The amount of noise in the virtualization and private cloud marketplace right now is absolutely deafening – even when you look at small segments of the market. There are now at least four hypervisors in relatively broad use. There are at least four different companies offering backup solutions for virtualization. Every storage vendor on the planet is developing one (if not all) of their products specifically to support a virtual infrastructure. Let’s not even talk about the number of companies, both large and small, that are developing products for the “Cloud.”

 

One of the most confusing areas in the market right now is virtualization management. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least six companies that advertise a virtualization management tool. There are several different layers of this solution worth considering.

 

We all know about the hypervisor – the tool that makes true abstraction from the physical layer possible. VMware says they give you the hypervisor (ESX) for “free.” Microsoft includes Hyper-V with the Windows Server OS, and KVM & Xen are both open source (free) hypervisors.

 

Next, there’s the orchestration layer. This layer manifests itself differently depending on which hypervisor you’re managing. VMware used to be the only game in town, but there are several folks pushing into this market now. The open source OpenStack project founded by Rackspace and NASA a couple of years ago shows the most promise as an orchestration layer competitor to VMware, but there are several smaller players in the market that could get some traction.

VMware charges you for layered functionality on top of ESX by requiring vCenter to unlock the real benefits of virtualization – VMotion, DRS, Storage DRS, HA, etc. Many people view vCenter as a virtualization management solution, and don’t even know that there is an entire world of tools out there that complement vCenter to give you some really valuable features that vCenter does not provide. Even worse, I think there are still a lot of folks out there who think they have to stick with a 100% VMware virtualization stack in order to be “enterprise class.”

 

Microsoft has taken a different angle. There isn’t a vCenter equivalent for Microsoft’s Hyper-V hypervisor. Microsoft gives you much of the same functionality for free that VMware requires vCenter to utilize. It’s true that, today, Hyper-V is missing some of the great capabilities of VMware, but taking just a short leap to the end of 2012, when Hyper-V 3.0 launches, a new chapter will begin. Hyper-V 3.0 promises to be a game-changer that could make the top virtualization platforms interchangeable from the standpoint of functionality.

 

However, there are a bunch of new tools out there that provide metrics, functionality, and intelligence that you just can’t get from the tools most environments employ from Microsoft and VMware. These virtualization management solutions help you with the heavy lifting in managing VMware and Microsoft environments by providing you with real-time dashboards, reports, alerting, tools for capacity planning and analysis, performance monitoring, bottleneck detection, and so much more. There are several reasons all of these third-party players are developing virtualization management tools:

  1. VMware has chosen to build a VMware-only monitoring solution in vCenter Operations Manager. This equates to VMware proprietary lock-in from the only folks really capable of pulling it off. Don’t be fooled!
  2. vCenter alone is just orchestration, and many virtualization administrators want better metrics, analytics, reporting, and other functionality than it can offer.
  3. Microsoft Systems Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) is mainly focused on provisioning. Again, there are lots of other functions necessary for better virtualization management.
  4. BOTH of the solutions above are very expensive…especially when you want the full functionality that many of the smaller players offer. This opens the door to a ton of value solutions like SolarWinds Virtualization Manager that are priced at a fraction of competitive tools.

 

SolarWinds will even let you test drive Virtualization Manager for free with a trial for an unlimited number of virtual machines for 30 days. Then, when you’ve decided Virtualization Manager is the best platform for your environment, you’ll be surprised to find out that it costs substantially less than most competitive tools. Substantially! This is one of the few situations where you can have your cake and eat it, too!