Review: VMware's vCenter Operations Manager lightens the load

Monitoring virtual servers for availability, performance, health, and workload capacity has never been easy, but Operations Manager goes a long way toward that goal

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Capacity planning
Operations Manager also incorporates VMware's forecasting and planning tools. When looking at a cluster and clicking the Planning tab, you get a view that shows the expected time remaining for the resources currently available in the cluster. This information is based on the number of hosts and their resources, as well as the currently running VM loads and the number of new VMs introduced over time. These calculations are then made to forecast how much time remains before cluster resources will be at their limits. The Planning tab also shows the total number of VMs that this cluster is likely to be able to handle, based on current workloads.

For example, if you've been adding many VMs to a certain cluster recently, the forecasting calculation might show that if that process continues, the cluster will exhaust current resources within the next two months. This data is broken out into each resource, such as CPU, RAM, data store space, disk I/O, and so forth.

In addition, by selecting "New what-if scenario," you can see how those numbers change as you add more hosts to the cluster, or add CPU and RAM resources to existing hosts. Operations Manager will then calculate how the cluster resources will be used within that scenario, helping to plan cluster upgrades. You can also add and remove hosts and data stores in a what-if scenario.

Alerting and reporting
One of the more significant problems with alerting is false positives. For instance, there are many times when a VM spiking to 100 percent CPU utilization is not a cause for alarm, but basic threshold triggers do not know this. As a result alarms are generated during normal operation that do not actually reflect a problem. Because Operations Manager has historical data on each object in the infrastructure, it will only trigger an alarm if previously unseen activity is taking place, such as a VM spiking to 100 percent on a time and day that it had been previously idle. This reduces the number of false positives and provides a better idea of what's actually happening on the cluster, host, or VM.

Alerts themselves are controlled by the Notification settings, which allow for fairly granular selections of objects, alert types, and criticality levels. In addition to being sent via email to one or more addresses and optionally via SNMP, alerts are shown on the right-hand sidebar of the UI, clickable from any place within the tool. This sidebar also expands to show at-a-glance overall Health, Risk, and Efficiency scores and graphs over time.

Operations Manager has a selection of predefined reports that can be called up on demand or run on a scheduled basis. These are exportable in PDF or CSV format, and they include data on under/oversized VMs, host utilization, capacity overviews, and idle VMs, among others.

Review: VMware vCenter Operations Manager lightens the load
The Analysis display is a quick way to reveal trouble spots or slack resources based on performance characteristics. We can see the analysis being performed, and the resulting heat map and detail below.
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