Virtual Server Sprawl Reeled In with Tideway Foundation 7.1
Published: April 30, 2008
by Alex Woodie
The proliferation of virtual servers is giving administrators great flexibility in how they deploy new servers and applications. However, because it's so easy to do, the growth of virtual servers is also putting additional strain on the IT management process and adding a degree of risk that previously wasn't there. Tideway Systems, a developer of application dependency mapping (ADM) software, promises to shed greater light on virtual servers and their affect on other applications with this week's launch of Foundation 7.1.
Since it was founded in 2003, Tideway has been pushing its brand of ADM software as a way to heighten control of software in enterprise IT shops. The company's flagship Foundation series gives managers and administrators tools that tell them what applications they're running, what servers those applications are running on, and how those applications affect one another. In this way, customers aren't left completely in the dark when a seemingly simple change to one application or database ripples across the organization, creating havoc in its wake; with Foundation on the job, they could have predicted what might happen. Today, Tideway calls itself the only independent ADM vendor.
With Foundation 7.1, Tideway has adopted something it calls lifecycle management. While it was well and good to use Foundation to see exactly what an IT shop had running and where, some of Tideway's largest customers needed the capability to see how their IT assets were changing over time.
This lifecycle management capability tracks high-level changes that result from the continued development of an application or the movement of application components, and creates customized reports targeted to specific groups, such as programmers, administrators, or CIOs, according to Andy Ormsby, product manager for Foundation 7.1. "I can tell the software, 'Show me all the applications that belong to a particular line of business, show me where they're running, what servers they're running on, let me baseline that, and then tell me if anything changes in that view,'" Ormsby says.
As part of that lifecycle management exercise, Tideway discovered a need for better visibility into virtual servers. Because so many customers are migrating from a physical server infrastructure to one based on virtual servers, they have lost an element of control over their virtual infrastructure, and that's having a deleterious affect on overall manageability.
In other words, virtual server sprawl is getting out of hand.
"People are creating these things without the kind of control processes that they had when they had to physically install a server in a data center. It imposed a negating factor, if you like, on the rate of change in the data center," Ormsby says. "When you had to deploy a physical machine in the data center, there were a whole bunch of checks that had to take place. It had to go through a bunch of different teams. There was the team that would order the server for you. There was the team that would rack it up. The network team that would plug it into the network infrastructure. All of those had to happen."
"Now that people can just copy a bunch of files and lo and behold you've got a new virtual machine, that’s a whole new set of dependencies, a whole bunch more complexity you've got to deal with. And if you're not getting a grip on that, every new virtual machine is introducing additional risk," he says.
With the new lifecycle management capability in Foundation 7.1, Tideway can give administrators visibility into all the virtual machines in a data center, their underlying infrastructure, and how they have changed over time. In this way, administrators can understand whether the presence of new virtual machines is "the result of a correctly managed change or whether it's some uncontrolled proliferation of virtual machines," Ormsby says.
Foundation 7.1 also adds support for IBM's virtualization software for AIX. While AIX and i OS basically share the same hypervisor with the version 6 Power Systems boxes, Tideway does not yet support logical partitioning (LPAR) on i OS-based Power Systems servers (formerly System i, iSeries, i5, and AS/400), according to Ormsby. Foundation previously supported virtualization software from VMware and Sun Microsystems.
Tideway sells its software preloaded onto an appliance that can be dropped into the data center. While Foundation's agent-less approach can gather configuration data from IBM mainframe and i OS (formerly i5/OS and OS/400) servers, its main focus is on Unix, Linux, and Windows, Ormsby says. "We're a little less concerned with the mainframe environment because that tends to be more stable and I think it's pretty fair to say, better understood, than the distributed environment, which is complex and inherently harder to get your arms around," he says.
Tideway Foundation 7.1 is available now. For more information, visit www.tideway.com.
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