As everyone expected when server virtualization took off on x64 iron a few years back, the hypervisors that provide the ability to carve up a machine into multiple virtual machines have rapidly commoditized.
When you pay for a VM tool, you are getting all of the extra goodies, like live migration and backup and recovery, that hook into the hypervisor, as well as the ability to manage the VMs, whether they are turned on or mothballed.
Each of the key hypervisors has its companion management tool: VMware's ESX Server has VirtualCenter, Citrix Systems' XenServer has XenCenter, and Microsoft's Hyper-V has System Center Virtual Machine Manager.
A number of vendors have popped up to adapt management tools for physical servers to cope with specific virtual servers or have created tools that manage one or maybe two virtual environments. Think Vizioncore and PlateSpin, just to name two. And the monstrous management frameworks from IBM (Tivoli), Hewlett-Packard (OpenView), and CA (Unicenter) are also playing here.
A relatively small startup based in Carlsbad, California, called ToutVirtual, thinks that by being hypervisor agnostic with its VirtualIQ Pro tool it can get its share - and maybe more than its share - of the hypervisor management pie. VirtualIQ Pro has just came out in its third release and spans a large number of x64 hypervisors.
A taste for metal
ToutVirtual was founded by a bunch of serial entrepreneurs who had sold a web monitoring tool called eCritical to Quest Software back in 2003. With the cash in hand, company president Jess Marinez, chief technology officer Vipul Pabari, and chief strategy officer Bakul Mehta decided that server virtualization management was going to be a fruitful market in the future.
They founded ToutVirtual in 2005, and got the first release of the VirtualIQ Pro management tool out the door in the summer of 2006. It was noteworthy in that it allowed for the management of VMware's ESX Server type 1 (bare metal) hypervisor and its GSX Server type 2 hypervisor - which is hosted atop Windows or Linux - from within a single management console. This was something that VMware itself did not do, since it would prefer customers who wanted management tools to upgrade from GSX to ESX to get them.
With the second release of VirtualIQ Pro, ToutVirtual added support for Microsoft's Virtual Server hypervisor (type 2) as well as the Xen instance inside Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (similarly type 2).
With VirtualIQ Pro 3, VMware's ESX Server, ESXi, VMware Server, and GSX Server hypervisors are all supported. So, too, is XenServer from Citrix, Hyper-V for Windows Server 2008 from Microsoft as well as Virtual Server 2005 R2, the Oracle VM standalone implementation of the Xen hypervisor, and the integrated Xen in SLES 10 from Novell. Red Hat is conspicuously absent from support, of course, as is the KVM hypervisor that Red Hat is shifting to as it moves away from Xen.
VirtualIQ Pro 3 has three components. A web console for managing VMs and hypervisors, data collection servers - written in a variety of languages, tuned for particular hypervisors and operating systems - and a database for storing the information about the VMs and hypervisors.
The bulk of VirtualIQ Pro is written in Java, according to Pabari, with some other languages used for data collection. The program is agentless, which is something a lot of IT shops are looking for because no one wants the overhead of an agent running on VMs, and can be installed on a Windows or Linux box.
The tool does physical and virtual machine asset discovery and builds an inventory of what is out there on the network. It also includes a physical-to-virtual (P2V) migration analyzer, which suggests workloads that might be virtualized and where they might be deployed given the physical servers and licensed hypervisors, and analytics for the virtual environments that helps admins cope with resource bottlenecks.
VirtualIQ Pro also includes a policy engine that can be used to provision, shut down, start or migrate VMs automatically. The tool also has role-based access to give different levels of access to different users. For instance, programmers might be able to deploy a test stack of software, but not deploy to production machines.
VirtualIQ Pro 3 is available now, and is priced $199 per processor socket. The tool is not open source, but a freeware version that can support up to five machines or 25 VMs for as long as a year is available for tire-kickers and cheapskates.
Marinez said that with VirtualIQ Pro 3, the company is now ready to do a big push because it supports enough hypervisors at the same time as companies are starting to use multiple hypervisors. The company has about 30 paying customers, and has had 700 downloads of its prior products.
It is a beginning. ®