Dell Foglight vanquishes zombie VMs

Foglight for Virtualization Enterprise Edition can now identify and eliminate rogue and abandoned virtual machines

With an update to its Foglight for Virtualization software package, Dell can now help organizations rid their systems of resource-sucking zombie virtual machines.

"It's so easy to create VMs. We have customers creating thousands and thousands of them. But what are the lifecycles of these VMs? In these larger environments, [administrators] don't know if they are being used," said John Maxwell, Dell vice president of product management.

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Foglight for Virtualization Enterprise Edition 7.0 will also support the latest versions of VMware's virtualization products.

Dell plans to demonstrate the software's new capabilities at the VMworld conference next week in San Francisco, along with a newly updated Foglight for Virtualization Standard Edition (which is a separate product entirely from the enterprise edition) and Foglight for Storage.

Formerly called Quest vFoglight Pro, Foglight for Virtualization 7.0 Enterprise Edition is part of the Foglight family of software programs for easing and automating system administration tasks. Dell purchased Quest Software in 2012.

Foglight for Virtualization provides a set of utilities for working managing virtual machines running on VMware, Red Hat, or Microsoft virtualization platforms.

One significant new feature is the ability to clean up virtual machines that are no longer being used in VMware environments, but still reside on the system somewhere.

The software can now recognize a wide range of purposeless virtual machines that hide on VMware's infrastructure and even delete them on the administrator's behalf.

It can identify what Maxwell calls zombie VMs, for instance. These are VMs that continue to run though do not appear on VMware vCenter console. In some cases, these are VMs that an administrator might have delete a VMware definition from vCenter, thinking this would delete the VM itself. In some cases, these rogue VMs could even be surreptitiously installed on systems by malicious attackers.

Foglight compares vCenter's manifest of the VMs that are supposed to be running with a list of VMs it creates that are actually running, highlighting those that are not identified by vCenter.

Another category of shiftless VMs are those abandoned images and outdated VM backup snapshots that reside dormant in storage. "We've run into sites where VMs haven't been powered on for years, but they still take up storage," Maxwell said.

The new Foglight also can do what Maxwell called "rightsizing." The software can examine the actual resources a VM is consuming -- such as the allocated CPU, memory or disk -- and offer suggestions about more efficiently provision for that VM. It can even reprovision the resources itself.

The software also includes a number of other updates. It now supports the latest versions of VMware vSphere and vCloud Director. Working with VMware View, it now provides end-to-end visibility to virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

Version 3 of Foglight for Storage Management will feature pool-level analysis for those tracking capacity for thin provisioning, as well as a performance analyzer that allows the administrator to click through the VM statistics down to the storage array and even to individual nodes within the storage array. In addition, it now supports Dell Compellent, Dell EqualLogic, and EMC VMAX arrays.

Foglight for Virtualization Standard Edition, which the company markets to small and midsized businesses, now comes with improved capacity management and planning, and a power minimization feature that can examine workloads and recommend the least number of servers needed.

Foglight for Virtualization, Enterprise Edition 7.0 will cost $799 per physical socket. Foglight for Storage Management 3.0 will cost $499 per socket and Foglight for Virtualization Standard Edition 7.0 will cost $399 per physical socket. All of these products will be available on or around Aug. 31.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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