Microsoft releases System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008

System Center Virtual Machine ManagerAround about now, Microsoft is due to announce that they have released System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 to manufacturing. For those watching Microsoft’s virtualisation strategy unfold, this is an extremely important release – many of the critics of Hyper-V have been concerned about the management tools but SCVMM integrates with other System Center tools to provide a fully-featured management solution for both Hyper-V and VMware ESX – so organisations can manage their physical and virtual workloads as one, whether they are running a Microsoft or a VMware virtualisation platform.

I’ll write separately about the various System Center management products and how they complete the Microsoft Virtualization story but this post looks at some of the features in SCVMM 2008.

Originally released in 2007, SCVMM is a recent addition to the System Center family of management products and provides centralised management for virtual machines whilst integrating fully with other System Center products to allow administrators to use the same interface and common foundation that they use for managing a physical infrastructure in the virtual world.

Built on Windows PowerShell, making the product fully scriptable, SCVMM uses the concept of jobs which are executed against virtual machine hosts and guests for centralised management.

With the 2008 product release, Microsoft has added cross-platform management functionality(Hyper-V, Virtual Server and VMware ESX – note that the VMware management does require Virtual Center in order to provide the necessary APIs and does not include non-task-oriented functions, such as cluster creation), integration with Windows Server 2008 failover clusters (including intelligent placement), delegated administration and performance and resource optimisation (PRO) to provide guidance for administrators for automatic or manual actions when alerts are raised, integrating with the management frameworks provided by leading server hardware providers.

Microsoft’s algorithm for intelligent placement of virtual machine workloads uses the CPU, memory, network and disk requirements for virtual machines to project the required resources and then balance this with the defined resource thresholds for each host, before providing a rating for each host, according to its suitability for servicing a given virtual machine workload. It also takes into account the prospect of cluster node failure, whereas competitive solutions will allow resource overcommitment to artificially increase the consolidation ratio (but may be creating a problem if a node does fail). Through integration with SCOM, SCVMM can be used to discover potential virtualisation candidates and the product also includes the ability to perform physical to virtual (P2V) and unidirectional virtual to virtual (V2V) conversions.

Delegated administration should be a key consideration for infrastructure deployments and SCVMM enables this with a role-based model, including self-service. Templates may be used for rapid provisioning of new virtual machines and the web portal provides a quota system for users to create and destroy VMs, based on administrator-defined rules.

As for how to buy SCVMM – it will be available from November 2008 as a standalone product, or as part of the Server Management Suite Enterprise (SMSE) which allows organisations to use several System Center products to build a complete management solution for the entire infrastructure, both physical and virtual.

Management is clearly a strong element of Microsoft’s virtualisation story and SCVMM addresses many of the issues that the basic tools provided with Hyper-V cannot. With the added advantage of the “Windows that you know” – i.e. familiarity for administrators – and, according to Microsoft, a greatly reduced total cost of ownership, SCVMM not just a perfect companion to Hyper-V but it also provides management tools for legacy virtual infrastructure and finally brings enterprise virtualisation features within the reach of most organisations.

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