Got virtual support? Systems management vendors can’t survive without it

Enterprise IT managers won’t buy management technology that doesn’t address the growing demand for virtual system support.

Virtual systems management might not be the most talked about technology today, but it could be the most needed tool for IT managers running heterogeneous physical and virtual systems on customer premises or in cloud computing environments.

As the year comes to a close, the buzzword cloud is often heard more often than others previously dominating IT discussions. Yet industry watchers point out that without virtual systems management and automation technologies, enterprise IT adoption of private and public cloud computing environments doesn’t stand much of a chance.

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“Virtualization and automation technologies are directly related to the cloud. Virtual servers comprise the computing environment and automation is responsible for the cloud being monitoring, management, secured and made compliant,” says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates. “Virtualization is fundamentally mainstream now, and there is a lot of activity around virtual systems management. Niche players are expanding support beyond VMware and enabling their technology to cover more of the enterprise.”

Virtual systems management vendors such as Embotics, Fortisphere, ManageIQ, Surgient, vKernel and Veeam emerged to specifically address virtual environments and other management software makers such as HP and eG Innovations adapted their technologies to incorporate virtual system support. One key attribute to such management products must be automation, analysts say, because the rate at which virtual systems change and the response to demand cloud environments must provide requires speeds that human hands couldn’t achieve.

“Automation has just exploded because IT managers need to improve efficiency and productivity, without adding a lot of staff," says Glenn O'Donnell, senior analyst with Forrester Research. "Virtualization has exploded and torn down the barriers of resistance and trust that used to keep IT from adopting automation.”

As vendors -- including VMware -- ramp up to support multi-hypervisor environments, enterprise IT managers will be looking at ways to automate more efficiently. For instance, workload-based cloud computing environments could quickly be created and destroyed when a specific job is completed. Using automation technology, virtual machines could be provisioned quickly, workloads could be run automatically and resources could be reallocated to other tasks when the job completes. Industry watchers expect virtualization and automation technologies to be used in concert to promote such workload-oriented cloud environments.

"Management has become so critical to cloud computing because cloud depends on virtualization and the automated provisioning and spinning out of virtual machines. Virtualization management continues to be a healthy segment of the market, and cloud management is one step up from that," says Mary Johnston Turner, research director at IDC.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.