VMWare tool designed for multi-server shops

VMware’s general release of its Stage Manager is designed to help IT managers deploy applications into production much faster, predictably and reliably, the company said.

Stage Manager, which follows the beta period that began last January, leverages VMware Infrastructure to streamline and automate the entire process and eliminate the use of excessive amounts of hardware to support the transition, said Melinda Wilken, senior director of marketing at VMware.

“It’s for IT people charged with quickly and safely transitioning IT services or applications whether new or updated safely into production,” explained Wilken.

The process of transitioning production applications traditionally entails several stages: integrating the application, whether it’s an in-house developed or packaged system, into the target IT environment; testing the integration; and finally, user acceptance testing. Such a process exists so IT administrators don’t have to make system changes directly to the actual production environment, however, the process is prone to errors and inconsistencies.

Stage Manager would work best for mid to large companies running IT services, but in particular those running their business on a multiple-tier application, said Wilken.

IT administrators managing multiple-tier production environments typically face challenges around application delivery. For instance, server sprawl often occurs during the process of creating shadow instances of the multi-tier environment so that different IT teams can work on different phases throughout the process.

Another challenge is configuration drift, when multiple shadow instances get out of synch with the production environment perhaps because a patch was not consistently applied or a configuration setting was erroneously changed.

With Stage Manager, IT administrators don’t have to track multiple instances of configurations throughout these stages, and changes and updates are automatically controlled so that errors are minimized and application delivery is quickened, said Wilken.

Also, the system allows IT administrators to document their actions at a particular point in the deployment process “so you have a record of that IT service along the way and into production,” said Wilken.

IT admins also have the ability to archive or take a snapshot of the entire multi-tier environment “with the push of a button in about a minute,” she said, should they need to rollback to a previous state while applying a patch, or simply require a record for audit purposes. “I know I’m working on an exact replica of the production environment because I’ve just cloned the current production environment.”

Ongoing maintenance of IT processes is typically draining to the IT budget and engaging in process automation reaps significant ROI benefits, said Wilken, adding that the process automation that Stage Manager allows is an extension of virtual infrastructure. “We believe that automation based on VMware infrastructure and virtualization is even more powerful.”

VMware’s release of Stage Manager and other recent products centres around that “next level of virtualization which is to make it easier to manage infrastructure,” said John Sloan, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

While virtualization enabled organizations to cut costs by consolidating hardware and systems, the real value of the technology, said Sloan, is to streamline the management of such processes as application development and deployment. “That process can be a very complex undertaking. Advanced applications can rely on multiple servers, and there are multiple stages of development, testing, staging and then rollout,” he said, adding that 20 to 35 per cent of that project could be the acquisition and configuration of the hardware.

Offering services for IT infrastructure management is how vendors are differentiating themselves, and VMware is leveraging its position in that area with Stage Manager, said Sloan.

Also, on the same day, VMware announced the general availability of Site Recovery Manager to automate the disaster recovery process. As with Stage Manager, the tool is also part of VMware’s management and automation product suite for the data centre.

Although there are minor changes between the beta version and the general release, customers previously using the beta will find the transition seamless, the company said.

Stage Manager and Site Recovery Manager are available for purchase this Monday.

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