Today’s virtualized data centers are dynamic environments where a myriad of changes (provisioning, snapshotting, deletions etc.) executed by numerous people are difficult to track. Furthermore, virtualization has lifted the traditional physical limits in terms of resource consumption where a workload was bound to a physical server. For consumers, even private data centers have turned into magical clouds where unicorns graze and endlessly expand existing capacity in flash of rainbow. Unfortunately, down to earth administrators know that unlike the universe, data centers have a finite amount of resources available for consumption.
With this, maintaining a healthy data center environment while attempting to satisfy consumers is a challenge for many administrators. Let’s see how Solarwinds Virtualization Manager 6.3 helps tackle this challenge.
VM Sprawl Defeated
As highlighted in my previous article, even with the best intentions in the world there is still some organic sprawl that will make its way in your data center because no matter how carefully you cover your back with processes. The VM Sprawl console of VMAN 6.3 allows administrators to immediately see sprawl-related issues and address them before they start causing serious performance issues.
The VM sprawl dashboard covers the following sprawl issues :
- Oversized / Undersized VMs
- VMs with large snapshots
- Orphaned VMDKs (leftover VMDK files not linked to any existing VM)
- VMs suffering from high co-stops
- Idle VMs
- Powered Off VMs
While it’s good to detect sprawl issues, it’s even better to address them as soon as possible. What I find clever with VMAN 6.3 is that for all of the issues enumerated above, administrators can remediate these from within VMAN, without having to jump from the monitoring tool to their vSphere client or PowerShell. The amount of information provided in each panel is adequate and thus there are no misunderstandings about identifying the culprits and remediating the problems.
I like the fact that everything is presented in a single view, there is no need to run reports here and there to determine how the VMs should be right sized as well as no treasure hunting to find orphaned vmdk files.
Doing Capacity Planning
VMAN 6.3 has a dedicated Capacity Planning dashboard that will highlight current resource consumption, trends/expected depletion date for CPU, RAM and Storage as well as network I/O usage. Here again, a simple but complete view of what matters: do I still have enough capacity? Is a shortage in sight? When should I start making preparations to procure additional capacity?
Besides the Capacity Planning dashboard, VMAN 6.3 is equipped with a Capacity Planner function that enables administrators to simulate the outcome of a wide variety of “what-if” scenarios, with the necessary granularity. I do appreciate the ability to use three options for modeling: peak, 95th percentile and 75th percentile. Peak will take in consideration usage spikes, which can be in some cases necessary if the workloads cannot tolerate any contention/resource constraint situation. The two latter make it possible to “smoothen” the data used for modeling, by eliminating usage spikes in the calculation. While the benefit may not be immediately apparent in smaller environments, it can have a decisive financial impact on larger clusters.
Corollary to the Capacity Planning activities is the Showback dashboard. Provided that you have organized your resources in folders, you are able to show users what they are actually consuming. You can also run chargeback reports where you can define pricing for consumed resources. These can be helpful not only from a financial perspective but also from a political one as they help, in most mentally stable environments, to bring back a level of awareness and accountability into how resources are consumed. If a division has successfully deployed their new analytics software which ends up starving the entire environment, showback/chargeback will be decisive to explain the impact of their deployment (and obtain or coerce their eventual financial contribution to expanding capacity).
Time Travel, a feature which correlates alerts with time flow, is a powerful aid in troubleshooting and performing root cause analysis. By snapshotting at regular intervals metrics from the environment, you are able to understand what events were happening at a given point in time. The sudden performance degradation of a VM becomes easier to investigate by reviewing what happened in parallel. Now you can determine whether the issue was caused by intensive I/O on a shared storage volume or if there was extremely high network traffic that caused congestion problems.
VMAN 6.3: The Chosen One?
VMAN 6.3 provides an end-to-end virtualization management experience that covers not only analysis, correlation and reporting but also actionable insights. It empowers administrators with the necessary tools to have a full overview of their data center health. Last but not least, the integration with Solarwinds Orion platform and other management software from Solarwinds (Network Performance Monitor, Database Performance Analyzer, etc.) provides enterprises with a true and unique single pane of glass experience (a term I use extremely rarely due to its abuse) to monitor their entire data center infrastructure.
So is Solarwinds the Chosen One that will bring balance to the data center? No, you – the administrator- are the Chosen One. But you will need the help of the Solarwinds Force to make the prophecy become a reality. Use it wisely.