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Evaluating virtualization management software for Hyper-V R2

Find out why your customers need more than Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 manager to ensure proper performance management of their virtualized environment.

Every Microsoft Hyper-V R2 installation with more than one host requires virtualization management software. This tip helps solutions providers explain to their customers why virtualization management software is worth the added cost.

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Virtualization management software is considered an add-on because Microsoft's native Hyper-V R2 manager can accommodate only the most basic of functions -- starting, stopping, pausing and snapshotting virtual machines (VMs); creating simple virtual networks; and exporting and importing VMs.

While Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) is the most well-known virtualization management software for Hyper-V R2, today's virtualization management software comes in many forms and from many vendors. Each product brings with it the mark of its developer, and each has its own special capabilities that make it stand out from its competitors.

But before talking about these platforms with your customers, think for a minute about why your customers actually need virtualization management software. What capabilities does this software bring to the table for its added costs? Consider the needs of a Hyper-V R2 implementation, and use these thoughts to justify your own up-sell.

Here are a few key reasons why virtualization management software is essential to Hyper-V R2:

Templating and automated template deployment: One of virtualization's primary benefits is how fast VMs can be deployed. Environments that need to quickly accommodate new servers and desktops require software that creates, manages and even links VM templates. To be completely effective, that same software must be able to deploy and personalize those templates via an automated function, particularly in pooled hosted desktop and lab environments where VMs are short-lived and rapidly recreated.

Policy-based management: Hyper-V R2's native tools are very machine-specific. It is entirely possible to use a single console to view multiple Hyper-V R2 machines, but it is not possible to manage the machines as a group. To solve this problem, there is another layer of virtualization management software on top of the multiple hypervisors that aggregate functionality across every Hyper-V R2 host. This aggregation enables you to manage VMs -- no matter where they are located -- and virtual hosts on a policy basis. The net result is more cohesive management and fewer mistakes across a distributed infrastructure.

High-availability management: Policy-based management is even more apropos when hosts are aggregated into a high-availability cluster. Hyper-V R2's native management toolsets are not suitable for managing clusters, especially when the number of cluster nodes goes beyond two. Since Hyper-V R2's cluster service is a general purpose (or tier 1) cluster service, different tools are needed to make it easier to use high availability features in Hyper-V R2. Such tools enable targeting for VM failover, load balancing instrumentation and policy-based management of cluster configurations across all nodes (which, again, reduces the likelihood of mistakes).

Performance management and monitoring: Solutions providers can argue that virtualization management is all about performance management. Most businesses realize the return on their virtualization investment via their consolidation ratio -- the number of VMs that can successfully run atop a single host. Therefore, deep instrumentation toolsets that watch for performance behaviors and suggest configurations are an absolute necessity for all but the very smallest of environments.

Multi-hypervisor management: With the cost of hypervisors ranging from free to very expensive, solutions providers should know that focusing on a single hypervisor isn't the most cost-effective approach. Today's conventional wisdom is that each hypervisor has a particular fit. Some hypervisors work better for hosted desktops, some for extremely critical workloads and others for general purpose and low-cost virtualization. Yet the downside of the multi-hypervisor approach is its inefficiency in working with different management toolsets. Give your clients the best return on their investment and the most flexible management options by looking at virtualization management software that can layer across more than one hypervisor.

SCVMM is indeed the virtualization management software of choice for Hyper-V, but it is far from the only product that can fulfill customers' needs. Many virtualization management options remain nascent, others come at no cost and some are mature and ready for enterprise deployment. Solutions providers should consider companies like Citrix Systems, Quest Software and Vizioncore to give their customers more options to choose from.

About the expert
Greg Shields is an independent author, instructor, Microsoft MVP and IT consultant based in Denver. He is a co-founder of Concentrated Technology LLC and has nearly 15 years of experience in IT architecture and enterprise administration. Shields specializes in Microsoft administration, systems management and monitoring, and virtualization. He is the author of several books, including Windows Server 2008: What's New/What's Changed, available from Sapien Press.


This was last published in November 2009

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