Generally, when we think about new technology we tend to focus on all the advantages it adds. And, in the case of server virtualization - a technology that has been strongly embraced over the past decade as it expanded beyond the mainframe into the realm of x86 servers - the advantages are many. Virtualization is being widely embraced in the enterprise because it enables greater utilization of an existing infrastructure, flexibility in terms of reallocating resources when they are needed and where, and not incidentally, significant cost savings due to a smaller physical footprint, energy efficiency and the ability to avoid or postpone new hardware purchases.
Those are some pretty powerful advantages – no argument there. But what about the complexity that is with the need to manage physical and virtualized servers, and the increasing need to manage more than one hypervisor? That’s a compelling issue, as well – and this is where IBM Systems Director with VMControl comes in.
WHAT IS SYSTEMS DIRECTOR?
The Systems Director stack or product offering, broadly speaking, is a platform management solution. It provides our customers with systems management for all of the IBM platforms including mainframe, Power Systems, and System x and it includes such things as energy management, managing the physical resources including the server storage, memory, and networking - and then it can be extended with virtualization management in the form of VMControl, which we often describe as a plug-in or an add-on to Systems Director. VMControl extends the virtualization management capabilities for all those different platforms. And so, the real benefit is that for that significant number of IBM customers that have multiple platforms, it gives them a consistent way and a consistent look and feel for managing virtualization.
The base level of capability we call VM lifecycle management includes the ability to create or delete the virtual machines to configure it to start and stop, pause or relocate between servers, as well as all of the basic operations that get done every day at a customer site. And we have that level of support for the broadest number of hypervisors. On System x, we include that level of support for VMware ESXi as well as for KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine), and for Microsoft Hyper-V. We also have that level of support for PowerVM on the Power platform and z/VM on the mainframe.
Beyond this base level, IBM also offers higher level editions of VMControl that add functionality such as image management and system pools, which is the ability to combine multiple virtual machines across multiple servers and manage them as though they were a single physical entity. That advanced support is now available for PowerVM on Power Systems and for KVM on System x, and this level of advanced support for additional hypervisors is on our product roadmap.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SUPPORT A RANGE OF HYPERVISORS?
It is important to support a broad range of hypervisors because what we are finding from client feedback and from analyst reports by IDC, Gartner, and others is that customers are moving towards multi-hypervisor environments. So, rather than standardizing on a single hypervisor from one vendor, increasingly they are using multiple hypervisors where appropriate at different points in the organization. And so, having a single offering that helps them manage all of those virtualization technologies in a consistent way is of very high value to IBM customers with multiple virtualization solutions.
In the past, many customers would purchase both the hypervisor and the virtualization management from vendors such as VMware, but now with the choice of hypervisors, and the advances that have been made by Windows with the Hyper-V hypervisor and with Linux distributions such as Red Hat with KVM, customers are getting very good hypervisors and virtualization solutions at no extra cost “in the box” with the operating system. Since it is something that they have to pay for anyway, many customers are thinking: Why pay this additional “tax” for third-party virtualization when I am getting “good enough” hypervisor technology bundled with the operating system?
With Windows DataCenter Edition clients get Hyper-V and can have an unlimited numbers of Windows guests and with the equivalent version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux they get KVM and can have unlimited Linux guests for no additional cost. As a result, they are not removing VMware, but as they deploy new servers they are choosing not to put VMware on everything. For systems that are targeted primarily for Linux workloads, clients often choose Red Hat Enterprise Linux since they get KVM for no additional cost, and with IBM Systems Director VMControl, we provide a way to manage the KVM hypervisor that comes with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.2.
MANAGING PHYSICAL AND VIRTUAL RESOURCES THROUGH ONE PANE OF GLASS
Another key benefit with IBM Systems Director VMControl is that from the same product and the same user interface you can manage your virtualized resources – as well as your underlying physical resources. This is not inconsequential. In fact it is very necessary. Often, if there is some sort of issue or problem that needs attention in a virtualized environment, it is because of a combination of these. And, in the case of something like VMware vCenter you only see virtualized resources, so if you have a problem with the infrastructure that is running virtualization like memory or storage or energy usage, you are forced to jump out and use third-party tools to try to diagnose and solve those problems. But with Systems Director and VMControl, all of those capabilities are serviced through the same user interface so you can seamlessly move back and forth between your physical resource management and virtualized resource management, and this again is very appealing to customers because they don’t have to purchase multiple tools from different vendors. Of course, this becomes particularly important in the cloud use case because it provides a complete solution for managing the underlying infrastructure that is running the cloud resources.
The transition to cloud computing blurs the lines between administrators and users, with workload provisioning being delegated to end users and consumption of IT resources shifting to a ‘pay as you go’ model. Likewise, administrators are having to broaden their skill sets beyond a single type of resource (such as servers, networks or storage) and become multi-skilled in order to support cloud infrastructures requiring pooled resources. IBM Systems Director is rapidly evolving to support the increasingly sophisticated demands of this next generation of administrator.
Virtualization Product Line Manager, IBM Systems Software, STG