Virtual Servers Keep On A Rollin’, Thanks to uptime software
June 24, 2008 Alex Woodie
A side effect of employing virtualization software to cram multiple virtual servers into a single physical server is a lack of visibility into what’s happening inside those virtual environments, which can lead to downtime. This is creating an opportunity for a new class of systems monitoring and management software vendors to make names for themselves. One of those vendors, uptime software, recently updated its software to provide more sophisticated SLA and transaction monitoring, as well as support for IBM‘s POWER 6 virtual environment.
From its headquarters in Toronto, Ontario, uptime software (the company uses all lower case letters in its name) started life as a systems management consultancy. It performed consolidation analyses and did performance tuning for some pretty large and complex environments–primarily IBM and Sun Microsystems Unix servers–and so it decided to write its own tools to help it do this. That software turned out to be so effective that the company dumped its consultancy business, and became a pure-play software company.
Today, the company’s only offering is a product called up.time. The software is designed to provide IT managers and systems administrators with tools to accomplish a range of activities, including server availability monitoring, problem resolution, capacity planning, and application and network monitoring.
The product was written with an agent-based architecture that includes a Java-based workstation component that installs on Windows, Solaris, and Linux workstations. Lightweight agents (around 200 KB) gather the multiple data points that are needed to give managers the deep and real-time insight into their systems, which can’t be accomplished with an agent-less architecture. Agents are available for most major operating systems, virtualization environments, databases, Web application servers, and network infrastructure components. Simple network management protocol (SNMP) traps can also be employed for hard-to-crack “black box” devices, such as the i-based Power Systems server (formerly System i).
Officials with the company understand they don’t compete directly with the top-tier BMC CONTROLs, CA UniCenters, HP OpenViews, and IBM Tivolis of the world. “We’re not delusional,” says uptime software CTO Alex Bewley. “We’re not one of the Big Four. We’re not replacing 20,000 seats of Tivoli with up.time.”
But up.time does have a niche where it competes pretty well with the big boys: virtualization. The company does its best to fill this “tech gap” and sell into the large organizations not completely satisfied with the capabilities offered by the large frameworks.
“When it comes to VMware, Solaris zones, or micro partitions, our software tends to be what is aware of how that virtualization works,” Bewley says. “We can take that performance data and funnel it upstream” to one of the Big Four products.
Its support for virtualization gets better with version 5, including better visibility for VMware‘s ESX Server, as well as support for IBM’s POWER 6 virtualization software. Automatic discovery and tracking of virtual servers, logical partitions (LPARs), logical domains (LDOMs), and entitlements are also new with this release.
Version 5 also brings the capability to track and measure “key process indicators,” which can be used to gauge adherence to or the failure to abide by a service level agreement (SLA). New application transaction monitoring capabilities allow managers to keep a closer eye on the performance of Web applications and e-mail, as well.
Unfortunately for System i, iSeries, and AS/400 shops, up.time does not provide any monitoring besides what can be wrought through SNMP, which means no monitoring of i OS LPARs or any of the i OS platform’s extensive performance metrics. “We only nominally support the iSeries,” Bewley says. “We are only getting to a point as a company where we’re starting to tap these iSeries kinds of customers. In all honesty, it’s not a forte of ours.”
Organizations that require only basic monitoring of their i OS systems alongside their other varied systems may want to give up.time a consideration. This is really where up.time shines, as a provider of “valueware” systems management tools for customers with between 100 and 1,000 servers.
“If you’re a pure IBM shop, you’re probably going to use the IBM tool,” Bewley says. “But if you’re a heterogeneous shop running a bunch of Sun, pSeries, Linux, and Windows, you don’t want to have to buy five different tools, whereas we come in and we are the one pane of glass to monitor and manage those platforms.”
The product’s deep understanding of virtualization is driving sales, Bewley says. “We’re getting a lot more exposure because we’re very strong in heterogeneous virtualization,” he says. “A year ago, 2 percent of total sales were using virtualized components. Now it’s 25 to 35 percent. What we’ve found in the VMware world is people are deploying it in labs. And now that it’s in mainstream production, they’re sitting back and saying ‘We don’t know how to manage this stuff and monitor it. There are many point VMware solutions, but very few vendors support both physical and virtual worlds.”
Up.time 5 is available now. Pricing is $695 per managed device, plus about $4,000 for the workstation console. For more information, visit www.uptimesoftware.com.