Virtualization and Cloud Management Using Capacity Planning

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1 Research Report Virtualization and Cloud Management Using Capacity Planning Introduction The term virtualization refers to the creation of virtual machines, virtual networks and virtual disks (logical images of physical resources) that can execute work and then be returned to a shared resource pool. Cloud computing makes use of virtualization but cloud computing also focuses on allowing computing to be delivered as a service (for instance, software-as-a-service [SaaS]; infrastructure-as-a-service [IaaS]; platform-as-aservice [PaaS]; etc.). Building virtual and cloud environments lead to more efficient systems utilization, lower operating costs (especially if service management functions are in place), improved availability, and lower testing/deployment costs. The management of virtualized/cloud environments, however, presents several new challenges for information technology (IT) managers and administrators. Instead of managing physical servers, IT managers and administrators are now being called upon to: 1. Manage both physical and virtual servers (sometimes hundreds or thousands of virtual machines or network/storage devices); 2. Troubleshoot and tune applications in order to meet performance requirements; and, 3. Ensure that there is enough capacity to execute jobs within both physical and virtual server, network, and storage environments; In a report that we wrote last year entitled A Closer Look at IBM System Director VMControl (found at: we described how IT managers/administrators can use IBM s VMControl product offering to manage both physical and virtualized server environments using a common management interface. (This report addresses point 1 above). In a recent report entitled IBM Tivoli Composite Application Manager: IBM s Application Performance Management Environment found at Clabby Analytics web site at: we described how IT managers/administrators can use IBM s Composite Application Manager to troubleshoot and tune applications in virtualized and/or cloud environments. (This report addresses point 2 above). In this report, (which addresses point 3 above), we describe how IT managers/- administrators can determine their current and projected capacity utilization using IBM's SmartCloud Monitoring. We start with the description of trends in the virtualization and cloud marketplaces followed by a discussion of how this product is competitively positioned. We then take a closer look at how this product works (features/functions). And we conclude by recommending that IT managers and administrators (particularly those involved in the management of virtual machines) evaluate IBM SmartCloud

2 Monitoring as a means to simplify cloud & virtual server management, improve cloud performance, and improve alignment to business goals. Market Trends/Competitive Positioning From a systems perspective, we see two types of clouds evolving. The first type is homogeneous cloud architecture based on Intel x86 multi-core servers. The second is a heterogeneous cloud architecture that focuses on running workloads (applications or groups of related applications) on systems that have been designed and optimized to best service those workloads. As we travel around the world we are seeing a lot of activity in the homogenous x86 cloud market space. What we have observed is that many IT buyers start their cloud journey by experimenting with virtualization on their desktops. Once they learn the basics of virtualization, they move into the server space, initially consolidating multiple smaller servers onto larger x86 multi-core servers and then virtualizing servers in order to increase utilization rates, reduce management costs, reduce software costs and improve infrastructure resiliency. Virtualization, however, presents new challenges for IT managers and administrators because as mentioned in the Introduction they now become responsible for managing not only physical systems, but also potentially hundreds or thousands of virtual machines. What we've also noticed is that, in order to effectively manage these virtual machines, IT managers and administrators tend to buy new infrastructure and management tools from the company that provides them with their virtual machine hypervisor (a hypervisor is code that allows operating system images to share underlying processors). The way we see it, customers who purchase infrastructure management tools from hypervisor vendors tend to create virtualization silos and these silos make it difficult to holistically manage critical applications and business services. Within the x86 world, we often see VMware (Windows and Linux) and Windows (Hyper-V) silos within the same organization. Then there are separate silos for UNIX environments; and sometimes a separate silo for mainframe environments. To optimally manage virtual machines, it is necessary to break down the silos such that IT managers/administrators can assign workloads to whatever virtual resources are available. We also are not big believers in the homogenous platform (usually x86-only) approach to virtualization and cloud computing because we believe that no single processor architecture handles all jobs the most optimally. In fact, we can prove that certain heavy I/O workloads perform best on mainframe architecture; that compute-intensive tasks perform best on Power Systems; and that fast threaded applications perform best on x86 architecture. We have devoted an entire site to this concept of workload optimization (please visit for more details). Pay particular attention to these reports when visiting this site:http://www.workloadoptimization.com/uploads/whywrkloadoptimization.pdf and, IT buyers who choose to take a heterogeneous approach to the management of their cloud environments are able to greatly increase their overall computing efficiency by matching the right workloads to the right servers. To do this, however, requires that IT managers and administrators have greater insight into their virtual or cloud environments preferably using the same console and management environment to manage across heterogeneous server types. There are only a few vendors that make cross-platform physical/virtual systems management tools: most notably IBM and CA Technologies. June, Clabby Analytics Page 2

