spanning traditional IT silos such as development, operations and infrastructure.

VMware has 3 goals for the new offerings. The first is to build more policy-based automation into the development, deployment and operation of virtualized cloud environments. The second is to bring together formerly separate disciplines such as the creation of applications, their deployment and their ongoing management. The final aim is to allow IT to move from being a “builder” of applications and services to a “broker” of services that might come from inside the organization or be built outside.

In some cases, VMware is more tightly integrating capabilities that formerly required “bolt on” tools, says Ramin Sayar, VP of Products & Strategy, Virtualization & Cloud Management. In other cases, For example, the VMware vCenter Operations Management™ Suite gains deeper integration with VMware vCenter Capacity IQ™ and VMware vCenter Configuration Manager. In other cases, such as with the IT Business Management Suite, it is using technology acquired by buying another company (Digital Fuel) to move into the “business services” management space already claimed by traditional management vendors such as BMC, which is allegedly a partner.

 

The vFabric Application Management Suite will help customers combine and streamline work previously done by development and operations staffs, while vFabric AppDirector “will standardize and automate the release/deployment of applications to any cloud through easy-to-create blueprints with standardized templates, component libraries, and deployment workflows,” the company says.

VMware also claim it will allow customers to easily see which IT components support which specific applications. That makes it easier to determine which might need upgrading and which are redundant or are no longer needed – a capability also provided by enterprise architecture vendors. Sayar says the capabilities VMware provides are easier to use, integrated with their other management tools and are free.

The enhancements speak well to customer needs for more policy-driven automation, and even the use of template server and service configurations, to drive down the cost and time required to deliver IT as a utility. Customers will also welcome the ability to manage private, public or “hybrid” clouds from a single console, even though many are only now edging cautiously out of their own data centers into hybrid clouds.

Some of the bigger, non-technical issues vendors must tackle are lingering concerns over security, such as those I addressed in a recent Computerworld story, as well more general control and compliance issues. Then there is the cultural change required for a CIO, and their staffs, to move from being builders (real men code, you know) to mere bean counters weighing terms and conditions from the internal staff vs. an outsourcer.

Finally, for vendors, I suggest being careful with how they explain and differentiate their offerings. Management spans a lot of functions, and so do services (IT services such as database and authentication? Business services such as underwriting or order entry?) Trying to re-use established terms like “services” too many times makes the listeners eyes and brains glaze over. Using more specific words in product descriptions, such as “Service Delivery Manager” or “Service Operations Manager” will make it clearer.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Seven and a half years after virtualization went “mainstream” with EMC’s purchase of VMware, you would think it would be pretty mature  – at least on the server side, where it hit first before moving on to storage and networks.

But many customers (especially smaller ones) are still having trouble getting the cost and scalability benefits they hoped to get from server virtualization. And performance tuning, security, and assuring cost savings are continuing concerns for all customers as they move beyond servers to virtualizing storage as well as applications such as databases, email and ERP in the next year.

Those are among the main findings of the 2011 Virtualization and Evolution to the Cloud Survey done by Symantec, which of course has a dog in this fight as a provider of virtualization, storage and security management tools. Nearly 60% of the 3,700 tactical, strategic and C-level respondents it surveyed worldwide are still using outside providers “quite a bit” or “completely” for help with server virtualization. When it comes to newer areas such as hybrid public/private clouds or private storage as a service, the figures rises closer to 70%.

Service providers are in demand because virtualization often isn’t delivering the benefits customers expected. Customers with less mature server virtualization skills still need third-party help with sever virtualization, while those with higher levels of skills need help providing functions such as disaster recovery and high availability, said John Magee, vice president of visualization and cloud solutions for the storage and security software vendor.

Respondents were most pleased with server virtualization, pegging the gap between expectations and reality at only four percent, and the greatest shortfalls in delivering reduced capital and operational costs, and greater scalability.

They cited a 33% gap between expectation and reality for storage virtualization, with the biggest disappointments in the scalability of virtualized storage, its agility and the operational expense savings.

Private/hybrid cloud computing, in which companies seamlessly move applications and data between their own virtual environments and those of outside providers such as Amazon, was another problem area. Respondents saw an average 32% gap between expectations and reality, with the time to provision new resources, scalability and security the main shortfalls. Nearly three-quarters of organizations that had hybrid/private clouds cited performance as a significant or extreme challenge.

Storage as a service (providing provide virtualized storage to users and applications on demand) was the most severe underperformer, with a 37% gap between expectation and reality. The biggest shortfalls were its failure to reduce complexity (40%), its efficiency (37%) and its scalability (34%.)

Slightly more than half of respondents said storage costs had “somewhat or significantly increased with server virtualization.” One reason, said Magee, is the complexity of virtual environments, and the fact that unused space can be “orphaned” as the virtual server to which it was originally assigned is moved or decommissioned. Some customers also quickly buy a large amount of expensive SAN storage to support a virtual environment, he said, while they could save money with a “tiered” environment in which less critical information is stored on less expensive storage.

Just over six out of ten listed security as a “significant/extreme,” a concern Magee said is increasing as organizations virtualize more mission-critical applications. As they do so, he is seeing more concern around compliance and configuration tracking, and a focus on securing not just physical servers but the  virtual machines running on them.

Despite the disappointments, interest in virtualization remains strong, with about 80% of all respondents at least discussing cloud adoption. Among organizations planning to virtualize servers for business-critical applications in the next 12 months, focus areas included database applications (59%), email (47%) and ERP applications (41%.)

So virtualization isn’t a bust, and customers still trust its potential. But, like a lot of ballyhooed new technologies, getting to paradise isn’t as easy as promised.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.