Friday, 10 December 2010

Don’t be one of those suffering from capacity products that have performance problems getting data from VMware......

There is a large number of third party performance and capacity products out there for VMware now.  At VMWorld in San Francisco in September 2010 I heard tell of 40+ products claiming to be capacity management software.  Perhaps some of the vThis and vThat product names should be changed to vTroubled or vChallenged.
Being associated with a product that has a 25 year heritage, I of course have a healthy cynicism about many of these offerings.  Gartner recently stated that for virtualization, 2 out of every three new companies disappeared within three years.  Not necessarily for bad reasons.  Some were bought out by other organizations and continue to provide solutions. Many fell by the way side as they failed to achieve market penetration though.   Beware which horse you back!
I have further cynicism over what constitutes capacity management.  With capacity management now getting viewed as a more strategic initiative due to virtualization and Cloud computing initiatives, many new offerings are just not ‘industrial strength’ capacity management.  Whilst they might be good and pretty for day to day performance reporting, they lack facilities for the more sophisticated aspects of capacity planning such as modeling and predicting future performance and integrating business data into capacity plans.  Many are also purely x86 solutions as well, meaning that many UNIX and mainframe virtual platforms are not covered.  This means that large organizations have to implement various point solutions to meet all their needs and lose the broader picture provided by cross-platform capacity products.
Specifically for VMware, there is a further danger.  Many of these products have been developed from a small scale environment perspective.  The same can be true of VMware itself, and just as VMware has had to address scalability issues, word has been spreading around recent events such as Computer Measurement Group CMG and the Gartner Data Center Summit that some of these VMware point solutions for capacity management have scalability and capacity issues of their own.  For larger environments such as 100+ VMware hosts, many products seem to be struggling to bring back data quickly enough, leading to lost data and gaps in performance and capacity reports.  The issue is not totally their own: VMware admits to inefficiencies in the timeliness of data retrieval when such products use the vCenter web service API to retrieve such data.
Metron saw the writing on the wall for the web service API as a means of gathering large volumes of VMware data some time ago.  As VMware installations have scaled up, Metron has migrated to an alternative approach, accessing the vCenter database directly.  This means that Athene captures data in a few seconds that takes other products several minutes.  If you have a small installation with few hosts this is of no interest, but if you have an enterprise environment with thousands of hosts like many of our clients, you need to make sure your capacity solution has enough capacity of its own.

Andrew Smith
Chief Sales and Marketing Officer

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