CA revises virtualization management tool

Monday is announcing a revision of a Unicenter software tool that consolidates management of a greater variety of vendors’ clustered and virtualized servers.

The new Unicenter Advanced Systems Management r11.1 will support systems with virtualized servers and server clusters through a single interface, said Paula Daley, director of ASM marketing at CA. The same commands can be used by IT workers to manage virtual systems from VMware Inc., Microsoft Corp., Red Hat Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.

The latest version relies on Microsoft’s SQL Server management database, replacing earlier versions’ use of the Ingres database, she said. That earlier version, r11, provided management for Microsoft virtualization as well as VMware.

John Coleman, manager of technology services at Wellspan Health in York, Pa., said he has been successfully testing the new release for about six weeks and hopes to use it to manage VMware and IBM virtual systems in January, with Microsoft systems added later next year.

“With virtualization, you don’t have the physical equipment to touch for management, and things are always in constant flux,” Coleman said. The first virtualization software at Wellspan, from VMware, went live about nine months ago.

Coleman said that every virtualization vendor has a different management console, making the ASM tool valuable in a heterogeneous data center such as Wellspan’s. When Wellspan needs to reallocate computing tasks to different virtual machines based on demand changes, such a management tool comes in handy. “We can be dynamic,” he said.

Coleman said CA has “a very good reputation for integration” of tools such as ASM. “You can still call them up and discuss issues,” he said. Coleman also said his staff favors using SQL Server over Ingres, although providing for database server hardware has been an additional expense, he said.

Documenting what task is running on a virtual server would be nearly impossible because a given task “might not be there tomorrow,” he said. Daley said that ASM could help IT staffers know when a mission-critical application begins to fail so that additional memory or processing power could be found on another virtual server.

Rich Ptak, an analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates in Amherst, N.H., said CA might be unique in offering such a complete package of capabilities in a single tool, but other management vendors such as IBM’s Tivoli Software unit, HP and BMC Software Inc. will probably compete. “A lot of folks in IT assumed that just implementing virtualization was going to solve all their problems, when, in fact, it introduces the need for even more management” software, he said.

Ptak said that if an IT shop is planning to use only one virtualization vendor, the ASM product wouldn’t make sense. Conversely, an IT group might decide to standardize on one virtualization vendor to avoid the need for CA’s ASM product, which also requires installing Network Systems Management.

Market research company IDC is predicting an acceleration in IT shops that use several virtualization products for next year, said Stephen Elliot, an IDC analyst. He advised that IT managers make purchases of management software a priority in coming budgets.

Andi Mann, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo., said tools such as ASM will become more valuable. “Virtualized environments are going to become the norm eventually,” he said.

ASM requires a user to have CA’s Network and System Management tool, a separate product that starts at about US$10,000. ASM, which ships starting today, starts at about $30,000, a CA spokesman said.

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