Virtugo virtualSuite zeros in on VM performance optimization

Virtugo's virtualSuite offers integrated performance monitoring and VM optimization tools. Its cost depends on which tools you drop into your box.

Virtugo Software's virtualSuite offers integrated performance monitoring and VM optimization tools. Its cost depends on which tools you drop into your box.

Our testing toolbox included Virtugo modules called Meter, Perform, Optimize and Capacity. The Meter module sets up chargeback capabilities based on a Virtugo-patented algorithm (called vCapacity) that combines 'consumable' characteristics of a VM instances including CPU, memory, disk and network I/O resources used.

The Perform module tracks those same host or guest VM utilization characteristics and more. The Optimize module allows an administrator to 'shape' performance among different 'guest' VM instances. And the Capacity module (formerly the History module) tracks and stores performance data for VM hosts and 'guest' VM instances.

An additional module offered by Virtugo, but not tested, is the Connect module, which supplies a communications linking mechanism to Microsoft Operations Manager and other third-party monitoring applications.

Net results

The best feature of virtualSuite was resource optimization of VM guest instances. Virtugo has the ability to monitor and analyze VM host resources, then set/reset VM host allocations to suit the activities and resource utilization of VM instance operating system/applications on a VM host platform.

For example, we used a home grown application that would dominate CPU resources for a specific VM-hosted instance. We launched the application, then watched virtualSuite display the problem: that the resources we'd allocated for the application were insufficient (in CPU and memory movements).

The second time we ran the application, virtualSuite was allowed to make adjustments for the application on the one VM, essentially 'robbing' CPU allocation from two other host VM 'guest' instances and re-allocated it to the one that had pegged CPU. VirtualSuite has a long list of resources that can be monitored and reset in this fashion.

There are several components installed (we deployed them in a mixed environment of Windows XP SP2+ and Windows 2003 Enterprise Server SP1 Edition platforms); a Controller, which is a server process that communicates with agents and contains the core logic of the suite; a Viewer (the administrative GUI application); Database (Microsoft SQLServer); and, Sensor agents for virtual host products and 'guest' VM operating systems instances. The agents support VMware ESX 2.5 and 3.5 VMs running on Windows and Linux servers.

The Controller keeps its password as well as VMware ESX VirtualCenter passwords in clear text in a program files folder on the host on which it runs, so that machine needs to be well-protected from file access insecurities. Virtugo says it will remove this somewhat scary file from plain view in the next product release. Virtugo installs an ESX host sensor application onto a desired VMware ESX hardware host, then installs guest (VM instance) sensor applications. The sensors send information about CPU, disk space used, vCapacity, bytes sent/received through network interfaces, 'committed' bytes (disk paging file allocation), memory pages used per second, and the amount of 'committed bytes' that are in use.

Virtugo finds hosts by describing them by IP address, server name, or specific host name, domain name, or by a range of IP addresses. After installing an agent (four minutes) on to VMware ESX and the 'guest' VM instances on ESX server, we enabled monitoring and looked at the information.

We set up artificial loads on four Windows Enterprise Server editions, one representing a high load, two with midsize loads, and one otherwise quiescent VM instance on our ESX test server and then let virtualSuite optimize their loads. There's a fast, medium, and slow learning mode that looks at resource utilization for optimization purposes with descending granularity (fast sampling is high granularity and slow is low).

It doesn't take long for virtualSuite to get the picture of which loads require more resources, and for it to adjust the VMware allocations of memory and CPU accordingly.

Virtugo gives a strong, but comparatively incomplete, picture of VM instance operational characteristics. Missing are, as an example, the disk/SAN characteristics tracked by Onaro's SANscreen VMInsight, or the more articulate VM instance health monitoring of nWorks. Although virtualSuite doesn't control some of these competitive metrics, it can optimize performance through learning the significant resources that sensors do track.

There are some items that need polishing. SSH access, needed to get to VMware and Linux VM instances, has a static port setting (the normal Port 22) that can't be changed, and it's necessary for the application to have root access with root passwords on the hosts, a potential security problem for some organizations. The virtualSuite Viewer client application can only have one instance per controller running. There are no methods to report problems to administrators, and problems aren't really thoroughly tracked through a help desk-like system. Finally, the help files weren't all that helpful.

Overall, we liked the Optimize features of Virtugo's virtualSuite. It needs some polish, and we'd be more inclined to love it if it had more extensive monitoring capabilities coupled to a help desk or trouble-ticket mechanism. Nonetheless, small shops will like the controls, and it won't take a second job's worth of time to learn its features and gain control over resources in VMware ESX environments.

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