In the VMworld 2013 keynote session in San Francisco Monday morning VMware made a number of announcements mostly related to software-defined data center (SDDC) capabilities.  While they focused a lot on networking, storage and hybrid cloud, the capability that will probably have the most impact in the short term will be the increased horsepower of vSphere 5.5.  As CEO Pat Gelsinger described it, the latest version of vSphere is “2X” the horsepower of the previous version with double the cores, double the number of VMs and more than double the memory.  VMware was clear about why they think this is important, they want to take away any barriers that prevent people from moving mission critical applications to the virtual environment.  While this will help accelerate the movement of these applications, this additional VM capacity is only one part of the story.  Storage and auxiliary capabilities like replication and high availability (HA) are also required to make many companies comfortable with virtualizing applications like their mission critical databases.

 

Fortunately, on the storage side there has been a lot of focus on addressing the storage I/O issues that have long been a limitation for virtualization.  Various solid state disk (SSD) technologies along with capabilities like what VMware, Microsoft and others are driving for software-defined storage are helping improve the storage side of things.

There are a number of sessions at VMworld addressing the other required capabilities like HA including specific sessions on SQL databases, virtualizing Exchange, Hadoop and SAP. This is being attacked from both the application vendors and VMware with at least the basic tools and a set of procedures that can be used to do things like perform a rolling software update with relatively low disruption to the application availability.

 

However, the impression across the board is that while it is possible to run and manager many of these mission critical apps from a compute, storage and HA point of view, it still isn’t easy or mainstream yet.  Many of the approaches discussed require a high degree of knowledge, fairly complicated procedures, higher end and more expensive hardware and software, and a degree of compatibility across vendors that isn’t always there.  As a result, this is still somewhat of a leading edge technology for many companies.  There is clearly enough interest and demand in the market to continue to drive rapid improvement and maturity across the board.  In the short term, many of these gaps can be patched over by skilled IT admins if given the right tools. 

 

While there are things needed to mature the mission critical application space from companies like VMware and the storage vendors, one of the simplest ways to start is by getting end-to-end visibility across the application stack.  The visibility provided by extending virtualization management to apps and storage arms the skilled admins with the information they need to intelligently fill in the gaps that still exist between application, virtualization and storage management to ensure that the end business service is not impacted.  That is exactly the feedback we got from the SolarWinds customer base when developing integration between the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Server and Application Monitor (SAM) products on top of existing Storage Manager integration. The integration provides full visibility across the virtualized application stack from the application and physical servers to the virtual environment all the way down to the storage LUNs and arrays.  In additions, SAM’s upcoming release will have some critical capabilities around database monitoring that will help complete the mission critical visibility story.

 

The net result, the broader ecosystem is moving closer to making virtualized mission critical applications mainstream and easier but end-to-end visibility is here today.