3 Capacity Planning: The Role of SmartCloud Monitoring As we pointed out in the introduction, in order to build an efficient virtualized/cloud computing environment, IT managers/administrators must be able to identify resource bottleneck issues and overcome them. Capacity planning tools help manager/administrators help IT managers/administrators understand their capacity utilization and troubleshoot/overcome capacity-related problems. Capacity planning tools should: Monitor performance; Optimize virtual machine performance; Detect/predict trend and usage patterns; Conduct what-if analysis; Optimize the placement of workloads; Predict growth requirements (for instance, a enterprise may model growth patterns and find that it needs to add 500 servers over an ensuing 6 month period); and, Ensure compliance with business policies (for instance, tracking software license usage keep license spend within budget; or ensuring that certain applications are not co-located with other applications; or to ensure that service level agreements [SLAs] are met). Capacity planning tools are vital when it comes to building efficient cloud architectures. A closer look at IBM's SmartCloud Monitoring shows that it has the capabilities described above (see Figure 1). Figure 1: The Role of SmartCloud Monitoring in Cloud Architecture Source: IBM Corporation, June, 2011 June, Clabby Analytics Page 3

4 IBM SmartCloud Monitoring: Product Description First, it is important to note that SmartCloud Monitoring has been designed for capacity planning in x86 environments with specific focus on managing virtual servers across VMware, KVM, Citrix XenServer, and NetApp environments. Leveraging the same tooling and infrastructure, Tivoli provides these capabilities (monitoring & capacity planning) for other platforms such as Hyper-V, Power Systems and System z environments. These tools can be found in related offerings such as ITCAM for Microsoft Applications, & OMEGAMON XE for z/vm.. When evaluating IBM SmartCloud Monitoring it becomes readily apparent that this product provides three basic functions. It helps IT manager/administrators: 1. Manage performance and risk; 2. Plan and schedule; and, 3. Optimize operations. As a risk manager, it gathers data from a wide variety of sources to construct a composite picture of virtual server behavior. It alerts the user to current and future performance bottlenecks to enable IT managers and administrators to take corrective action before end users are impacted. Using risk management facilities, IT managers and administrators can easily find out if their systems resources are being overloaded and they can model when their physical resources will reach their limits. Historical data can also reveal whether there have been any significant changes in a given environment helping managers and administrators troubleshoot and/or tune their servers for optimal performance. From a planning and scheduling perspective, SmartCloud Monitoring can be used to conduct what-if analysis in order to, for instance, help determine how many additional workloads can be added to a given server environment, or to predict how much capacity will be needed to handle future workloads. Using these facilities, IT managers and administrators can model what would happen if 100 more virtual machines were added to a given environment. Or they can use predictive facilities to model how many more virtual machines can be added to a given environment. IBM SmartCloud Monitoring also offers rich capacity analysis and reporting facilities. These reports enable IT managers and administrators to right-size their virtual machines, examine performance changes, then transfer workload placement. This facility can also be used to identify performance trends, aiding in workload balancing. The product roadmap for this solution shows near term enhancements that will allow the tool to additionally provide benchmarking data for physical servers and hypervisors. It will also provide customers with the option to input or import data for custom tags (for example, associations of VMs to application or environment type), and input information about business and IT policies. The collected data can then be analyzed and categorized into correlation groups (stable versus unstable workloads or test versus development servers) - and this information can be used to generate optimization plans. These optimization plans will provide specific recommendations for placement and simulate benefits of reducing rightsizing workloads and reducing physical resources used, upgrading server technologies and balancing workloads across clusters and datacenters. June, Clabby Analytics Page 4

