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VMware continues to barrage customers with more and more management products.

The software maker has used its European user conference this week to start early discussions around VMware Lifecycle Manager and Site Recovery Manager. These packages will join the Manager family that already includes Lab Manager and Stage Manager. All we need next is Manager Manager.

The Lifecycle Manager code arrives as VMware's take on the Dunes software acquired last Sept. The product gives IT departments a mechanism for making various virtualization services available to end users and handling the billing around them.

For example, someone in software development can visit a Lifecycle Manager portal and request a "test and dev service." This request will then go to the person's manager or the IT department for approval or the service will fire up automatically, depending on your preference. Once approved, Lifecycle Manager springs into action, setting up a virtual server via Virtual Center with a set amount of processing power, memory and storage. The system will note that such a setup costs, say, $1,000 per month, which will be tacked onto the software team's budget.

VMware sees Lifecycle Manager as solving some of the clutter caused by server virtualization. Administrators can create a fixed list of services and server configurations that they're happy with and provide those to users rather than dealing with hundreds or thousands of unique setups. In addition, administrators can establish policies for making sure that particular services expire after a given amount of time.

As mentioned, VMware is also doing some pre-promotion around Site Recovery Manager, which the company first pre-promoted last year. This package builds on the disaster recovery software present in VMware Infrastructure 3. It allows you to create disaster recovery configurations and test them out before applying the configurations to in-use systems.

VMware Lab Manager - a product aimed at testing and development of software - has been shipping for a couple of years. VMware acquired that technology from Akimbi. Lifecycle Manager, Site Recovery Manager and Stage Manager - a software lifecycle play - will ship at an undisclosed date, although VMware has mentioned a Summer target for Stage Manager, so perhaps the whole suite will arrive by mid-year.

All of these management products are sold as separate add-ons to the Infrastructure 3 bundle, which is VMware's flagship offering.

On one hand, you have to congratulate VMware for building out such a diverse set of management products. Similar products from the company's competitors remain very much works in progress with the likes of Microsoft, Citrix and even SWsoft still playing various degrees of catch-up just to match Infrastructure 3. VMware sees these management products as a key to its future revenue, so the company is helping itself by helping you.

At the same time, we get the feeling that VMware is overloading customers to an extent and asking them to buy an awful lot of additional components. You have to wonder if there will be significant push-back at some point with customers urging VMware to include the management code as free tools with Infrastructure.

In an interview, VMware CEO Diane Greene downplayed our theorizing, saying the company's strategy is clear. It will keep core parts of "IT service delivery" in Infrastructure, while maintaining the management bits as add-ons.

"I don't think that will confuse people," she said.

Greene added that "this is the year of automation," saying VMware will work to make virtualization as painless as possible. A noble goal. ®

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