For Monster.com, the initial benefits of virtualization\n in the data center were easy to see: With 500 virtual machines\n (VMs) running on 17 servers, Monster cut power and hardware\n spending and improved efficiency, since virtual machines can be\n deployed much faster than standard hardware. But as\n Monster\u2019s virtual environment got big, and got big fast,\n management problems arose. The worst one: The company\n didn\u2019t have enough visibility into which applications\n were competing with each other across storage and server\n resources\u2014and this was affecting IT\u2019s ability to\n meet service-level goals, says Pete King, manager of monitoring\n and analysis at Monster.\u201cWe ran into a lot of contention,\u201d says\n King.So King turned to BalancePoint, a workload balancing and\n applications service-level-management tool from startup Akorri,\n to ease the pain. BalancePoint shows when and why a particular\n VM is not performing up to standard, and based on that data,\n King can redistribute the load to increase efficiency. It\n analyzes performance on the VMware side and storage area\n network side to avoid virtual fights for resources.Now that Monster has been using BalancePoint for a little\n more than a year, \u201cthere\u2019s less trial and\n error,\u201d says Paul Neilson, senior vice president of\n technology services. Monster no longer has to move VMs around\n based on \u201cintuition,\u201d he adds.Almost everyone using server virtualization will bump up\n against one or more of the common management problems,\n including workload balancing, \u201cVM sprawl\u201d and\n disaster recovery plan complications, says IDC analyst Stephen\n Elliot. Tools from VMware and a growing number of third-party\n vendors can help.\n\n Keep Your Balance\n Workload balancing can be a tough problem to get your arms\n around. One key benefit of virtual machines is the ability to\n move them easily from one physical server to another. Problem\n is, it\u2019s hard to know how many VMs on a particular server\n are too many\u2014since the answer may depend on the\n applications, plus factors like memory and attached storage. In\n an environment where critical applications compete for the same\n server, it becomes difficult to see which applications are\n contending with each other, and this affects a company\u2019s\n ability to prevent slowdowns.For Monster, managing this challenge required multiple\n tools, a situation that\u2019s not uncommon. Monster uses\n Akorri\u2019s BalancePoint to augment the capabilities of\n VMware\u2019s two main management products, VMotion (which\n increases hardware utilization by migrating VMs on failing or\n underperforming servers to another machine) and Distributed\n Resource Scheduler (which couples with VMotion to allocate\n resources to high-priority VMs based on preestablished rules\n you set).A key point: DRS and VMotion show where to balance workload,\n but they aren\u2019t analytical and don\u2019t see contention\n with other apps outside of VMware, King says. Since\n BalancePoint isn\u2019t tied to the OS, it can see if VMware\n performance is impacted by other apps residing on the same SAN\n resources, he says. \u201cDRS just sees what it sees for\n performance through the host (CPU, memory and storage), but it\n can\u2019t see what the database server that\u2019s on the\n same side as the SAN is doing,\u201d says King.The more VMs you move into production, the more critical\n predictability becomes, says Rick Knode, director of computing\n and communications infrastructure for San Diego Data Processing\n Corp. (SDDPC), a nonprofit provider of government IT solutions\n that serves customers like state agencies. Knode needed help\n managing resources in the company\u2019s current environment\n (50 VMs on three servers) and in the future: Approximately 100\n additional VMs will be added to production in the next fiscal\n year, Knode says. He looked to Vizioncore\u2019s esxCharter\n tool to obtain performance information on SDDPC\u2019s VMware\n ESX servers in real-time. This tool looks at performance levels\n and processes running inside the virtual machine. Being able to\n adjust the CPU power and memory allocated to VMs is critical\n when you need to make on-the-fly adjustments and terminate or\n move processes that are adversely affecting environments, Knode\n says. \u201cIt gives you more visibility into what\u2019s\n going on.\u201d For example, if a specific VM is eating away\n at one of his processors and affecting other VMs on that\n processor, he can use DRS and VMotion to move the VM onto\n another processor. But he says he wouldn\u2019t know which VMs\n to move without Vizioncore.At Wachovia, the fourth largest bank in the United States,\n Tony Bishop, chief architect, turned to Scalent for help\n balancing workloads for his 1,000 VMs running on a few hundred\n servers used in development, testing and back-office roles.\n Scalent, which may be used independently or in concert with\n VMware, helps Bishop repurpose servers quickly. \u201cSome of\n the other [management] tools we looked at also have forms of\n provisioning, but they don\u2019t have the ability to act in\n as near real-time as possible, like Scalent can,\u201d says\n Bishop. Scalent\u2019s software gives him management\n flexibility when apps are competing for resources, he says.