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March 9, 2009

Virtual Instruments aims for IT infrastructure visibility

Adds SAN I/O intelligence to VMware environments

By Steve Evans

Virtual Instruments, known for its NetWisdom SAN optimisation platform, has released VirtualWisdom, a service that aims to provide real-time instrumentation and measurement capabilities for virtualised IT infrastructures.

By adding I/O intelligence to VMware environments, the platform should enable IT admins to improve the performance and availability of their infrastructure. Using real-time I/O performance measurements, admins will be able to better balance the deployment of virtual machines, the company said.

Speaking to CBR about the launch, Virtual Instruments CEO Mark Urdahl said that the new product is an expansion of the company’s flagship NetWisdom SAN optimisation service.

“NetWisdom was oriented around monitoring storage area networks,” he said. “We’ve evolved it to include the virtual server infrastructure. The idea is to give visibility and transparency to the actual traffic flow within the virtual infrastructure.”

Urdahl said that SAN infrastructures do not enable IT admins to monitor the traffic. “You cannot see the traffic, how it goes from here to there, the path it takes, how long it took to complete the transaction. It’s completely blind,” he said.

He compared this with the LAN monitoring industry. “If you look at the networking side of the world, there is a whole category of network monitoring products for LANs and WANs,” Urdahl said. “Because in terms of the technology infrastructure and in practise, LANs were designed to be monitored, while SANs are channels. They were designed for high-performance and reliability with everything in one data centre. But they’ve grown with such wild success that they’ve exceeded the original architectural requirements.”

With the growth of virtual environments, Urdahl added, it is like adding one cloud on top of another, making it very difficult to track. “When you virtualise, how do you know which server is handling which VM? VMware has no visibility in to that, they don’t see the I/O. It just knows that it has a problem but not what to do about it,” he said.

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VirtualWisdom deploys a network traffic analysis point (TAP), more commonly used for network monitoring rather than SAN monitoring. The TAP intercepts the fibre optic link by creating a mirror copy of the link. Urdahl said this works in a similar way to how a cable splitter works at home.

“The data is then captured, time-stamped and passed to the VirtualWisdom Portal Server,” said Urdahl. “When Wisdom picks up a problem, the analyser is auto-triggered and we get a trace, a detailed record of the transaction. It has about 800 metrics associated with it and it’s the definitive measurement of truth. There is no debate about what the issue is.”

Adding visibility and intelligence to the SAN should dramatically improve the utilisation of a company’s virtualised infrastructure, which in turn reduces operational costs, Urdahl said.

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