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8 Posts authored by: robbie.wright

Scott Lowe recently posted a competitive matrix for the virtualization management market that I think warrants a little bit of commentary from the SolarWinds team. We’ve also posted it on our General Virtualization Management Competitive Page for your convenience. First off, I think Scott’s analysis provides a pretty objective competitive view that shows the leading virtualization management tool vendors’ strengths and weaknesses from an unbiased perspective. This should be a very useful tool for anyone looking at virtualization management software.

 

From my perspective, Scott hit the nail pretty much on the head of where SolarWinds positions our virtualization management tool in the market. We aim to develop functionality that the majority of users will actually use so you’re not paying for functionality that you won’t use. One thing that wasn’t specifically called out in Scott’s analysis is the integration of physical storage management into the virtualization management solution. SolarWinds gives you more functionality in this area than the competition.

 

As Scott points out, when compared with the rest of the market, SolarWinds Virtualization Manager stacks up extremely well and provides some valuable tools that none of our competitors offer. Here are a few high-level observations based on Scott’s analysis:

  • Everyone does virtualization performance monitoring (especially of VMware environments) pretty well.
  • Capacity planning and optimization is available in some tools, but not in others – it’s also sometimes not available in the less-expensive editions of the tools that include capacity planning.
  • VMware vCenter Operations Manager Standard provides alerting for performance only. You have to pay more (quite a bit more) to get alerting in other parts of VMware’s tool.
  • Vendors like VMware and Microsoft (and now really even Quest) have tools that are made up of many disparate components that weren’t built together, so things like reporting, APIs, and configurability can vary greatly by module.
  • It isn’t clear in the matrix, but what Scott calls “vKernel vOps Enterprise” is actually the combination (not the integration, mind you) of Quest vKernel vOps and Quest vFoglight Pro. There’s a lot of overlapping functionality with no real integration between the two.
  • Every vendor except for VMware is building out monitoring capabilities for multiple hypervisors.
  • The total cost of “socket-based” licensing appears to be more expensive than “per-VM” licensing in the average environment.
  • NO ONE except for SolarWinds gives you the ability to use historical forensics to look back in time at what happened that might have caused performance degradation in your virtual environment.
  • NO ONE except for SolarWinds gives you the ability to integrate their storage management software (if they even have storage management software) into your virtualization management console.
  • NO ONE gives you the value that SolarWinds Virtualization Manager offers in price for functionality!

I’ll post some granular analysis of how we stack up next to each of our competitors over the next couple of weeks. These analyses will help articulate what we believe each of the components described in this competitive matrix means, but I think the message is clear: ANYONE LOOKING FOR A VIRTUALIZATION MANAGEMENT TOOL SHOULD BE EVALUATING SOLARWINDS VIRTUALIZATION MANAGER to see if it meets their needs. If you haven’t already, you should try it today.

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!

If you read the SolarWinds blog and have seen my recent posts, it won’t be any surprise to you that we believe the virtualization market is going through a period of transformation. We believe this because our customers are telling us that, while VMware is still a significant portion of their environment, they’re beginning to consider alternatives. We could (and have) spent days hypothesizing about the reasons for this shift, but I’d rather just talk about what SolarWinds is doing to accommodate it.

 

I’m excited to announce that SolarWinds Virtualization Manager now supports Microsoft Hyper-V! There will still be a few folks out there who wonder why we decided to do this, so here is a little bit of our thought process:

  • Microsoft Hyper-V adoption is growing faster than any other hypervisor in the market right now. This one is pretty obvious.
  • We believe there is a contingent of organizations out there who remember, or are still experiencing the many pains of vendor lock-in and want to have a dual hypervisor strategy in order to avoid it going forward.
  • There are companies that don’t trust their infrastructure vendor to tell them how much new infrastructure they need to buy. Many think that VMware vCenter Operations telling them that they need to buy more VMware vSphere licensing is kind of like having a fox guarding the hen house. So, there is a viable market for a third-party, unbiased virtualization management tool that doesn’t have a horse in this race.
  • There is a huge base of Microsoft administrators out there that will help accelerate adoption.
  • Microsoft’s planned enhancements proposed for Hyper-V version 3 this year have more and more customers planning for a dual hypervisor environment.
  • Multiple management consoles are hard to use, clunky, and don’t offer you the flexibility you need in measuring and managing your virtual infrastructure. Virtualization Manager now allows you to see both VMware and Hyper-V environments in a single pane of glass.

