Top ten tools for managing virtual environments

By Rick Vanover
Wednesday, 25 March, 2009

In any field, doing a job well requires the right tools. Luckily for VMware Infrastructure 3 (VI3) administrators, there are plenty of solid virtualization infrastructure management tools available to monitor and troubleshoot virtual machine (VM) performance problems, identify network components, migrate files, manage virtual machine lifecycles and more.

In this article, I list the top 10 tools on the market help virtualization administrators ease the burdens of management and monitoring tasks in their daily lives.

The 10 best virtualization management tools
VKernel SearchMyVM

VKernel offers SearchMyVM, a free virtual appliance that allows administrators to obtain information on almost any components ofaVI3 environment. Its most impressive function allows you to see which virtual machines (VMs) have snapshots enabled and which VMs have VMware Tools installed or have CD-ROMs attached to an .ISO file. In addition, SearchMyVM's Web-based interface is user friendly and has a query builder that you can use to create criteria based on your needs for such things as wildcards and greater-than or less-than operations.

Veeam FastSCP with Veeam Backup

Veeam FastSCP enables administrators to move files to and from a Windows client to an ESX host, a vCenter Server or a Linux host through a native interface. When browsing vCenter Server with FastSCP, all hosts are enumerated in their cluster and data center configuration to create a transparent interface for exchanging files. Note that ESXi hosts cannot exchange files with FastSCP version 2.x but can do so with version 3.

Akorri BalancePoint

In managing virtualized environments, one challenge is the frequent disconnections that occur between virtual hosts, storage systems, networks and applications. Akorri's BalancePoint monitors all these critical components with the agentless ScanPoint software. The data is collected and displayed in a report that indicates the source of performance problems. BalancePoint also offers the GuidePoint application, which makes recommendations based on the monitored data and modeling of the workload across the various components of a virtual infrastructure.

Embotics V-Commander

Managing the lifecycle of a VM is challenging, but Embotics V-Commander has a smooth, Web-based interface that allows administrators to manage a VM's expiration date, cost center, approval status, Active Directory integration, reporting and other management elements of a VMware-based virtual environment. V-Commander follows the activity of vCenter Server for each VM component in real time. Resource pools, clusters, hosts and data centers are also displayed in V-Commander to provide a solid lifecycle management option in several critical areas. Beyond V-Commander, Embotics offers V-Scout, a free lifecycle management application.

Reflex Security Virtual Security Appliance

In VI3 environments, it's difficult to get detailed accountability of the network presence of virtual machines. Reflex Security's Virtual Security Appliance monitors the current virtual switch of an ESX host and features granular controls, advanced reporting, visual representations and virtual switch port awareness. Reflex Security's Virtual Security Appliance is also available for Citrix XenServer 4.x and XenCenter environments.

FastScale Composer with Virtual Manager

FastScale's approach to system provisioning is unique because it deduplicates common operating system components. By removing these components from a virtual environment's footprint and consolidating them into a back-end resource, the virtual environment can consolidate itself at a greater ratio and use storage more efficiently by requiring only the specific binaries and configuration elements of a virtual machine. Virtual Manager allows administrators to use systems with a high degree of efficiency that, in some cases, exceeds traditional virtualization standards.

LeftHand Networks Virtual SAN Appliance

LeftHand Networks' Virtual SAN takes the storage assigned to ESX hosts and pools it to create an iSCSI storage area network (SAN) that can be accessed by ESX hosts. But this product goes a step further because it offers LeftHand's network RAID protection for storage. With network RAID, a collection of drives on one host are treated as a "drive" of a RAID set in a traditional array, meaning that losing one host effectively uses the parity on the other local arrays. The Virtual SAN product can serve as a buffer space for migrations or a means to put that local hard drive space to use.

Ultimate Deployment Appliance

The Ultimate Deployment Appliance can aid the VM and physical machine construction process. Coupled with the ESX Deployment Appliance, this tool allows systems, including ESX host systems, to perform a boot from a Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) and pull down an OS installation. This is usually done via the product installation in an ISO file being configured for use in the appliance. ESX host systems can be configured to specify IP address, server name and other configuration items.

Vizioncore vEssentials

his listing isn't entirely fair, because vEssentials is not a single tool but three popular tools bundled together.VRangerPro, vReplicator and vFoglight work together to provide a feature-rich management option for the VI3 administrator. VRangerPro provides a vCenter Server-integrated backup agent to protect virtual machines on the fly, vReplicator provides VM replication to other ESX servers for essential VMs across different networks and storage systems, and vFoglight provides comprehensive performance monitoring and VI3 environment reports and alerts. All the vEssentials components are agentless to the guest VM.

Storage VMotion plug-in

The Storage VMotion plug-in created by virtualization expert Andrew Kutz enables administrators to move VM storage from one Virtual Machine File System (or VMFS) volume to another. The plug-in begins to function when the application programming interface calls to the vCenter Server to execute a Storage VMotion task. While you still have the option of running the svmotion-interactive command or making a script to move several of VMs, this plug-in makes Storage VMotion easy and intuitive. For a history of the plug-in and how administrators use it, check out the this VMware Communities post.

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