VKernel Capacity Analyzer a Strong Tool in VMware Environments

VKernel’s Capacity Analyzer 2.0 can use VMware VirtualCentre statistics to offer clarity in virtualization deployments. However, the virtualization tool is not a cross-platform product; it doesn’t address Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization technology. But in VMware environments, the virtualization tool will help IT administrators get the most out of their ESX installations.

VKernel’s Capacity Analyzer 2.0 can now use VMware VirtualCentre statistics to monitor disk I/O throughput performance and provides a comprehensive dashboard to clarify murky virtualization environments.

It’s not a cross-platform tool; Capacity Analyzer didn’t have anything to say about eWEEK Labs’ Hyper-V capacity. With that said, the new version of the product, just out of beta and shipping since Oct. 14, could spell the difference between spinning your wheels and gaining significant traction when it comes to getting the most out of your organization’s ESX installation.

The biggest difference between VKernel’s Capacity Analyzer and VMware’s Capacity Planner is that VKernel uses added technology to make predictions about when and where capacity problems will occur. When it works correctly, it allows IT data centre managers to stay ahead of application slowdowns caused by resource constraints.

Capacity Analyzer is best suited for small to midsize enterprises that have moderately sized data centres and relatively quiet VMware installations. Competitors include Tek-Tools Virtual Profiler, VMware’s Capacity Planner and Lanamark’s eponymous suite.

VKernel Capacity Analyzer runs as a Linux-based virtual appliance in VMware ESX Infrastructure. The £133 standard edition, or £200 enterprise edition, hooks into VMware VirtualCentre statistics to capture CPU, memory, disk and network counters, including average, summary information. Capacity Analyzer uses either MySQL, Microsoft’s SQL Server or an Oracle database to collect and process performance data. The product uses VMware’s 5-minute interval statistics collection, the most granular that is available.

I accessed the tool via the Web-based interface. There’s only one level of administrative access, but on a performance monitoring tool I’m not as concerned about junior administrators having too much access. However, as a matter of good form, I would like to see VKernel add at least a read-only account.

After installing the product and connecting to my VirtualCentre server to collect performance data, it was easy to navigate through my VMware clusters and hosts down to the individual virtual machines. Clicking on a VM revealed a host of data accompanied by sage advice. The “Current Capacity Bottlenecks” section highlighted the current problems affecting the performance in my environment.

Capacity Analyzer came configured with good baseline thresholds, but it was possible for me to adjust thresholds that were customized to my ESX Infrastructure environment. For example, I could view an ESX host and see that storage was highlighted as a constrained resource. Capacity Analyzer highlighted the resource in green to indicate that, at 8 percent utilization and trending flat, this wasn’t really much of a problem.

Looking at the VMware cluster as a whole, Capacity Analyzer also made suggestions for the best place to deploy new VMs in my environment. The “Capacity Availability Map” listed the top five hosts or resource pools with the most available capacity, ordered by availability.

Capacity Analyzer tracks data store statistics and uses graphs to show total and free space. I was able to get a detailed look at LUNs (logical unit numbers) associated with the data store.

The product is loaded with reports that provide detailed information about resource usage and change in the ESX environment. Memory, storage, network usage, CPU and I/O Wait data are all collected and analyzed in easy-to-use graphs.