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Reporting and Managing Virtual Servers and Storage
Next week is [VMworld 2010], so I thought today would be a good day to write a blog post about reporting and managing virtual guest images.
As the original lead architect for IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, I am no stranger to reporting and management tools. Needless to say, if you have lots of virtual guest images, it makes sense to deploy reporting and management software. I had never heard of Veeam before, but I decided to check out Veeam Reporter 4.0, an enterprise-level reporting solution specifically designed for large Virtual Infrastructure (VI3) and vSphere virtual environments that allows you to automatically discover and collect information about your VMware virtual environment.
Their 90-page User Guide offered these helpful "First Steps" on page 9 which I used as the master plan for my evaluation.
Install Veeam Reporter 4.0
The instructions appeared fairly straightforward: Download [the latest version] of the application. Unpack the downloaded archive and run the VeeamReporter.exe file. Then follow the installation wizard steps. What could go wrong?
I should have known better. Like IBM Tivoli Storage Productivity Center, Veeam Reporter is designed to be installed on its own server-class machine with its own application web server and database. I wasn't going to stand up a new server in our lab just for this contest, so I decided to just install it on my Windows XP SP3, which Veeam had listed as a supported operating system level. I ran into a series of installation issues, including installing IIS, installing SQL server, and installing the SRSS component. I am more familiar with IBM's WebSphere Application Server and DB2 combination used in IBM's own products, and have experience with Apache and MySQL on a standard LAMP stack, so my lack of experience with IIS and SQL server made the installation more difficult. Many thanks to all the support personnel at Veeam, Microsoft, and my internal IT department to finally get all of this working.
It appears you can set this up as a client/server environment, where the Veeam Reporter server runs IIS and SQL Server, and then you have a browser on your client machine point to that server. In my cases, I have client browser and server all on one machine.
Create and run a collection job
This step also seemed fairly standard for reporting tools. Once you launch Veeam Reporter 4.0 for the first time, you need to retrieve data from your virtual infrastructure to be able to generate reports. To start the created collection job, select it and click the Start button on the toolbar. If you have a vCenter server in your VI environment, we recommend that you create a job for it to immediately collect data for all objects in its hierarchy. After that, you will be able to select VI objects that were engaged in the performed job using the Workspace, and generate reports for it.
I signed up for this contest August 7, but step 1 above took me two weeks to resolve all the installation iissues. I wanted to get my blog post entry for the contest BEFORE the start of VMworld. Since I am in Dallas, Texas this week for the IBM Storage Solutions University, I had to go through several firewalls for my laptop to tunnel through and get to my VMware Center back in Tucson.
Click on the graphic above to see larger view.
I was able to create and run a collection job. I have a WMware ESX 3.5 host running five guest images and 14 datastores. This seemed to be enough to evaluate the basic features of this reporting tool. Veeam Reporter let's you run the collection process manually, or set a "periodic" schedule to collect data every hour.
Generate reports manually or create a reporting job
Finally, I get to the fun part: To generate report manually, click the Workspace tab, select a necessary VI object from the tree view, date and collection job session, choose reports and click the Create Report button.
At this point, I am reminded of a famous poem:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
- William Blake
When evaluating products, try to imagine what the reports would look like with hundreds of virtual guest images. Certainly, I can see some potential, even though I had rather limited data to work with. In theory, the tool can create Visio output files, but you need to have Microsoft Visio installed. I have only "Visio Viewer" so I was unable to create any visio files with this product.
The reports can be exported to PDF, Word or Excel formats. Here is an example of an Excel spreadsheet export. While it has 14 bars for the 14 datastores, there are no labels, and the misleading details link in the lower right corner is non-functional. The only way for me to figure out what each referred to was to go back to my vCenter client, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a separate reporting tool.
This same report exported to PDF spanned across four pages, leaving the re-assembly to be done with a pair of scissors and celophane tape.
When you create reports, you can use SRSS or Veeam's internal proprietary format. Only SRSS reports can be put on the dashboard, so I recommend that.
Customize your dashboard
The fourth and final step is to configure your own dashboard: To add reports to the Dashboard, you should first create and save them using Workspace of Veeam Reporter 4.0. Keep in mind that you can add to the Dashboard only saved SSRS-based reports. To customize the Dashboard, click the Dashboard tab and then click the Edit Dashboard button. Customize the layout by dragging blue borders from the right and the bottom of the screen. Then, drag reports from the Reports list and drop them onto the created cells.
The "Free Edition" only allows you to put a single report on the dashboard, so as in step 3, you have to use your imagination of what the potential of the full license would looke like with multiple reports are on a single pane of glass.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM, the leader in server virtualization worldwide, and the number #1 reseller of VMware. In this post, I review [Veeam Reporter 4.0] as my official entry for their blogging contest. IBM and Veeam do not have any business relationshiop that I know of, other than both being VMware business partners, so I am treating them here as an Independent Software Vendor (ISV). Veeam has not compensated me in any manner for this review, this review is not to be taken as an endorsement of Veeam or its products, and I was not provided any full or evaluator license keys. The review is based entirely on my experience using the "Free Edition" available to all for download. None of this blog post was pre-reviewed by anyone from Veeam. IBM, of course, also offers similar software, which I mention below for comparison purposes.)
At this point, you might be thinking, "Doesn't IBM offer something like this?" Of course it does! IBM is the leader in infrastructure reporting, monitoring and management software. Last October, [IBM unveiled IBM Systems Director VMcontrol] software. Not only does IBM Systems Director VMcontrol provide similar support for your VMware environment, it also manages Microsoft Hyper-V and Xen deployments, PowerVM on POWER-based serves, and even z/VM guest images on the System z mainframes. Combined with the rest of the IBM Systems Director, you can manage all of your physical and virtual servers with a single tool from a single pane of glass. How cool is that?
I would like to think Doug Hazelman, Senior Director of Product Strategy at Veeam, for organizing this awesome blogging contest. If you liked this blog post, click here to [vote for me] to get counted for this contest.