Data Center

Meeting the Virtualization Management Challenge

While virtualization technology brings lots of advantages to data center operators, including the ability to consolidate servers to save on operating costs, it also brings new challenges in at least one key area: management.

But vendors are stepping up to meet the challenge, most notably VMware with the recent release of its vCenter Operations Management Suite 5. The second major release of its virtualization management product combines what were once discreet functions, including performance management, configuration management and capacity management. There’s good reason for that, as outlined in an excellent piece by longtime IT journalist Charles Babcock in an InformationWeek story:

VMware in this version of vCenter Operations is saying that pools of virtualized resources allow you to manage differently. In the first version, vCenter Operations offered a view of the overall vSphere environment. In Version 5, that view is extended down into individual virtual machines themselves.

Instead of keeping many devices running all the time, IT departments can consolidate operations as the day winds down and move virtual machines to servers with freed up capacity to handle them. To accomplish such a savings, the storage and security settings attached to each virtual machine will need to migrate with them. Through vCenter Operations and vSphere, VMware says it provides the means to accomplish that.

That’s a big development in terms of managing virtual environments, one that enables virtualization to start reaching its full potential. The idea of moving workloads around by time of day or as capacity warrants is one of the benefits of the cloud computing model, which of course is built on virtualization. But it can’t happen without the right management tools enabling such capabilities behind the scenes.

Of course VMware isn’t alone in trying to tackle the virtualization management challenge. Vendors including Juniper Networks are also making headway in the space. Juniper frames the issue as both a management and a security problem, because virtualization creates “blind spots” where traditional security tools are ineffective.

With virtualization, data traffic often travels between virtual machines that reside on the same physical server. A security appliance that sits outside the server, on the physical network wire, will never see that traffic – and thus can’t detect if anything nefarious is going on.

Juniper’s vGW Virtual Gateway addresses the problem by applying firewall, intrusion prevention and application security for virtual environments. In essence, the vGW can see all traffic flowing between VMs, even traffic flowing between VMs on the same physical server.

These kinds of developments are good news for IT, as they will enable companies to better manage their virtual environments such that they reach the full potential of the technology – without sacrificing security.

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