Third-party tools for Microsoft Hyper-V R2: Top 5 must-haves

Check out this list of top the five third-party tools for Microsoft Hyper-V R2 that can help solutions providers improve Hyper-V management, monitoring, backup and recovery.

Solutions provider takeaway: Only a few years ago, solutions providers and their customers had few options when looking at Microsoft Hyper-V R2 third-party tools. Today, the choices for add-ons are plentiful, and choosing the right tool for customers is challenging. Use this list of the top five third-party tools to help you with the selection process.

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I mentioned in a previous article that Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 R2 is a smart up-sell for your customers. SCVMM increases the scope of your virtualization services and enhances your ability to manage customers' virtual infrastructures.

But SCVMM is only one of many add-ons for Microsoft Hyper-V R2 environments. Today, Hyper-V's third-party tools' ecosystem is solid and growing.

Products that add improved management, monitoring, backup and restore, and offsite replication for disaster recovery to Microsoft Hyper-V R2 are abundant. The following top five third-party tools improve the overall administration of a Microsoft Hyper-V R2 environment and help you provide better service to your customers.

1. Vizioncore vControl

The first product of note is a dramatic improvement over Microsoft's SCVMM. Vizioncore vControl is a "self-service provisioning and virtual machine management solution," according to the company. It creates useful workflows and provides technical automation for virtual machine (VM) deployment and management processes. Unlike first-party management packages, which tend to focus on a single hypervisor (or a single hypervisor with limited support for competing hypervisors), vControl's third-party approach means it has full control over hypervisors from multiple vendors: VMware ESX/ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V R2, Citrix XenServer and Solaris Zones. VControl includes discovery and unified management features, along with a command-line-based scripting engine for automating common tasks through the use of Windows PowerShell cmdlets.

2. VKernel Capacity Analyzer

Management of virtual environments gets most of the attention in today's IT publications, but performance monitoring is equally important. The problem with virtualization is that its technologies complicate troubleshooting while at the same time optimizing administration.

VKernel's Capacity Analyzer improves performance management through virtual host and guest monitoring. Capacity Analyzer monitors shared CPU, memory, network and disk I/O use trends, aggregates results across multiple hosts and gives that information to solutions providers. As a result, you'll have a greater understanding of the activities going on in a customer's virtual infrastructure, and you'll be able to make specific recommendations regarding what actions customers should take.

3. AppAssure Replay 4

Performing backup and restore in virtual environments is often a complicated process. Do you install a backup client into each VM, or do you install it to the virtual host? Do you need to restore individual VM files or entire VMs at a snapshot point in time?

According to AppAssure Software Inc., traditional backup products force you to make an either/or choice, when you should really take a more comprehensive approach. AppAssure Replay 4 gets around the either/or choice by recording changes at the file system layer. Using a special driver that captures changes to hosts and VMs as they occur, this product enables virtual environments to "replay" a virtual machine or any of its contents back to any point in time. As a result, individual file restores for VMs take no extra effort than simply performing a VM restoration.

4. SteelEye DataKeeper for Hyper-V

Hyper-V's reliance on the Windows failover cluster service means that affordable disaster recovery is a reality for even the smallest virtual environments. Yet any multi-site cluster that uses this service must also use a third-party replication engine to mirror data between customers' primary and backup sites.

One product that has this mirroring capability is SteelEye Technology Inc.'s DataKeeper for Hyper-V. It enables the replication of VM data between two sites, and it is designed with Hyper-V's capabilities in mind. Multi-site clustering with Windows failover clustering might be easier to work with than in previous editions of Windows; however, implementing and correctly managing such a cluster is where solutions providers can offer their services.

5. Double-Take Availability for Hyper-V

SteelEye isn't your only option for high-availability replication software. Double-Take Software Inc., a long-time leader in the application replication business, offers Double-Take Availability for Hyper-V. Intending to solve many of the same problems as SteelEye's product, Double-Take has a replication engine that enables the live migration of VMs over geographically separated data centers. Double-Take Availability also enables replicated VMs to run in a "testing mode" to validate functionality without affecting the production environment.

About the author
Greg Shields, MVP, vExpert, is a partner with Concentrated Technology. Get more of Greg's tips and tricks at http://concentratedtech.com/.

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