Through the Looking-Glass

What if you had penetrating views into your physical and virtual environment?

It’s not as farfetched as it may sound. The ability to look deep across your dynamic data center exists today.

 A few months back I wrote here about the management challenge and the need to get away from the old-school silo approach to IT infrastructure management.

At the time, I highlighted some of the key data center capabilities that can put you in the fast lane on the road to delivering IT-as-a-Service.

High on the list of these capabilities, Service Assurance provides organizations with applications and services delivered efficiently and effectively, and at the highest levels of availability.

However, as new technologies like virtualization get integrated with old systems, operational management often gets treated as an afterthought—and Service Assurance can be allusive.

But, this does not need to be the case anymore. New technologies require new operations management intelligence—and new ways of managing the data center–and it’s here.

Virtualization Creates Management Blind Spots

In short, virtualization has taken organizations many steps forward with capital-cost savings and efficient utilization of data center resources. But, by injecting a layer of abstraction into the fabric of IT operations, it’s also taken operations managers a few steps back.

The prevalence of virtualization has created management blind spots that limit how well IT organizations can provide Service Assurance.

Why does this happen?

Well, as the old saying goes, the old dog won’t hunt. The same holds true for many legacy management tools now used in virtualized environments. Management tools built for the physical world do not necessarily perform well in the virtual.

For example, when an application or service fails, general IT operations responds by asking the virtualization admin or VMware admin to check the status of the faulty application’s virtual machine.

But the admin does not see a problem with the virtual machine. Neither do the storage and network admins who clear their domains too.

Business processes slow down.

Frustrated CIOs convene a war room forcing everyone to try to piece together information in hopes of finding the cause of the problem. With any luck, hours after the problem is first reported, the cause may be isolated, the problem resolved, and normal operations restored.

What’s behind it?

Many operations teams are trying to make do with point products and management tools designed for specific IT silos. In many cases, they have to manually connect the dots in the hope of divining insight from disparate bits of information. Without a clear line of sight into their virtualized world, IT operations has no choice but to go this route.

So what does it take to change direction and move forward again? How can you transform IT management of your VMware virtualized environment?

The answer: virtual data center vision!

The Right Stuff

If you’re in IT operations, you need the right tools and capabilities to fully understand the entire infrastructure— physical and virtual—in the data center. You need to know what is connected to what, and where and how applications relate to the infrastructure used to deliver these to the business.

From there, you can understand how an issue with any one element impacts other elements. Keep up with the rapid pace of change in the virtualized data center. And do it all in one place.

A great example of the right stuff can be found in the just-unveiled capabilities of EMC IT Operations Intelligence.

Wish your operations team had some visibility and insight into storage environment of your virtual data center so they could troubleshoot problems faster?

As long as the storage is VMware-attached, IT Operations Intelligence, through its integration with VMware vCenter Server, can see and monitor your entire storage environment from virtual machines to storage, including data path information from EMC PowerPath/VE.

There’s No Crater without an Impact

More importantly, because of the detailed understanding IT Operations Intelligence has of the connections that exist among elements in the virtual data center, it’s extremely easy to see right away the impacts of a specific problem.

Why are impacts important?

Virtualized applications run on virtual machines—and impacted virtual machines mean impacted applications and unhappy users. You need to know right away if the impact of a problem is minor or non-existent (for example, if you have a redundant system or data path in place), or if it’s significant and requires immediate attention.

As important as impacts are, you still need to be able to quickly pinpoint the source of any given problem. (The team in my earlier scenario couldn’t do that without forcing all the players into a room and locking the door.)

IT Operations Intelligence has long provided market-leading automated root-cause analysis. Now, with the new version 9 release, these capabilities extend further into the virtual data center, providing vision and insight into the new operationally challenging elements, such as simple and distributed vSwitches, vMotion activity, composite virtualized applications, and advanced, complex devices such as Cisco UCS and Nexus 1000v.

A Watershed Change

This new IT Operations Intelligence release also marks a watershed change for how EMC develops and delivers management capabilities. There is more of a focus on delivering capabilities that address customer needs thematically.

One of those themes was the aforementioned virtual data center management capabilities. But there are also key new capabilities delivered around management for Metro Ethernet environments, and new mash-up-based display visualizations for simplifying and transforming the IT operator experience. There is also improved application-availability management with support for rapidly developing composite applications.

And, the feedback so far—from customers and analyst firms like Enterprise Management Associates—has been positive.

Real Virtual Vision

To overcome the management challenges associated with virtualized environments, you need the right kind of vision and insight that allows you to make well-informed, intelligent management decisions.

And in many cases, that may mean having to say goodbye to the old dog of a management tool that just won’t hunt anymore in this new virtualized world.

You also need new ways of thinking. Developing new skill sets are brought on by new technologies as well as necessities like the need to see across the data center.

You need management solutions that deliver the virtual data center vision necessary to make the businesses service delivery expectations a reality.

Consider EMC IT Operations Intelligence v9 a step in the right direction.

About the Author: Mark Prahl