Thursday, 30 October 2008

First look and review of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008

As you are probably all aware System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 got released last week and is available for evaluation although I can't see it on MSDN yet.

So here is my independent review....please note that this is based on my first thoughts as I have only used the product for a day!

In the adapted words of a Fast show sketch... “Today I have mostly been eating....SC VMM 2008” and does it taste good?

Firstly, in short SC VMM 2008, has been geared up to be THE centralised virtualisation management platform. Today many organisations rely on VMware but in the future you can expect to see a whole mix of virtualisation platforms (Hyper V, Xen etc) potentially in an organisation. All of these have their own management interfaces, some more mature than others but this means potentially ‘disjointed’ support of essentially the key base technology layer for many organisations. This is not good and it’s clear to see the problems that this could present in regards to both the support function and the business overall. SC VMM 2008 is designed to solve this and take it one step further with ‘VPRO’ (performance and resource optimisation) which basically means that through integration with OpsMgr and VPRO management packs i.e. Exchange 2007 MP with VPRO, your proactive virtualisation management will be service aware. SC VMM 2008 will be know that a server in a resource pool is actually a critical Exchange bridgehead server and will make recommendations on VM placement, resource optimisation based on the existing setup of the virtualisation farm. As of 1st November 2008 VMM 2008 will be formally released to manufacturing with support out of the box for VMware 3.x, Virtual Center 2.0.1 or above and of course Hyper V (no Xen yet).

Well here is my simple review:

VMM 2008 at the moment is a bit like walking into one of those many chain gastro pubs. The menu (product) on paper looks excellent; it potentially has everything and more. The descriptions of the dishes (features) leave you salivating and even though you only really want a main course (service monitoring of your virtualisation infrastructure) your now thinking about the appetisers, desserts and veritable feast of side orders. You call the waitress/waiter over....and then the problems begin and your culinary dream is brought down to reality (for now). Firstly, even though the menu (features) look good, your informed that they are waiting on suppliers (vpro partners will generate vpro enabled management packs, some new Microsoft management packs will be vpro enabled) but there does not seem to be a clear release date. So you are basically left sitting in a flashy restaurant (SC VMM 2008) with a good looking menu but can’t order anything so you might as well have gone to your local favourite takeaway (Virtual Center).

So in summary VMM 2008 stills looks good but the hype, marketing and road map is better than the product at the moment. The VPRO function is currently simple and does not do anything which Virtual Center can’t do currently. It will recommend that VMs are moved to hosts with more resources but do you really need a ~ £700 product to tell you that when you already have Virtual Center? Its integration with Virtual Center is good (yes you still need virtual center because VMM plugs in via the SDK) and VPRO utilises V-motion to move running VMs around on the fly (something Hyper V can’t do until Win2k8 R2). It also lets you create snapshots from the VMM 2008 console which is quite good and yes the console does look nice.

It’s integration with OpsMgr is seamless which is good because it’s in the System Center family and it WILL make use of the OpsMgr reporting element but I can't find no reports yet. Through OpsMgr 2007 you can now see the health of machines from the virtual perspective but this is basic availability and optimisation monitoring at the moment until more VPRO packs are released, you can though, run tasks such as creating snapshots etc...but products like Veeam nWorks seem to monitor more at the moment. The VMM console allows you to V2V VMware VMs to Hyper V and will let you (looks pretty good) P2V a machine quickly to a Hyper V platform. Another good feature is that you can create new VMs on a VMWare or Hyper V platform and the wizard for doing this is very good with a simple star rating for placement.

The other feature which I have not tried yet is the self service portal which basically lets users provision their own VMs and assigns quotas to user groups. When they create a new VM a ‘points’ charge is deducted from their quota. This does look good but chances are large organisations have this already with VMware and this portal is only for Hyper V provisioning. So in summary VMM 2008 is still a good product on paper but we are left waiting for its really tasty features. Here is my points break down at the moment:


  • Great interface, probably the best virtualisation layer management interface I have seen (Citrix please take note). Makes the process of virtualisation (P2V etc) accessible to all IT professionals.
  • Create new VMware and Hyper V VMs all from one centralised platform.
  • Seems very stable for an RTM product (Good work Microsoft).
  • Hyper V with VMM 2008 looks like being the easiest to use virtualisation technology with user self service provisioning being easiy with a simple charging mechanism.
  • See your VMware farms and Hyper V farms from one console.
  • Setup is quite easy and Win2k8 aware in terms of its firewall ports etc.
  • Integration with OpsMgr 2007 is seamless which is the way it should be.
  • Makes great use of PowerShell and all cmdlets and scripts are shown.

Negative (reluctant to say this because the roadmap is good)

  • VPRO features at the moment limited.
  • No OpsMgr reports out yet.
  • Need firm release dates for VPRO enabled Management Packs

In conclusion, would you buy this today if you have Virtual Center set up, configured and your support teams like using it?...I doubt it but this is a case of “watch this space” in relation to VPRO. Would you buy this today if you are adopting Hyper V? - Definitely yes. Would you buy this today if you have OpsMgr or looking to implement OpsMgr and one of your key monitoring areas is the virtualisation layer - I would, as the road map looks like bringing the feast which has been promised on the menu and until that time it gives your support teams chance to get used to VMM and its integration with OpsMgr!

Well that's me done for now...time for me to head down to my local gastro pub!

No comments: