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November 16, 2006

Infrastructure management in a virtual world

IBM has announced that IBM Systems Director has been enhanced so that it can now provide a single dashboard view of an enterprise's physical and virtual resources. With the announcement, IBM has provided organizations with the first step to considering the entire data center as a single manageable resource, and it is likely that rival systems management vendors will soon get in on the act.

By CBR Staff Writer

IBM states that Systems Director’s Virtualization Manager Extension, will work with POWER-based virtualization offerings, and will support Xen, Microsoft Virtual Server, and VMware on Windows and Linux platforms.

CIOs are being challenged by other ‘C’-level executives to ensure that the organization’s investment in IT infrastructure is used as effectively and efficiently as possible. In the past, data center optimization was used to describe general performance issues, and these performance issues were used by the IT department to increase capacity, citing the growth of the organization as increasing the demand for IT resources. Today, however, organizations will challenge the CIO to explain where the existing resources are being used, and to explore alternative solutions rather than simply increasing the spend on more resources.

Traditionally, systems management tools have been used to gain insight into performance and resource usage. However, in today’s virtual world, many of these tools find it difficult to manage both the physical environment and the virtual environment as a single entity; they are often treated as two separate entities.

The data center of today is a heterogeneous establishment; it may consist of blade servers, mainframes, x86 Windows and Linux servers, and any number of different forms of virtualization, including storage, partitioning, application, operating system, and hardware. However, managing the entire data center from a single console view has been difficult, especially with the growth in the number and variety of methods of virtualizing resources.

The ability to operate an entire data center from a single console view will enable organizations to take a portfolio perspective of its infrastructure. This ability will greatly increase the flexibility organizations possess when it comes to moving workload between systems, and, more importantly, will allow a holistic perspective of an organization’s investment in its entire infrastructure.

IBM’s announcement that Systems Director has a Virtualization Manager Extension is building on many other products that have limited support for physical and virtual environments. IBM’s solution is currently the most comprehensive, but there is still some way to go before a single management tool can be used to manage all the different environments in a modern data center.

The drivers behind virtualization are all focused on cost, speed, and manageability, which is nothing new. However, the demands now being expected from IT requires a new approach to delivering and supporting the technology.

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Virtualization is expected to continue gaining traction, and, over the next five years, will become the dominant technology in providing data center optimization. However, a major impediment to this has been the inability to manage both the physical and virtual environments from a single console view. IBM, with its announcement, has provided organizations with the first step to considering the entire data center as a single manageable resource.

Given the potential significance of this step, the four other big systems management vendors, Microsoft, HP, BMC, and CA, are expected to release similar functionality in the near future.

Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)

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