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Q&A: Using vCenter Operations Manager to help clients manage the cloud

Solution providers can use the new features in VMware vCenter Operations Manager to sell integrated management and related services to VMware customers.

The latest vCenter Operations Manager version is catching on with solution providers despite its hefty price tag.

The new version of vCenter Operations Manager (vCOps), released in April, aims to make capacity planning and optimization easier with automation. The tool also provides views designed to help administrators optimize VM density, eliminate ongoing capacity issues and reclaim space taken up by unused VMs. In addition, vCOps provides a real-time look at dollars spent per VM, allowing administrators to optimize capacity.

If your customers are looking for a new way to manage their highly virtualized or cloud infrastructures, it’s important to understanding how vCOps’ benefits weigh against its cost. Tim Antonowicz, senior architect at VMware partner Mosaic Technology, explains how his company uses vCOps with customers and how they benefit:

What benefits does this tool provide to solution providers and MSPs?

Tim Antonowicz: One of the biggest benefits of vCOps is that it is a fully integrated solution that allows you to monitor, maintain and get alerts from multiple virtual data centers all into a single location. In smaller installations with up to 10 ESX hosts, it will perform fine. But it really shines when you have multiple virtual data centers -- whether they are local, in the cloud or dispersed across the globe.

It saves a lot of time and overhead, because you’re able to see all of the different and various data centers under your control. With the dashboard, you have a very quick visual sign -- red, yellow or green - to let you know that somewhere in your infrastructure there is a problem. And you can very easily start drilling down to that virtual machine and find out what the problem is and if it’s related to other problems. … Instead of having to proactively go to the public cloud and look through the log, it brings that information right to your fingertips.

MSPs can use it to monitor the status of their customer infrastructures. If you’re hosting infrastructures for multiple customers, this will allow you to pull information from all of those separate entities and manage and maintain performance and meet the SLAs that you have in place.

How has vCenter Operations Manager helped your customers manage their cloud environments?

T.A.: Once you install vCOps, not only does it aggregate and monitor all of the information, but it allows you to see what the status of your infrastructure is. You can start to do some planning. So even if you have disk capacity, performance-wise you might be running into a bottleneck. Your CPU has enough capacity to grow over the next year, but you might be chewing up more memory than expected and will need to address that sooner. It identifies those bottlenecks. … It learns the environment and will report against that, instead of relying on industry standards. That’s a big benefit.

What is the advantage to vCenter Operations Manager over other cloud management tools?

T.A.: There are a few other players out there, and a lot of them do pretty much the same thing. Some do things a little bit better than others. All in all, what they provide about performance and information is pretty close. But the biggest advantage that vCOps has is that it is a fully integrated VMware product. … You know all of the pieces of vCOps will be integrated with vSphere, vCloud Director or View virtual desktops or Site Recovery Manager in your other locations. … Additionally, storage vendors are starting to leverage vCOps into their own products. EMC recently announced the VNX Storage Analytics Suite, which is based on vCOps.

What is the learning curve on vCenter Operations Manager? What kind of training is offered from VMware to channel partners?

T.A.: It’s really straightforward. There’s a virtual appliance you can download, and there is an installable product you can put on a Windows server. For the most part, you just download the virtual appliance and there’s some initial configuration to get it up and running. Once it’s running, plug in the credentials for all vCenters. … When you log into the interface, you start getting information immediately.

On the partner side, there is online training for vCOps. There is a lot of documentation and how-to videos that partners have access to. The VMware partner SE’s [Systems Engineers] have gotten together in the Boston office and brought the partner SEs in and done roundtable discussions and lunch-and-learns where these products and how to use them are discussed. There is very strong support from the VMware technical community for us as partners. There is also tons of information online as well, as far as managing and maintaining vCOps.

Does having a tool like vCenter Operations Manager help Mosaic Technology sell cloud to customers?

T.A.: It does. It seems to be a great tool as part of a cloud roll out, because it allows sysadmins to get reports, alerts and performance information from your VMs from any location: local, colo or from a public cloud provider… You used to have eyeballs on every piece of hardware. As you virtualize, you become distracted from that. And as you move to the cloud, you don’t have access to that physical hardware anymore. You need that information brought to you. It doesn’t matter if the infrastructure is in Boston, Topeka or Austin, you have eyes on that infrastructure 24-7 with vCOps. Because there is apprehension to running something you can’t actually touch, vCOPS does help. Going virtual is one thing – as long as the VMs were in their own data center that was OK, but as you move to colo facilities or to the public cloud, they’ve lost touch with their infrastructure… vCOPS is that tool that brings them right down to the machine and brings back that relationship between the administrator and the server.

Are there any improvements you would like to see VMware make to vCenter Operations Manager?

T.A.: At this point, I haven’t really come across anything. I played with the earlier version before the latest version came out. Now [that] we’re rolling it out, I haven’t had enough time to look at it to say I really want A, B or C. I do like that it’s integrated with the most recent version of VMware View. It’s not 100% fully integrated across the board right now, but it’s coming, and the next version is going to be more inclusive. I haven’t really gotten enough information to have a wish list of what I want in the next version. I’m just enjoying what I have in this version right now.

 

This was last published in June 2012

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