 

Since we already know that Hyper-V penetration is accelerating, SolarWinds has a unique ability to bridge a major Hyper-V functionality gap in storage visibility. Because we’ve created integration capabilities for SolarWinds Storage Manager within SolarWinds Virtualization Manager, you can now see what was previously invisible in your Hyper-V environment. When using these two products together, you can drill down from the Hyper-V (or VMware) VM to the storage LUN servicing that VM, you can see all of the other VMs serviced by that LUN (to help you pinpoint if a particular VM is hogging storage I/O), and you can even see the physical disks associated to the LUN.

 

So, if you think any of these points are valid, you should give the new SolarWinds Virtualization Manager 5.0 a try today with our free 30-day trial today!

We’ve all heard the story: organizations are standardized on VMware, and they’re not going to change. IT departments live and die by the scale they build into their environment. They daily suffer the consequences of previous regimes that left them managing a complex ecosystem of hardware, OSes, applications, etc. Based on that, we KNOW that no organization will want to add the complexity of multiple hypervisors to their virtual environments…OR DO WE???

 

A Q3 2011 survey by independent market research company Vanson Bourne indicated that 38 percent of businesses are planning to switch hypervisor vendors within the next year due to licensing models and the robustness of competing hypervisors. We’d be naïve to think that that means organizations are totally removing VMware from their environment. The fact is that VMware just works, and it works very well. That’s why they are almost always at the center of these discussions. They have owned the market, and are the incumbent in most situations. We’re really pretty comfortable with, and maybe even accustomed to, deploying mission critical applications on VMware vSphere virtual infrastructure. However, there is a growing noise in the virtualization marketplace. Companies, large and small, are talking about Microsoft Hyper-V. But, why? I believe one major reason is because of the hype surrounding Hyper-V 3.0.

 

But first, let’s step back for a second and look at why companies are looking at Hyper-V, even today, presumably months before the 3.0 release. I see two primary drivers for this consideration:

 

  1. Organizations realize that VMware is getting a lock on their business, and that monopoly power makes people nervous – they want to keep a second option open to improve their negotiating position for their next contract with VMware or in case VMware continues to raise their prices even more.
  2. Companies want a hypervisor vendor and a roadmap that will not make them regret their investment – RedHat or OpenStack don’t give them that confidence yet because they’re relative unknowns in the virtualization landscape. Only VMware and Microsoft have an established track record here.

 

To date, Hyper-V has not been able to compete head-to-head with VMware from a technical standpoint. VMware had a big jump on Microsoft, but Microsoft has been investing heavily in the last few years to catch up. While Microsoft hasn’t bridged the technical gap yet, there is lots of buzz about upcoming functionality in Hyper-V 3.0 that will add key functionality that will help them cross the technical chasm. The major features expected in Hyper-V 3.0, expected out later this year, are as follows:

 

  1. Improved Scalability – larger cluster support, native NIC teaming, and new VHDX file that will support up to 16 TB virtual disks. This enables Hyper-V to handle more mission-critical applications and workloads – particularly for Microsoft applications like, like SQL & Exchange.
  2. Extensible Virtual Switch – providing partners the capability to build in advanced networking features, like capture extensions lets them build tools to monitor and sample traffic. This also creates opportunities for networking vendors to create third party virtual switches like the Cisco Nexus 1000V for VMware.
  3. Live Migration Enhancements – Live Migration will perform much more like vMotion with live storage migration (previously, this required downtime) and concurrent live migrations of virtual machines. Microsoft may gain an advantage on VMware in this area because shared storage is not required for Live Migration. This could allow Hyper-V access to the environments with no shared storage such as small businesses and large public clouds. VMware and Xen require shared storage. RedHat’s RHEV is the only other hypervisor that does not require shared storage for live migration.
  4. Replication - embedded host-based replication will help Microsoft make Hyper-V a better fit for mission-critical applications and enables organizations to use branch offices as failover targets.

