IBM introduces virtualization dashboard

New tool manages different portions of a datacenter as one whole system

IBM onThursday is introducing a new tool to manage virtualized datacenters even if the center is running different types of virtualization software.

IBM's Virtualization Manager uses a Web-based dashboard for managing different portions of a datacenter as one whole system, the company said. Virtualization Manager will simultaneously run virtualization software from vendors such as VMware, Microsoft, XenSource as well as for IBM's System p and System i servers and storage devices.

VMware products specialize in virtualization on x86-standard servers, while Microsoft Virtual Server manages servers running the Windows operating system and XenSource virtualizes open source systems. Virtualization Manager will give people who run datacenters better control of systems from those different vendors, said Peter McCaffrey, director of virtualization strategy for IBM.

"You need to better manage the environment if you're going to get the full advantage of virtualization," McCaffrey said.

Virtualization is a method of improving the performance of datacenters by running several software applications, even based on different operating systems, on the same physical server. Because some servers deployed today operate at as little as 10 percent or 20 percent of capacity, virtualization reduces the need to buy more servers.

Because Virtualization Manager is Web-based, the datacenter can be managed from wherever an IT manager has Web access, he said, and the easy-to-navigate user interface helps reduces operating as well as capital expenses. Virtualization Manager is a free software download for customers who already operate IBM servers on their networks, even if they also run other brands.

Such virtualization management products can help reduce one of the major cost areas for datacenters: labor, said Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, an information technology research and analysis firm.

"Management of systems is a very expensive operation," said Clabby, adding that if a simpler management system is available, enterprises can use lower skilled and lower-paid people to manage a virtualized environment. "That savings on their SGA, sales, general and administrative, expenses goes right to the bottom line."

IBM boasts advantages its product has over those from other tech companies but a VMware executive says the whole industry is moving in the direction of simplified management of virtualization technology.

"All these management vendors are looking at how virtualization is deployed in the datacenter," said Steve Harrod, vice president of technology deployment at VMware, adding that, over time, "you will get basic management capability in a standard form."