Tuesday, October 30, 2012

vCenter Operations Manager - Solving Performance, Capacity and Configuration Problems!!

I have been writing about the cloud infrastructure products of VMware all this while. I believe it is important to look at the management side of things as well. No doubt Virtualization makes things easier for an organization and its IT department; however things are good till the time they are small and easy to manage. As the confidence of such organizations increases towards Virtualization, you would notice a VM sprawl, which might someday defeat the purpose of Virtualization & consolidation.

The result of a sprawl leads to unpredictable behavior of the Virtual Infrastructure, Performance bottlenecks, Waste of expensive resources, complex troubleshooting procedures and issues around other day to day admin activities. I believe any administrator of a medium/large virtual infrastructure would agree to the brief description of the pain points which I have listed above. If you categorize these problems broadly they would fall under 3 Major Categories:-

I - Performance Problems - This will include pain points such as:-

§  How is my overall infrastructure performing?
§  How hard my physical ESXi servers are working?
§  Am I looking at a potential problem which might break my infrastructure?
§  Is there a way I can predict issues and solve them before they are noticed by End Users?
§  Which areas do I look at to troubleshoot any existing issues?
§  Is it a storage issue or is it the hypervisor?

&, the list is never ending..........

II - Capacity Problems - Let's have a look at the pain points of capacity:-

§  Do I have enough Physical capacity (CPU, MEMORY, NETWORK and STORAGE) to support my virtual machines?
§  When do I need to buy more hardware?
§  Am I wasting any resources?
§  Have I sized the virtual machines appropriately?
§  How should I answer questions raised by my CXO's about capacity forecasts, buying decisions etc.??

& many more.....

III - Configuration & Compliance Problems - A more critical problem area, let's see some issues here:-

§  I am asked to follow HIPPA, SOX or PCI compliance policies for my servers, am I compliant?
§  My infrastructure is too big? How do I control changes in my Virtual Infrastructure? 
§  Is there a way to maintain common standards?

The more you dig here... the more issues you would find...

Well, the list above is only a sub set of issues which we face while managing the Virtual Infrastructure. As a reader of this article and an administrator you would be able to add 10 more unique issues to this list when you read this article. However, we still have a bigger issue on hand. I call it the BIGGEST issue. Questions are always raised around:-

There are so many tools in the market who claim that they can help me with such issues. Which one should I chose??

- What should I do with my existing tools? That's a huge investment which I have already made.

- Can I get a Single Pane of Glass to solve all such issues? (The most common one - People are fascinated with a single pane, I don't know why?)

and another long list of questions.........

I hope you are with me so far and not lost into the issues which you are facing in your Virtual infrastructure because now I am going to tell you how you can solve such issues. I must tell you over here that the solution I am going to talk about has been around for a good number of years, however I have taken my own sweet time to start believing in this solution as it has matured over a period of time. Now that I see this solution working for large enterprises, I guess this is a good time that you can look into this for solving issues related to Performance, Capacity, Configuration and Compliance in your virtual infrastructures.

As the headline of my post suggest, I am talking about vCenter Operations Manager a.k.a. vCOPS. As an introduction, I would say that this VMware solution has been stitched together in the recent past, by plucking out best components from various industry standard tools which have been there in the Industry for a long time. Though there are a number of functions available in this solution, I would talk about the major life-savers here:-

Let me explain each one of them in simpler manner:-

Patented Performance Analysis - A set of 9 patented algorithms which look at performance as a behavior and not a threshold. The engine learns the behavior of your infrastructure by monitoring all the performance metrics. It learns the Normal behavior and only alert you if it observes an abnormal behavior which could lead to a potential problem. Overall gives you the HEALTH of the infrastructure and make you take right decisions in real-time. This was acquired as a part of Integrien acquisition back in 2010.

Purpose Built Capacity Planning & Analysis - This is VMware Capacity IQ which is rolled up into this suite. Those who know the power of capacity IQ would know that it is the only tool available today, which can pin-point at things like, oversized & under-sized VMs, wasted resources, time remaining & capacity remaining to provision new workloads and potential RISKS associated to Capacity of your Physical Infrastructure. It will also help you do tasks such as Capacity Trending & Forecasting for better and accurate buying decisions.

Automated Configuration & Compliance - This ability of the Suite is provided by vCenter Configuration Manager which again is around for a while. It was a part of the IONIX product portfolio, however later it was picked up by VMware from EMC to weave it into vCOPS and complete the entire picture. This is one of the strongest solution which I have witnessed for compliance and configuration management and has the capability of working across virtual and physical infrastructure, across OS platforms and across server architectures.

I hope this gives you some insight on VMware vCenter Operations Manager. I know I am leaving you with a few thoughts around what else this solution can do and how it actually does what it promises to. There would be questions around financial implications and licensing models as well. I will leave you with a few links which will help you learn more about vCOPS and at the same time I will come back with a few more articles which will help you use this solution effectively in your infrastructures.

Before I share those links, here is an interesting fact which might impress you, if you are still not impressed by vCenter Operations Manager:-

The latest version of vCOPS called vCOPS 5.6 (launched at VMworld Barcelona), has the capability to work across multiple hypervisor, multiple cloud platforms (private or public) and allows you to build Self-Healing mechanisms using vCenter Orchestrator as the Workflow Orchestration Engine. Except Capacity Management, this solution can extend into your Non-VMware infrastructure for Performance, Compliance & Configuration Management. (Storage, Networks, Other monitoring tools, HP UX, Solaris, Applications - Exchange, Oracle, SQL, Amazon, Azure, XEN, Hyper-V etc)

I sure see a revolution coming our way.. Get your seat belts on & sit tight :-)

Here are the links which you can use to learn more:- 

VMware vCenter Operations Manager Fundamentals [V5.X] - This free eLearning course covers how to install and configure vCenter Operations Manager as well as how to use its many robust features.

Other Technical Resources and Links - Link to demos, videos, documentation etc.

Pricing & Packaging - All you need to know about vCOPS licensing, pricing etc.

Hope this helps... If you liked this article, kindly share with others and let the knowledge spread.......

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