Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Introduction to VMWare vCenter Operations

I'm busy looking at VMWare vCenter Operations Enterprise.  I've never dealt with it before so it could be interesting.  I'm going to give an overview of what this product is, where it comes from, and what it tries to achieve.  I'll also give some first impressions as a user of it.

It appears that VMWare bought a lot of products in order to give their customers various comprehensive IT management capabilities for their software and platforms.  Like with most big vendors buying other software products and integrating it with their own offering, I expect some quirks with the integration.

VMWare vCenter Operations started life as a product called Alive by Integrien.  Integrien was acquired by VMWare around August 2010, so VMWare has had some time to assimilate the product to make it their own.  vCenter Operations comes in a few different sizes, Standard, Advance and Enterprise:
  • The smallest is Standard which handles up to 1500 vSphere deployments, so it's not that small.
  • Advanced is Standard plus Capacity IQ, VMWare's capacity planning product.
  • Enterprise is a whole combination of things. It includes what Advanced has, plus Smart Alerting, vCenter Configuration Manager and then deep integration with major monitoring products on the market (including the open source varieties).  This enables it to also include a view of non-VMWare environments, inside and outside of the organisation (e.g. physical builds and other providers like Amazon)
VMWare's strategy with this combination is to bring performance, capacity and configuration management closer to each other.  They also want to make sure vCenter Operations integrate deeper with other VMWare products, which can be both a good and a bad thing.

What this software aims to give you is a powerful dashboard for your enterprise.  It basically allows you to view the status and health of your applications, systems and infrastructure, help you find faults, the cause of these faults and alert you on faults.  It also makes an attempt to predict faults that may happen in the future, and also goes as far as trying to show the financial impact of faults or underutilisation.

Anyone with experience of monitoring and management tools knows getting the above right is no easy task.  A lot of customisation needs to be done, and the interface has to be flexible enough to be able to build the right views.

The interface for vCenter Operations is a web interface, a fairly usable one.  It's very customisable, and you put together views in a portal and widget style.  It also has a lot of graphing and other graphical features, making it look attractive during a sales presentation and when showing it to management.  That said, in a large environment a new user will still need to be shown where to find what they are after and also need some help in setting up their dashboards the way they want.

With regards to health and thresholds, the product tries to rely on setting these by itself mostly.  In a large environment, and especially in a dynamic virtualised environment, it's impossible to manage thresholds individually.  The product makes note of what it believes are normal trends in the operation of a system, and alerts when there are anomalies.  If they get this right, it would be very good, but this is also not an easy thing to achieve technically, so it will be interesting to see how well this works out.

1 comment:

MorbenNet said...

I Kriek, you may want to consider waiting for version 5 to come out before spending too much time reviewing the current version. We've added a new edition (Enterprise +) and have done quite a bit in integration and new dashboards. ETA on version 5 is right around the corner, still targeted at the end of the month (January 2012).

Ben Scheerer, VMware