HP readies 3-in-1 virtual server management application

* A sneak peek of HP's 3-in-1 virtual server management application

HP this week will share a sneak peek of software it's prepping to release later this year that the vendor says will enable data center managers to plan for capacity, manage virtual and physical workloads across an environment in real time and save on power costs - all with one software add-on.

HP Insight Dynamics - VSE is a plug-in to HP Systems Insight Manager (SIM), which comes loaded on HP Integrity, ProLiant and BladeSystem servers. The software preview is part of a bigger set of news around data center transformation and automation HP is set to reveal this week at HP's Technology@Work 2008 conference in Barcelona.

The add-on is said to hook into SIM to provide data center managers with one interface from which to manage virtual and physical resources, including hypervisors from several vendors. The company built the application using technology from existing HP products such as HP Virtual Server Environment, HP Insight Control and HP Virtual Connect. Having it work with SIM will further ease data center management, industry watchers say.

"To start, HP has really invested in the consolidated console [in SIM] for all its servers and worked to hook in storage and other elements as well as third-party data. Secondly, the company very much believes in getting a lot of data and processing it to show IT managers where the bottleneck could be and why," says Jonathan Eunice, principal IT advisor at research firm Illuminata.

On top of those existing tools, HP built in something it's calling "logical server" technology. This capability, HP says, enables the management application to separate the logical identity of the server from the physical box to enable easier provisioning and relocation of the logical servers across the infrastructure. Another HP Labs technology baked into this software, dubbed "Smart Solver" technology, enables IT data center managers to not only get a picture of server utilization and resource use in near real time, but also a historical look at workload peaks and valleys for capacity planning purposes.

According to Mark Linesch, vice president of infrastructure software at HP, the logical server capabilities enable IT manager to encapsulate the LAN, SAN and other dependencies of a virtual or physical server into a file that can be easily moved from, say, the testing and development environment to production without extensive configuration efforts. And Smart Solver allows IT data center managers to look across servers and make recommendations on which physical servers in particular have headroom to take on more of a workload. The software provides a rating system that quickly shows if there is adequate capacity for a certain workload. The software also looks at historical data to show which workloads would be best suited, or compatible with, other workloads on any given systems.

This last bit of news, industry watchers say, sets HP's promised application apart from what's available now for those struggling to balance the adoption of virtualization while optimizing performance.

"Virtualization companies show you how you can move workloads around, but it's all point-in-time [data] and there is no historical data associated with it. This type of capacity technology will help optimize workloads in virtual environments," based on the known behavior and patterns of the environment, Eunice adds. "It's not a 'throw it on and see what works' approach. There is a depth and sophistication to this approach that is not in every tool for planning consolidations and workload distribution in virtual environments."

HP also layered another capability on top of that. The company equipped this software application to also be able to allocate workload across servers based on power consumption, something that is top of mind to data center planners according to IDC. More than one-fifth (21.8%) of close to 200 IT managers surveyed by IDC in 2006 ranked power and cooling as "the No. 1 challenge data centers face today."

HP's Linesch explains HP Insight Dynamics - VSE can assess the workload across multiple servers, determine the utilization rates on the servers and consider reallocating workloads to fewer systems to shut down other for power and energy conservation purposes.

"The software can give you information on how to tune virtual machine technologies to get great utilization rates out of existing servers, and also let you shut down some of these servers at low use times, such as overnight, and reconstitute them when the load demands," he says.

Set to be released before year-end, HP Insight Dynamics - VSE will be delivered for ProLiant servers as a new package building on the Insight Control Environment. For Integrity servers, the software will be an update to the Virtual Server Environment Suite.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.