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Microsoft Virtualization Goes Cross-Platform with VMware Support

With System Centre Virtual Machine Manager 2008, Microsoft adds support for VMware ESX Infrastructure virtualization technology. With Hyper-V virtualization technology, now Microsoft can manage VMware virtualization technology.

Microsoft breaks new ground by adding support for VMware ESX Infrastructure to System Centre Virtual Machine Manager 2008. This is a nearly unprecedented step for Microsoft and Hyper-V, and warrants immediate IT manager evaluation for both tactical and strategic implementation in corporate data centres.

I’ve covered system and management tools for more than a decade, and in that time Microsoft has almost universally relinquished management of non-Microsoft software to third parties. Now, using APIs provided by competitor VMware, Microsoft has demonstrated that it can take cross-platform management tasks and succeed. In my tests of SC VMM 2008, it was clear that Microsoft has turned over a new leaf and that IT data centre managers will be the beneficiaries.

Also new in SC VMM 2008, released 1st November, are support for virtual machines running on Windows Server 2008; performance and resource management tools that also work with Microsoft’s System Centre Operations Manager (née MOM); and modest improvements when components including hardware, operating systems and applications fail.

The SC VMM 2008 enterprise license is just under £600 and includes Virtual Machine Manager management server software and the Enterprise Management License. A midmarket version of the product that is limited to managing five physical host servers (called the VMM 2008 Workgroup Edition) costs £347.

There are a burgeoning number of cross-platform management tools that compete with SC VMM 2008. Of the established system management players, BMC Software with Performance Management and IBM/Tivoli with Tivoli Monitoring for Virtual Servers are the furthest along the cross-platform path. ManageIQ’s Enterprise Virtualization Management Suite is agentless (as is SC VMM 2008) and uses Web 2.0 features to keep IT managers up-to-date on the virtual infrastructure.

SC VMM 2008 provides plenty of functionality through monitoring groups of host systems, a virtual machine management interface, a library for centrally stored resources from which to create new virtual machines and a convenient job monitoring console. This is an impressive continuation of Microsoft’s effort to do management right that the company started with the previous version of SC VMM.

I installed SC VMM 2008 on a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant ML115 system running Windows Server 2008 64-bit. Once the application was installed, I added my Hyper-V systems to the list of managed hosts. Next I clicked on the “add VMware VirtualCenter server” action to begin incorporating my VMware ESX environment into SC VMM 2008.

The system cleanly imported my cluster, host and VM information from the VirtualCentre system. Selecting a host from the list provided detailed status information, including processor type, the amount of RAM, storage, operating system and version, and the names of the virtual machines installed on that specific host.

I installed VMware ESX 3.5 on a new physical system and added it to the VirtualCentre management interface. Within 2 minutes, the new host appeared on the SC VMM 2008 interface. IT managers who are familiar with the VMware Virtual Infrastructure client interface will have no trouble navigating around the SC VMM 2008 screens.

Managing virtual machines and hosts by status or operating system type was easy to do using reporting filters supplied with the product. SC VMM 2008 does a good job of highlighting machines that are in trouble. It never took more than a couple of clicks to navigate to troubled systems to see the problem.