5 Figure 2 illustrates the three basic functions of IBM SmartCloud Monitoring. In addition to robust capacity planning and management capabilities described above, this product also provides performance and availability monitoring for the health of the virtual environment to include both physical and virtual resources. Figure 2 SmartCloud Monitoring Functions and Activities Source: IBM Corporation June, 2011 One of the biggest pain points for IT managers and administrators who have been asked to manage hundreds, if not thousands, of virtual machines is a lack of integrated management tools and utilities. Having to go to one console to perform backup and restore tasks; then having to launch another application to manage virtual machine sprawl; then having to launch another application to manage mobile partitioning places too much operational burden on IT managers and administrators. Products that offer integrated management facilities and automated reporting facilities can greatly simplify the management of physical and virtual server environments. IBM SmartCloud Monitoring provides a highly integrated dashboard view of virtual machine activity within a given cloud environment. To illustrate this, consider the following health dashboard (Figure 3) that shows what is happening within a given virtual server environment. June, Clabby Analytics Page 5

6 Figure 3 IBM SmartCloud Monitoring Health Dashboard Source: IBM Corporation June, 2011 Notice in Figure 3 that information is automatically displayed on the total CPU usage, cluster memory usage, and cluster storage capacity. Effective usage in each of these categories is also displayed. And the purple bar in each of these categories shows how much capacity is actually being used. Also notice the cluster score card. Within this box (center of the screen) storage issues have been found (illustrated in red). IT managers and administrators can immediately drill into these issues to determine the source of the given problem (whether it is related to a physical or virtual server, or physical or virtual storage or network component) and then take corrective action. Figure 4 shows the wealth of data that is available to managers/administrators regarding the storage problems found in Figure 3. In the center of the screen manager/administrators can graphically see where an event is occurring; and what problems are associated with that event. On the right side of the screen managers and administrators can also see how much capacity is available, and they can view a history of changes that may be impacting the storage subsystem. June, Clabby Analytics Page 6

7 Figure 4 Troubleshooting Source: IBM Corporation June, 2011 Today, SmartCloud Monitoring supports integration with physical storage system with integrated monitoring of NetApp or nseries storage. Per the product near-term roadmap, customers will be able to integrate additional third party physical storage and network monitoring. Summary Observations Figure 2 (on page 3) showed a logic progression toward the implementation of a cloud environment. IT architects usually start by consolidating many small servers into larger physical servers. The next step is to virtualize the servers in order to increase utilization and simplify management. Enterprises then focus on standardizing their environments usually by standardizing hardware, software, and procedures. The big mistake that we frequently see in this phase is that IT architects often create virtualization silos (most often Linux/nd Windows silos on homogenous x86 servers). The reason we believe this is a mistake is because no single server architecture runs every job optimally homogenous server environments provide access to various servers that have been designed to process work more optimally than other servers. Enterprises that deploy heterogeneous servers can save hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars by figuring out what servers should be used to most optimally service their workloads. June, Clabby Analytics Page 7

8 The next phase in cloud development is greater automation a phase that focuses on flexible delivery models and self-service. But this phase is also about automated management or, more specifically, integrated service management. Tools and utilities such as IBM SmartCloud Monitoring are used in this phase to drive down management costs. (For a broader discussion of integrated service management, please see our report at: After (or along with) automation, enterprises need to find ways to optimize the use of their computing resources. One way to do this is to return unused resources to virtualized server/storage/networking pools where those resources can be found and utilized. This is a necessary control required for cloud providers as end users do not readily give up the use of their virtual machines. This policy has been implemented in IBM s own development and test cloud. Additionally, to make optimal use of these pools it is necessary to understand which workloads should be run on which types of servers. IBM SmartCloud Monitoring also assists in helping make this type of determination. After consolidating, virtualizing, standardizing, automating, and sharing resources the next logical step is to completely automate the relationship between systems and workloads enabling workloads to dynamically find the resources they need to execute. As we conducted our research in order to write this report, what we found is that IBM has a broad portfolio of Tivoli products that touch every one of these steps. For enterprises that are looking to move beyond the virtualization phase of their cloud journey and are looking for tools and utilities that will help monitor virtual machine behaviors within a cloud environment, IBM's SmartCloud Monitoring represents a logical step for managing capacity and controlling virtual machine activities. For further reading on virtualization, standardization, automation, and shared resource planning, please read our virtualization strategy report found at: Clabby Analytics Telephone: 001 (207) Clabby Analytics All rights reserved June, 2011 Clabby Analytics is an independent technology research and analysis organization. This report was developed by Clabby Analytics with IBM assistance and funding. This report may utilize information, including publicly available data, provided by various companies and sources, including IBM. The opinions are those of the report s author, and do not necessarily represent IBM s position. Other research and analysis conducted by Clabby Analytics can be found at:

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