Virtualization Roundup: Four Lab Managers Tested and Reviewed
InfoWorld review: VMLogix LabManager 3.8.1
VMLogix has been providing management tools for virtualization since roughly 2004. It recently moved into the lab management market with two versions of its LabManager: One runs on native systems, while the other supports pure cloud architecture.
While the LabManager name emulates VMware's product moniker, the product is decidedly different. VMLogix supports virtual machines running on VMware platforms, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix Xen. The cloud product works with instances of Amazon EC2 machines. It supports these platforms by installing an agent on each server and passing commands back and forth from VMLogix to the server via this agent. This design is what enables VMLogix to offer a resource pool that includes hypervisors from multiple vendors -- as Surgient does.
As with the other products discussed here, VMLogix acquits itself well in the creation, provisioning, deployment, and teardown of configurations of multiple virtual machines. On VMware platforms, it uses the linked clone pattern discussed earlier; with Hyper-V and Xen, it uses similar technology. However, VMLogix does not allow any links in the clone chain to be deleted if it has children. In this way, it enjoys both performance and safety.
VMLogix templates have a feature that neatly echoes one found in VMware vCenter Lab Manager -- namely, advanced configuration of networking. It's easy to create multihomed virtual machines, in which virtual network adapters can be attached to different networks and selectively bridge to outside nets. VMLogix also supports multiple virtual NICs on the same network segment to increase network bandwidth.
Moreover, the virtual switch built into configurations is uniquely enhanced in VMLogix to include a full firewall. This firewall has all the standard features you'd expect, including opening and closing ports, rerouting various protocols to specific ports, and so on.
Another unique and useful feature is the ability to push changes to a virtual machine the next time it boots up. VMLogix offers several prebuilt possibilities, such as installing software, upgrading existing packages, patching the operating system, and running internally designed scripts. (You can use any scripting language supported by the operating system, shell or batch languages being typical.) This feature is particularly helpful for admins who want to perform updates across a group of virtual machines, but don't have the time or the inclination to start up each one to push out the change. With VMLogix, they can simply push the change, confident that it will be applied the next time the machine starts up.
One last feature that distinguishes VMLogix is the flexibility of the main console (click image below for closer view), which shows not only the usual thumbnails and resource usage levels in a real-time chart, but also user-defined fields. These are not user-selected, but user-defined, so specific attributes of VMs can be listed on the management pane. These can include reminders to the admin, ways of classifying the virtual machines, and so forth.
Overall, I was favorably impressed by VMLogix. The company has announced that an upcoming release will be able to perform lab management for both on-site and cloud setups. This will come about by integrating support for Amazon's EC2 cloud into the product. This hybrid will enable IT sites to quickly scale resources when demand spikes, such as when performing large-scale testing of products or in other development and QA use cases.