Vendors Scramble to Rein in Virtual Environments

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The rush to virtualize data-center resources has players across the entire IT landscape working to deliver virtualization products and win customer favor. Management and automation vendors see the technology as an opportunity to improve current tools and create news ones designed to help enterprise IT shops optimize their virtual environments.

"Many companies have implemented virtualization projects to save money -- they didn't realize that this entire craze for virtualization would be potentially problematic when changes need to be made to the production environment," says Evelyn Hubbert, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "Additionally, many organizations have thought of virtualization in one IT area, for instance server, client or network. Virtualization is forcing the silos or domains in IT to connect."

Heightening interest is Microsoft's formal launch of its Hyper-V hypervisor, planned for next week, and hypervisor market leader VMware's annual VMworld 2008 conference beginning in two weeks. A slew of companies, including HP and Red Hat, are breaking news that in one way or another promises to pump up the market for virtualization technologies.

HP added virtualization products across its software, server, thin client and storage divisions, for instance, and Red Hat acquired desktop virtualization player Qumranaet for $107 million.

Industry watchers say to expect more product enhancements as enterprise IT executives adopt x86 server virtualization and expand the technology into areas such as storage, applications and desktops.

"A healthy market for tools that manage, configure and secure VMs is a good sign and reflects the progressive attitude enterprises have about the technology: Virtualization is ready for prime time," says Phil Hochmuth, senior analyst at Yankee Group.

That means more companies will be looking to management and automation tools to help them gain control of their virtual environment and automate tasks as current practices become unsustainable. For instance, the methods used to manage configuration or patch distribution to 10 physical boxes will become untenable when those host servers house exponentially more virtual machines. But industry watchers that warn third-party tools to support virtual environment may not yet be ready.

"There is still much work to do to bring the management of virtual server environments up to par with that of a traditional physical environment," says Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner. "Areas where tools are still evolving range across the spectrum, but particularly important will be continuing work in areas such as root-cause analysis, capacity and performance planning, chargeback and automation."

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