10 hot data center tools

The latest and greatest products for the New Data Center

Enterprise data centers are notoriously complex, costly and energy inefficient, which leaves plenty of opportunity for innovative vendors to introduce products that ease the pain of data center managers.

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Cloudkick SaaS application

What it does: Manages and monitors multiple cloud services from a single dashboard.

Why it's interesting: Cloudkick offers its cloud management and monitoring application as a service, bringing together servers from multiple clouds into a unified Web-based dashboard. Users can manage and monitor servers in multiple clouds, receive alerts, run diagnostics and view performance graphs. The tools work the same way across all cloud service providers that support Cloudkick, including Amazon EC2, The Rackspace Cloud and GoGrid.

Max2Go

What it does: Delivers data center management to smartphone users

Why it's interesting: Max2Go delivers a real-time view of your infrastructure, including power, connectivity, bandwidth and critical systems to a smartphone. On-the-move data center managers can even issue alerts and manage ticket requests. There are a couple of catches. You've got to have a BlackBerry device with trackball or trackpad – no touch screens allowed. And, you have to be a ControlCircle customer provisioned on the company's new portal, Max2000, to use the application. However, anyone can download it in demo mode.

OverDrive 3.0

What it does: Orchestrates policy-based, real-time automation and control of network services. (Not to be confused with the company's same-named but functionally different original product.)

Why it's interesting: This technology will become increasingly important as enterprise IT adds desktop virtualization, test lab automation and other highly dynamic workloads to the data center. While IT has a choice of automation software for provisioning virtual machines, the same hasn't been true for switches and routers that connect those systems to one another. That's the gap LineSider is trying to address.

Power Efficiency Estimator and PUE Estimator

What they do: Measure power efficiency of enterprise data centers

Why it's interesting: Any tool that helps data center managers get a handle on power use and efficiency is worth noting – all the better if it's available at no cost. These new Green Grid tools should help data center managers figure out if they're on the right track with their power/energy efficiency plans. With the Power Efficiency Estimator, they'll be able to compare different scenarios of power topologies and technologies inside of their facilities. The PUE Estimator, as its name suggests, gives data center managers a way to measure their facilities' Power Usage Effectiveness at regular intervals. A Green Grid-created metric, PUE determines the amount of energy used by the facility and the IT gear inside of it.

RNAcache

What it does: Turns memory into a shared, network resource

Why it's interesting: Like everything else in the data center, it was only a matter of time before system memory went through the virtualization hopper. RNAcache lets applications load their entire working dataset into a memory cache for faster access and processing. Memory virtualization is cool, useful technology, but not for the everyday workload, cautions Dan Kuznetsky, vice president of research operations for The 451 Group. "This is for extreme transaction processing."

Schooner Appliance for Memcached

What it does: Uses multicore processors and enterprise-class flash memory to consolidate and optimize Memcache servers

Why it's interesting: Solid-state drive (SSD), or enterprise-class flash memory, technology promises to change the nature of servers, making them smaller and capable of handling greater amounts of memory, says Drue Reeves, vice president and research director with Burton Group. This appliance can serve up to 850,000 cached operations per second, the company reports. This will be a big boost for companies with traditional Memcache servers, which accelerate Web applications by caching data to reduce database load, but often run into performance snags due to memory, scalability and bandwidth limitations.

Surgient Cloud Express

What it does: Provides rapid deployment for enterprise cloud environments

Why it's interesting: Interest in enterprise clouds is high, but many IT executives haven't ventured into such an endeavor. Surgient Cloud Express, and other emerging cloud packages of its ilk, could give them the nudge they need to give premises-based cloud computing a whirl. With Surgient Cloud Express, comes the Surgient Platform, licensed for 30 managed CPUs; implementation services; one year of standard support; administrator training; client-specific private cloud architecture; documentation; and tracking and analysis for return on investment. This is all about transforming infrastructure so it's presentable in a cloud, then topping off with a management layer.

VIO-4000 switch series

What it does: Virtualizes I/O via PCI Express (PCIe) bus extension

Why it's interesting: One of the latest I/O virtualization switch entrants comes to market with the distinction of using the PCI Express bus in its implementation. This is an example of multiroot I/O virtualization (MRIOV), says Burton Group's Reeves. "Think of MRIOV as breaking apart a server and extending the PCI bus, with all the peripherals and the server itself, to the network. You're taking that bus and extending it beyond the walls of the server so it's almost like a fabric in the data center," he explains. In the case of Virtensys, a single PCI Express cable extends storage and network connectivity from a top-of-rack VIO-4000 switch to servers as needed, eliminating the need for distinct server adapter ports and LAN or SAN access switches. Virtensys supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel, serial-attached SCSI and serial ATA connectivity.

Viridity Data Center Management Software

What it does: Monitors energy consumption of IT gear in the data center

Why it's interesting: Most power monitoring tools focus on the physical infrastructure. This is limiting, Viridity says, in that it provides data center managers no insight as to why power is being consumed. Viridity's software examines how applications consume energy – and then recommends how to eliminate inefficiencies. If the Viridity software delivers as promised, it should prove a boon for data center managers looking to increase energy efficiencies.

Virsto One

What it does: Virtualizes storage at the hypervisor

Why it's interesting: As much as server virtualization benefits the enterprise, it brings with it a host of storage management challenges, from increased data volumes to performance issues. Virsto One, which initially plugs into the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V hypervisor, solves that by placing the storage virtualization alongside the server virtualization. This allows for greater control of storage sprawl, optimization and performance. Mark Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, compares what Virtso is doing for Microsoft's Hyper-V environments with what VMware has done with its VMSF to deliver high-performance storage in ESX infrastructures.

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