Volume 8, Number 20 -- May 22, 2008

HP Ships Insight Dynamics for Managing Physical and Virtual Machines

Published: May 22, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

After a short beta program that has been running since March, Hewlett-Packard has launched a set of virtualization-aware management tools called Insight Dynamics-VSE that can manage physical and virtual machines in a consistent way across many hypervisors and their operating systems and across its Integrity, ProLiant, and BladeSystem product lines.

For those of you in the know about HP product names, the tool is an amalgam of existing Insight systems management and Virtual Server Environment technologies that were initially created for ProLiant and HP 9000 servers, respectively, and which over the years have been cross pollinated into the current HP platforms mentioned above and expanded beyond the Windows and HP-UX operating systems (and now their server virtualization hypervisors) to encompass the key server platforms that HP sells today. Virtual Server Environment, not to be confused with IBM's VSE mainframe operating system, was originally the virtualization hypervisor inside the HP-UX 11i v2 operating system that provided the vPar virtual partitions and nPar hardware partitions on PA-RISC servers and eventually the Itanium machinery that replaced it. Throughout 2006 and 2007, as Windows and Linux were brought up alongside HP-UX on Integrity iron and other hypervisors were available for these platforms, HP expanded the VSE tools so they could wrap around Xen, ESX Server, and Virtual Server hypervisors while at the same time allowing the Insight line of management tools to work on Integrity machines in addition to ProLiant servers and BladeSystem blades and their chassis.

With Insight Dynamics-VSE, HP is taking a set of technologies called SmartSolver, which was created by HP Labs for the company's utility computing efforts, and merging it with these two tools--Insight Manager and VSE--to create a tool that can do real-time capacity planning for physical and virtual machine environments and provide similar information on energy consumption--all from within the Insight Manager console. According to Mark Linesch, vice president of infrastructure software at HP, SmartSolver got its initial testing inside VSE for HP-UX (the load balancing and capacity planning code, specifically), but has been updated to include Microsoft Virtual Server and VMware ESX Server hypervisors on X86 and X64 iron; it will soon include support for XenServer from Citrix Systems and the impending HyperV (formerly Viridian) hypervisor from Microsoft for Windows Server 2008. (HyperV is not available on the Itanium edition of Windows Server 2008, by the way, but nPars and vPars can support Windows and Linux on Itanium iron now thanks to work done by HP's techies.)

The SmartSolver algorithms allow administrators to look at compiled performance and power consumption data across their networks of servers and based on current workloads, figure out what physical machines should be supporting what OS images in either physical or virtual mode--and what ones can be shifted around as conditions change. Admins can optimize for performance or low energy consumption--or a little of both.

The key thing that makes Insight Dynamics-VSE useful is a management construct called a logical server. This is a set of metadata that abstracts an operating system image and its applications, the configuration data for the operating system, its MAC address on the network and its worldwide name on the SAN, and other pertinent information and creates a file that can be stored and modified and, importantly, moved from one piece of hardware to another. In effect, the logical server construct allows the software running on physical servers to be passed around much as live migration features in most hypervisors today allow virtual machines to bounce from machine to machine. Now, customers can manager physical and virtual servers on HP iron in exactly the same way, regardless of the iron, the hypervisor, and the operating system.

Insight Dynamics-VSE costs $1,495 per blade server, and is available at a $1,295 discount price if customers buy in bulk. On Integrity and ProLiant servers, it is priced based on per-core license, with a base price of $4,000 per core.


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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
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