Hardware virtualization management: To plug in or not to plug in?

Should Dell, HP, and IBM strive to be the single-pane-of-glass management tool in a virtual environment, or just plug into VMware vCenter?

Despite claims that server virtualization makes everything easier, in many ways it has made data centers more complex to manage. By virtualizing the physical server, gone are the days of managing one app, one server. On the flip side, also gone are the days of server vendor lock-in. Because virtualization abstracts away the underlying hardware, it is easier for data center administrators to have multiple server hardware vendors in play, allowing administrators to rack the best (or cheapest) hardware they can get their hands on.

Does that mean hardware vendors will stay out of the virtualization management game? Hardly. In spite of this newfound freedom, hardware vendors are still fighting to maintain control as that "single pane of glass" when it comes to systems management. So how do you handle management across multiple vendors in a virtual environment?

[ Find out more about Dell's Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter at InfoWorld's Lab Notes. | Also on InfoWorld, read about VMware's presidential shake-up and learn about their four co-presidents. ]

Dell has its own systems management solution, Dell OpenManage, but it wasn't originally designed to manage a virtual server environment, so Dell is trying other ways to make it easier for its customers to manage their PowerEdge servers in this new environment. Last year the company worked hard to integrate its servers, service processors, and Dell OpenManage administration tool with Microsoft's System Center. Now Dell is attempting to ease administration burdens for VMware users by hooking Dell PowerEdge servers into VMware's vCenter management console via a new Dell plug-in.

Dell seems to have come to the conclusion that it has little chance of circumventing VMware users from using vCenter as their main entry point into their virtual environments. Thus, they created a plug-in for vCenter that allows it to reach into OpenManage, the Dell PowerEdge Lifecycle controller, and the Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) for remote systems management. The plug-in provides administrators with the capabilities of provisioning bare-metal servers, deploying ESX and ESXi hypervisors on to bare metal, handling firmware and BIOS updates, and managing alerts directly from within VMware's vCenter console.

IBM's approach to virtualization management takes a different path. Despite what Dell may have heard from customers, IBM doesn't believe VMware should be that single-pane-of-glass view into the virtual data center. IBM's approach is more open and focused on managing both physical and virtual resources, regardless of whether the virtualization environment is VMware, KVM, or something else. The company claims this approach will give IT administrators with a more holistic, integrated view of their IT infrastructure that spans servers, storage, and networking.

"Using IBM Systems Director, we can manage physical and virtual resources across the entire IBM Systems portfolio (System x, Power, System z, storage, and networking) and across multiple virtualization environments -- such as VMware, KVM, Hyper-V, PowerVM, and z/OS -- using plug-ins like VMcontrol, Network Control, Storage Control, and Active Energy Management," said Alex Cabanes, manager of IBM system software. "These products work in conjunction with virtualization environments. In addition, IBM Systems Director can interface using the open UIM [Upward Integration Module] into the Tivoli Management Framework, Tivoli NetView, HP OpenView, Microsoft SMS, Microsoft Operations Manager, CA Unicenter NSM, and BMC Patrol, so customers can use their existing Systems Management infrastructure to manage their IBM Systems in a cohesive, integrated manner."

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