The Life and Death of a Virtual Machine

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Management Style

Users are reacting to this early and fragmented tools market by managing their infrastructures in layers -- as shown in the results of a recent survey of Network World readers.

Of the 335 respondents who indicated they have some type of life-cycle management in place for their virtual environments, 61% said they use two to five tools; only 18% rely on a single virtual-machine management tool. In a larger base of 522 respondents, 48% use the native management capabilities of the Citrix Systems XenSource, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESX hypervisors, and 10% layer third-party products into the mix. (Thirty-one percent do no monitoring at all.) When it comes to management automation, nearly two-thirds of 358 respondents cite tie-ins to traditional systems-management platforms from such companies as BMC Software, CA and IBM Tivoli.

"Life-cycle management gets complex when you start getting into layers and feeding into big system-management interfaces," Sesame Workshop's Broadwater says.

To keep management under control, Sesame Workshop uses the Xen virtualization hypervisor native to the SUSE Linux machines on which the company has standardized. Systems managers also use Novell ZENworks Orchestrator and Asset Management tools to keep tabs on the virtual machines.

While planning their virtual-machine infrastructures, organizations need to look at management as a core component, experts say. So, along with inventorying physical servers and applications and creating gold-build images, they should consider management options as they pertain to usage requirements, says Leslie Muller, formerly a senior technologist for virtualization deployments at Credit Suisse and now CTO of DynamicOps, a virtual-machine orchestration company.

"You need to consider the type of worker. Is he or she a knowledge worker who requires a specialty-build on-demand? Or is he or she a call center worker who needs the same environment day in and day out? In the latter case, a standard virtual-machine build would be in order," Muller explains.

Vignette, an Austin, Texas-based software publishing company, follows the "on-demand" philosophy for 200 developers and other employees around the world. The company has resources running on 200 virtual-machine images in Austin, as well as 100 in Australia, 22 in India and a handful in the United Kingdom.

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