 

So, it’s obvious that Microsoft is extremely focused on competing with VMware technically. Hyper-V will still needs some capabilities strengthened to be a viable competitor to VMware’s DRS and other advanced functionality in more sophisticated environments. However, most moderately-sized and smaller organizations aren’t ready to actually implement this technology yet. So, Hyper-V still has some time to catch up. We’ll just have to keep an eye on their roadmap to see what features they’re planning to introduce next!

 

In the meantime, we’ve just released a new free tool called VM Monitor for Hyper-V that will allow you to start gaining some visibility into a Hyper-V server (we also have a VMware version of the same tool called, you guessed it, VM Monitor for VMware). Stay tuned next week for more exciting announcements around support for Hyper-V in SolarWinds products (wink, wink)!

Well, evidently I caused a stir with my recent blog post questioning whether VMware has ceded the SMB to Microsoft Hyper-V.  The VMware author was quick to strongly critique my post, so let me take a minute to set straight the record straight.

Today, the VMware platform is undoubtedly more mature and robust than Hyper-V. Heck, we even ran a webcast last week with Tech Republic’s Scott Lowe that compared VMware and Hyper-V that I thought offered a very fair comparison that favored VMware in many, if not most, areas. There are definitely a lot of questions around how much Microsoft will close the functionality gap with Hyper-V 3.0, but since it’s not shipping until at least later this year, I’ll reserve my comments on that until another time.

The statistics about market share used in my earlier post were from an article by Tim Greene published in Network World back in November entitled “Virtualization wars: VMware vs. Hyper-V vs. XenServer vs. KVM,” where the author says the following:

This flurry of improvements is in addition to progress Hyper-V has been making against ESX in licenses issued. Hyper-V grew 62% last year compared to ESX's 21% growth and Citrix's 25%, according to IDC. Separately, Gartner projects that by next year Hyper-V will account for 27% of the market, up from 11% two years ago. Within that projected 27%, Gartner says Microsoft will have captured 85% of all businesses with less than 1,000 employees that use virtual servers.

I’ve asked Mr. Greene via email to provide a citation for the stats above, and will update here when/if I receive it. Even if Mr. Greene misquoted Gartner, it’s not a big secret that Microsoft has had strong penetration into SMBs with Hyper-V and that their overall market share is growing. This has been a topic of discussion for years (e.g.: a post from the average blogger in 2010, a PC World post from 2009). The price of “free” often just resonates better with IT shops of this size.

The VMware Essentials kits are great, but from everything I can see, they’re not applicable to environments of more than three physical servers or six sockets. This is fine for very small businesses, but probably won’t meet the needs of many medium-sized organizations. These larger-than-very-small organizations will have to move up to higher-priced VMware products in order to get the functionality they need, but many will not need or want to pay for the most advanced features that VMware offers. So, a lot of these folks are at least considering Hyper-V as a lower-cost alternative. Every business will have to buy a Microsoft Windows Server license for their virtual environment. Since this Windows Server license includes Hyper-V with features like Live Migration for no additional cost, a lot of them choose to forego licensing separate virtualization software.

Again, these are just observations. SolarWinds doesn’t develop its own hypervisor (we just manage virtual environments), so we don’t have a horse in this race. We’ve got tons of customers of all sizes happily using both Hyper-V and VMware, some in mixed-hypervisor environments. We probably have an equal number on either side that have some angst with their hypervisor. To that end, we’ve made versions of our FREE VM Monitor tool for both VMware and Hyper-V. We think the market is big enough for at least two hypervisors!

There is a battle brewing in the IT industry. As I’ve noted before, virtualization is at the core of many of the fundamental changes in today’s data center. Pure virtualization served as the bridge between the old client-server model and new cloud computing, and, in most cases, a hypervisor exists in the cloud stack.

