DynamicOps unveils abandoned VM manager

Burlington, Mass-based DynamicOps has released an updated version of its flagship virtualization management software, adding a new capability that aims to seek out and destroy abandoned virtual machines.

The company, a group spun out of Switzerland-based financial services giant Credit Suisse Group last year, said Virtual Resource Manager 3.2 is the first virtual management tool that automates the reclamation and recycling of inactive VMs. The updated software costs US$1,500 per socket and can be used in VMware, Hyper-V and Xen-based environments.

Rich Bourdeau, vice-president with DynamicOps, said that while a lot of virtualization management tools offer reporting capabilities that can identify potential problems, VRM will actually take things a step further and automate this workflow.

“In talking with customers, what many of them had was a workflow process in place to validate with the owner of the machine that a VM was no longer needed before starting the reclamation process,” he said. “This is usually done with spreadsheets or e-mail, requires a lot of manual processing and is done fairly infrequently at most companies.”

Bourdeau said that while the previous version of VRM had offered policies to reduce VMs from being provisioned unnecessarily from the start, the new automated resource reclamation feature will help combat VM sprawl farther along in the process. With the added functionality, users can filter down their reports to a list of machines that look like they’re inactive and automatically launch an automated workflow that will start the reclamation process.

“We have about seven or eight different criteria that the customer can set for these filters,” Bourdeau said. “Is the user still in Active Directory? Has anyone logged into the machine in the last 90 days? Has the machine even been turned on in the last 90 days? What is the CPU utilization? And so on.”

He added that customers can configure VRM to ignore known good machines, such as a Web server that administrators infrequently log onto.

Jeff Byrne, senior analyst and consultant with the Taneja Group, called DynamicOps’ updated software “significant” and a true advancement to the vendors who are simply offering a manual workflow process to identifying and fixing this problem.

“Most end-users don’t take the time to go find inactive or abandoned VMs more than once or twice a year,” he said. “A lot of people are using spreadsheets or their own manual tools that they’ve extended for virtualization.

“The ability to automate the process and let the appropriate person know so they can make an informed decision is pretty key,” Byrne added.

DynamicOps stressed that scale will ultimately drive the need for the VRM tool, as the product is being geared toward growing virtualization shops with at least 200 to 300 VMs. “The higher the rate of change, the more the need for our type of applications to be able to automate your management and enforce governance,” Bourdeau said.

According to Gary Chen, research manager of enterprise virtualization software at IDC Corp., having forgotten VMs running forever can also pose a serious security problem, as the machines are not getting patched regularly.

“The industry is beginning to recognize the problem of sprawl, but so far we don’t really know what the extent is,” he said. While most industry observers have a pretty good handle on the total number of VMs out there, there is still no data on what percentage of that would be considered “forgotten” VMs, he added.

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