Ever since VMware first began changing its vSphere 5.0 pricing model to include a cost for virtual memory (dubbed the "vRAM tax" by competitors and angry users alike), many organizations have questioned whether they should rely on VMware vSphere as their sole virtualization platform and began to take a second look at server virtualization offerings from Citrix, Microsoft, and Red Hat.
While these investigations were primary driven by upper management as a cost-savings measure, decision makers may also fear vendor lock-in as more and more physical servers (including mission-critcal servers) were being migrated to virtual servers on the VMware hypervisor platform. While a heterogeneous virtual data center may look good on paper, the management complexity that comes with using multiple virtualization platforms in the same environment can be a nightmare.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Find out about 5 free tools for VMware View VDI admins to try | Read how you can remotely access VMware virtual desktops with WSX and an HTML5 Web browser. | Keep up on virtualization by signing up for InfoWorld's Virtualization newsletter. ]
There are lots of third-party software companies trying to solve the heterogeneous virtualization management nightmare, but VMware vCenter is still the gold standard for most users. If there's one thing I've learned after years of speaking with VMware administrators, it's that you will have to pry VMware vCenter from their cold, dead hands. It may not be perfect, and it doesn't solve all problems, but vCenter has become a management tool they simply cannot live without.
But VMware isn't interested in managing competitors' hypervisors within vCenter. Doing so would validate these other platforms, and I don't see that happening anytime soon. Where does that leave administrators who want to minimize the number of management tools they have to use to manage a hetergeneous environment?
VMware may not be ready to manage other hypervisor platforms from within their own management application, but that tiny issue is being overlooked by a company called HotLink, which came out of stealth mode last year after launching SuperVisor for VMware during VMworld 2011.
HotLink has taken a different approach to centralized management of multiple virtualization platforms. Instead of using more than one management tool or overlays that try to glue different consoles together, HotLink makes one console do the work of the others. To make that happen, HotLink's transformation engine technology abstracts and decouples the virtual infrastructure metadata from the virtualization management layer to enable native interoperability of hypervisors. It can basically translate operational hypervisor system commands into a common form understood by other hypervisors, making it possible for administrators to manage Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Red Hat KVM from within VMware vCenter.
HotLink SuperVisor was designed with a plug-in architecture to extend the platform vendors' virtualization management solutions. The first plug-in was created for VMware vCenter -- the obvious choice since it is the deployed management platform for virtualized environments. The next obvious step for HotLink would be to create SuperVisor for Microsoft and integrate it with System Center Virtual Machine Manager, then perhaps expand the platform to work with public clouds, including those from Amazon Web Services and Rackspace.
Earlier versions of SuperVisor for VMware carried out basic virtualization management functions (such as powering virtual machines on and off, VM cloning, and workload conversions) from vCenter for all VMs running on vSphere as well as Citrix, Microsoft, and Red Hat platforms. The company recently announced the newest release of its flagship product, HotLink SuperVisor for VMware 1.5. With SuperVisor for VMware 1.5, the company said it was building on its technology to deliver on the advanced features of VMware vCenter.