Open source suite offered as ‘bridge to the virtual world’


With many of today’s systems and network management tools tied to physical machines, Silicon Valley startup Qlusters is touting its open source openQRM suite as a bridge to the virtual world.

Qlusters vice president of marketing John Harleman said openQRM takes the benefits of virtualization and enables users to apply them to, and between, physical and virtual systems.

“With openQRM users can use the virtualization technology of their choice where it makes sense and physical systems where it does not,” Harleman said, adding customers often reap manifold increases in efficiencies as well as an ability to view and manage their physical and virtual systems.

Freely available under a modified Mozilla Public Licence since 2004, openQRM includes an agent to monitor CPU utilization and system health as well as communicate with the openQRM server.

“OpenQRM can also integrate with the monitoring technology of your choice, for instance [the open source] Nagios, and leverage the monitoring metrics to provide HA or load management,” Harleman said.

Qlusters developed openQRM with a modular, plug-in framework which has led to support for virtual machines.

“OpenQRM starts out by abstracting the system environment from the physical hardware [and] then providing a layer of abstraction from the virtualization technology as well,” he said. “OpenQRM can provision, configure and deploy system environments to physical or virtual systems. Xen, VMWare (both ESX and GSX), Linux-VServer and Qemu are all supported.”

This flexibility also extends to being able to migrate a system environment from one virtualization technology like VMWare to another like Xen by changing an entry in a drop-down menu.

Harleman claims openQRM is the only data center management solution that works with Solaris, FreeBSD, Windows and Linux, and in the past year its functionality was expanded to also manage data center power requirements. “OpenQRM can also automatically configure the storage and network as part of provisioning the system environment, [for example] configure a switch to put a new system environment on a particular VLAN or the system to access a particular storage island, to enable the true abstraction and portability of all systems in today’s data centers,” he said.

It’s this type of system and storage management across physical and virtual environments that makes openQRM a precursor to utility computing and “true commoditization of the whole data center hardware that virtualization and grid computing proponents talk about without the price-performance penalty associated with them”.

With a focus on abstraction, management, and monitoring, Harleman believes openQRM is not a competitor to the big names like OpenView, Tivoli, and UniCenter, which have less emphasis on rapid repurposing and virtualization.

As to how openQRM compares with existing open source management projects, Qlusters software engineer Matt Rechenburg said most are concentrating on a specific aspect of managing a data center such as deployment, configuration management, and monitoring.

“OpenQRM does not try to reinvent the wheel, but integrates with open source or proprietary tools and technology to meet users’ differing needs and preferences,” Rechenburg said. “Our Nagios plug-in is a great example.”

Details of existing openQRM users are scant, but Harleman said one customer implemented openQRM for its test environment of over 1000 machines in a single location and could stop “over-requesting and holding on to resources”.

“It was also easy for IT managers to monitor utilization and relocate, reclaim, or archive the system environment depending on needs,” he said. “OpenQRM was configured to capture the new base image when the engineers update it and greatly simplified the rolling out of incremental updates. Their efficient use of hardware as well as enhanced workflow provided an ROI of less than three months.”

Another customer that clears “a very large volume of the New York Stock Exchange’s transactions” uses openQRM to provide HA and power savings.

“OpenQRM is configured to automatically start and stop machines as needed to meet peak demands as well as provide power savings or repurposing when they are not in use,” Harleman said. “OpenQRM also ensures the uniformity of the system environments and provides the ability to launch the backup data center.” Commercial support for openQRM is available from Qlusters starting at US$500 per year per managed physical system.

The openQRM project is online at .