For years, the bulk of the data center was a two horse race between Microsoft Windows Server and one of many Unix or Linux platforms. That battle appears to have calmed down with most environments settling into some mix of these two technologies. Now, the battle is on a new front. It’s not really about hardware, and it’s not totally about software in the sense that we’ve talked about software before. It’s about software that emulates hardware. VMware was first to market and jumped out to a huge lead, primarily because they were a company dedicated to virtualization. Microsoft was a relative latecomer, but they’ve been able to use their considerable resources to play catch-up rather nicely…oh, and the fact that they give their product away for free doesn’t hurt much either!

I think we’ve only seen the beginning of this battle. Today, VMware owns somewhere north of 70% of the hypervisors deployed, but Gartner predicts that Microsoft will have around 27% of the market by the end of 2012. Given that there has to be room for some KVM and Xen, this has to be putting a significant cramp on VMware’s market share.

Even more telling is Gartner’s prediction that 85% of businesses with less than 1,000 employees will be Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization shops. So, that begs an important question: Has VMware ceded small and medium businesses to Microsoft Hyper-V? I assert that they have based on a few observations:

1)     VMware continues to add enterprise-focused capability to their product, most of which will not be used by SMBs.

2)     The additional functionality wouldn’t be a big deal for SMBs except that VMware needs to charge more for licensing to support further development. So, SMBs end up paying more for functionality that they won’t use.

3)     Unlike Microsoft, VMware doesn’t really have a way to profit from customers using a free version of their product, giving us reason to expect that they won’t be a price competitor with Microsoft in the short term.

I’m not suggesting that Hyper-V is better than VMware. As usual, the answer to the question of which one is better is really “it depends.” However, I think Hyper-V is becoming a much more formidable competitor all the way up to the enterprise and is actually dominating the SMB market.

We’ll explore the differences between VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V in depth in a webcast with industry expert Scott Lowe on March 21st at 11:00 AM CDT. If you’re interested in attending, we’d love to have you. Just click the following link to register.

We’ve all heard so much about the “cloud” and how it’s revolutionizing IT. It’s getting harder to ignore the buzz because execs are starting to get the message, and they’re asking about the company’s “cloud strategy.” So, we scramble around trying to figure out exactly what that means only to find out that cloud computing is defined differently by nearly everyone. One opinion that’s building a lot of steam is that cloud is more than just virtualization.

We’re all pretty familiar with virtualization. It’s been a great tool to help us get more productivity out of our data centers and our computing resources. When we first started hearing about the cloud, many of us thought it was just a new marketing spin on virtualization, but it’s really a lot more. Yes, virtualization is at the core of the cloud – in a majority of cases, cloud couldn’t even exist without a hypervisor to add a degree of separation of our applications from physical infrastructure – but the real difference between a “simple” virtualized environment and a private cloud is management. Private clouds should be resource pools that IT provides and maintains with a degree of controlled self-service for end users.

Private clouds are potentially a great way to track the consumption of IT resources across different areas of the company. However, private clouds only work when they are managed well. Without the right tools in place, they can actually add a ton of risk. As with any virtualization solution, you run the risk of over-provisioning or of hotspots suddenly appearing because of a change in usage patterns. Even a little hiccup that degrades end user experience could blow the credibility of the whole concept of the cloud. It must be managed well with proper capacity planning, VM sprawl control, and performance management to proactively detect and troubleshoot bottlenecks and failures.

As if this wasn’t enough pressure, IT now has competition! A survey we conducted of SolarWinds customers in December 2011 (more on this coming soon) showed that 64% of respondents planned to invest in the “competitive analysis” of IT services relative to external service providers. With a growing number of cloud outsourcing options like Amazon Web Services and Rackspace in the marketplace, organizations are beginning to forgo service from internal IT in favor of greater speed and flexibility offered by outsourcers. Private clouds can help internal IT compete by allowing IT to achieve new levels of speed and agility and make itself look more like a service provider to the organization.

Private clouds enable IT to provide a utility-based approach to computing services. For example, if a department needs computing services, they can provision resources from IT’s private cloud, and IT can report the cost of that department’s consumption back to the business. In some organizations, they’re going as far as actually charging departmental cost centers for IT resources. Creating this type of capability will enable transparency into IT costs and help keep internal IT competitive with outsourcers and external service providers.

