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Virtualization has taken root in large part because of the efficiencies it offers, but the bigger and more complex virtualization deployments become, the more challenging it is to keep track of all the moving pieces. This is why management tools are fast becoming a top priority for both server and desktop virtualization deployments.
The simple reason is that tools that monitor and manage the performance, capacity and configuration of virtualized environments can help administrators stay sane even as the number of virtual hosts in their environments proliferate. Just as important, they can also help companies operate with confidence that they're getting the most out of their virtualization investments.
Virtualization management technologies are in high demand at the moment: NetApp in February paid $60 million to acquire Littleton, Mass.-based Akorri, whose flagship BalancePoint management software offers performance capacity analytics for virtual and physical server and storage infrastructure. Solarwinds, an Austin, Texas-based IT management software vendor, in January acquired virtualization management startup Hyper9.
Virtualization solution providers expect the acquisitions to continue because legacy management toolsets aren't equipped to provide the kind of in-depth analysis that nimble startups are providing.
"Virtualization gives organizations the ability to consolidate their infrastructure, but it also presents a whole new set of problems," said Dan Weiss, CEO and co-founder of Varrow, a virtualization solution provider in Greensboro, N.C. "Customers are coming to us and asking, 'How can we find out more about trend analysis and be ahead of the curve?'"
The speed at which the virtualization market is growing adds urgency to the management challenges. Worldwide virtualization software revenue for all CPU types jumped 36 percent year over year to $877 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, while virtualization licenses jumped 13 percent, according to IDC figures released in mid-April. IDC sees this growth driving sales of high-end virtualization management tools.
Mike Ritsema, president of i3 Business Solutions a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based solution provider, says more than 70 percent of the servers he's selling right now are virtualized, and he expects that figure to keep rising this year. "Virtualization is exploding, but managing the backup of multiple virtual machines is becoming a major pain point," he said.
Management of virtualized server environments has traditionally been about provisioning resources with a particular focus on increasing utilization of hardware and enabling companies to wring maximum return from their virtualization investments. This trend is shifting, though, and organizations are now looking for ways to improve the performance of applications running in these virtual environments, according to Joe Correia, virtualization practice expert at Daymark Solutions, Burlington, Mass.
"Virtualization management offerings have morphed into new applications with a focus on measuring and tuning application response from within a virtual environment, as well as providing a bridge between classic virtual environments, private clouds and public clouds," said Correia. "Normally, performance would be measured in host CPU, memory and storage utilization, but now most customers measure performance in terms of application response time."