\n Virtualization Toolbox\n \n Among the vendors offering server virtualization\n software:\n \n\n VMware\n VMotion and Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)\n are part of the VMware Infrastructure 3\n suite\u2019s enterprise edition. DRS handles\n dynamic workload balancing, while VMotion migrates\n VMs across physical servers.\n\n Scalent Systems\n Scalent\u2019s Virtual Operating Environment\n (V\/OE) tools, which may be used with or without\n VMware, maintain network and storage connections\n while moving servers. Scalent also redeploys\n servers in case of failure or load change.\n\n Vizioncore\n Vizioncore\u2019s esxCharter tool augments the\n capabilities of VMware, letting you compare the\n performance of individual VMs, spot bottlenecks and\n create long-term performance reports.\n\n Akorri\n Akorri\u2019s BalancePoint bridges the gap between\n server and storage components, providing insight\n into virtualized machines and the SAN, locating\n points of contention and providing troubleshooting\n analysis.You\u2019ll find about 50 other vendors\n tackling virtualization management, says Cameron\n Haight, a research VP at Gartner, including:\n Platespin (disaster recovery\n and migration); Aurema (recently acquired by\n Citrix, VMware resource\n management); Cirba (data center\n consolidation planning); BMC (capacity planning); and\n CA (performance monitoring\n across multiple infrastructures, including\n VMware, Sun and AIX).\n \n \n \n\n Masters of Disaster\n Flexibility also pays with regard to disaster recovery, an\n area where CIOs are increasingly looking to virtualization.\n Nate Stuyvesant, CTO of Genilogix, an IT consultancy, says\n disaster recovery is his company\u2019s biggest IT management\n issue, period. He\u2019s not alone.According to Gartner data, 70 percent to 75 percent of\n Gartner\u2019s clients who are using virtualization for x86\n servers are also using it for disaster recovery. Genilogix runs\n 60 VMs on four servers across development, testing and\n production environments. Stuyvesant relies on VMotion to move a\n server over to another physical box and effectively eliminate\n downtime, VMware\u2019s DRS tool alone is a cogent reason to\n consider virtualization in the first place, he says.Eric Miller, president and CEO of Genesis Multimedia, a Web\n hosting company that also designs its customers\u2019 Web\n applications, uses VMotion to increase uptime and improve\n reliability in his environment of 55 virtual machines running\n on three hosts, where some customers need higher utilization\n than others. Miller relies on VMotion, driven by DRS, to move\n the virtual machines around.Genesis is no stranger to virtualization\u2014it has been\n operating in a virtual server environment since VMware made its\n debut\u2014but management isn\u2019t always easy. The initial\n move to consolidate 12 servers used for Web hosting, and two\n larger servers for database systems, helped Genesis manage its\n physical servers, but moving virtual machines around,\n implementing patches and performing BIOS upgrades without\n experiencing downtime was difficult, Miller says. As an\n infrastructure provider, Genesis must provide high service\n levels, so uptime is critical. \u201cWe couldn\u2019t\n maintain those without VMotion and DRS,\u201d says Miller.Add-on tools can help address the problem of \u201cVM\n sprawl,\u201d by keeping track of how many VMs you have and\n where.\u201cIt\u2019s somewhat ironic that the benefit of\n virtualization is resource optimization, but it encourages\n messy behavior,\u201d says Cameron Haight, a research vice\n president at Gartner, noting that almost all his clients cite\n VM sprawl as a big worry. \u201cYou can spend these things so\n quickly that you lose track of what you have,\u201d Haight\n says.SDDPC\u2019s Knode says Vizioncore helps him prevent VM\n sprawl in the first place. \u201cBy watching the metrics of\n the virtual environment, we plan ahead. So by using VMware and\n Vizioncore I can see how many additional resources are\n available on an ESX host, and when is a good point to move\n machines or purchase additional servers or storage. We\u2019re\n using the product as a preventative measure.\u201d\n\n Virtualization 3.0\n Monster\u2019s King and Wachovia\u2019s Bishop both say\n they\u2019d like virtualization management vendors to take the\n next step\u2014better integration of their tools with existing\n management software. For example, King would like to see the\n tools in HP\u2019s Mercury Business Availability Center suite\n (which Monster uses for transaction and infrastructure\n monitoring) integrated with BalancePoint.Bishop agrees: \u201cWe\u2019ve achieved very good\n results, but we\u2019re trying to create an integrated\n management capability with all the tools in one view.\u201d\n Bishop, who uses HP\u2019s Mercury BAC suite, OpTier CoreFirst\n and Symantec i3, would like to see these tools better\n integrated with Scalent, VMware and DataSynapse, which he uses\n for application virtualization. After all, he says,\n virtualization tools can solve manageability issues, but CIOs\n want a holistic management picture.Reach Associate Staff Writer Katherine Walsh at\n email@example.com.