 

To help you learn more about how to implement your own private cloud, SolarWinds is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, 1/18/2012, at 11AM CST entitled “The Journey to the Cloud: Practical Steps and Recommendations for Cloud Adoption” hosted by Jon Reeve and Robbie Wright from the SolarWinds Virtualization Manager Product Team. Please click this link to register to attend.

 

RobbieWright is the Director of Product Marketing for Storage & Virtualization at SolarWinds. He spent over eight years at Rackspace & Dell, where he helped create private, public, & hybrid cloud solutions for medium & large enterprises. 

[Ed. Note: Robbie Wright's post is related to an upcoming SolarWinds webinar with VMware vExpert and author of Maximum vSphere, Eric Siebert, on Thursday, December 8. For more information on “The Top 5 Things You Need from a Virtualization Management Tool" click here.]


Cloud computing and virtualization are changing the IT landscape. You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of their far-reaching effects on our environments. Virtualization took some time to catch on, but it’s now the foundation of the shift toward the cloud. The problem is that sometimes that foundation doesn’t seem so firm. The conventional IT management practices we’ve learned over the years now have to change to effectively manage a virtual environment. Recent studies show that 80% of virtual environments are growing at a rate of 10-50 VMs per year and 63% of today’s IT professionals have some responsibility for managing virtualization. So, the majority of the IT world is experiencing the challenges of managing a growing virtual infrastructure. 


At first, we thought virtualization was just a tool for server consolidation: we could get more from our under-utilized servers, thereby saving money by buying less hardware and avoiding costly data center expansion. Unfortunately, we didn’t save as much money as we thought we would — virtualization software licensing was (and still is, in many cases) expensive — and, lo and behold, there is a host of new virtualization management challenges we didn’t anticipate.


We eventually realized that virtualization is most useful when viewed as a data center agility tool: you can now seamlessly move an application from one piece of physical hardware to another or deploy a new virtual server with a new application without turning screws and routing cables. That should eliminate a lot of the issues of a single-application-to-single-server environment, right? In reality, most of those issues are still there. They are just less concrete because they’re virtual instead of physical. There are also new challenges like capacity planning that become both more abstract and urgent. The graphic below gives you some revealing statistics and a few tips on how to overcome challenges in your virtual environment.


We need our virtual infrastructure to be more transparent so you can fix issues before they arise. We need to understand the relationships between virtual infrastructure configuration, capacity, performance and applications. With the emergence of cloud computing, you need a better grasp on what applications are good candidates for public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud architectures. 


It seems like everyone and his or her brother has a virtualization management solution today. It’s important to note that not all virtualization management tools are created equal, but it’s often tough to tell the difference. A good way to differentiate between virtualization management software is to break it down to the fundamental tasks and compare functionality across them. A solid virtualization management solution should have the following elements:




  • Virtualization Capacity Planning


  • Storage I/O bottlenecks in a Virtual Environment


  • Virtualization Performance Management 


  • VM Sprawl, and 


  • Virtualization Chargeback and Showback.

 


With these virtualization management tools in your arsenal, IT
professionals can be proactive in managing their virtual infrastructure instead
of reacting when it breaks. Comprehensive management allows users to do things
previously thought impossible like virtualizing mission critical applications
and moving towards a true IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model with enhanced private
clouds.


For more insight into what is needed for a Virtualization
Management strategy, join SolarWinds and VMware vExpert and author of Maximum
vSphere
, Eric Siebert, on Thursday, December 8 for a live webcast covering,
“The Top 5 Things You Need from a Virtualization Management Tool.” You’ll also
get a chance to ask questions and see how SolarWinds
Virtualization Manager
addresses each of these areas of concern. To
register, please sign up here.  





Robbie Wright is the Director of Product Marketing for
Storage & Virtualization at Solarwinds. He comes to SolarWinds from
Rackspace Hosting, where he helped build private, public, and hybrid cloud solutions
for Large Enterprises emphasizing the VMware & OpenStack cloud
orchestration platforms. He also spent seven years driving Virtualization &
Storage solutions for Medium & Large Enterprises at Dell, Inc. Robbie holds an MBA from the Fuqua School
of Business at Duke University and a BBA from Texas Tech University.

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