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IBM revs server control freak tool

VMControl system pool splash

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As a maker of a diverse line of systems, supporting a number of homegrown and third-party operating systems and server virtualization hypervisors, IBM can either control all of these platforms and make some money or do the job itself.

Which is why its Systems Director VMControl V2.1 tool was created and launched in July. With the V2.2 update, which will be available on December 11, IBM is adding support for system pooling its Power Systems iron and better hooks into the Hyper-V and vSphere tools from Microsoft and VMware, respectively.

VMControl V2.2 was announced this week as part of IBM's Dynamic Infrastructure quarterly marketing blitz, which cobbled together a bunch of systems management, clustering, storage, and networking announcements to distract everyone from the fact that Big Blue has no new Power Systems or mainframe servers to launch this fall and won't have any until next year, as El Reg reported last week.

Systems Director is the set of server management tools that started out on IBM's x86 blade iron after the Tivoli tools were spun out of that division many years before as free-standing and relatively platform agnostic management tools. IBM bought Tivoli Systems back in April 1996 for $743m not only to help it better manage its Intel architecture servers and to give them the Netfinity brand that Tivoli used on its tools, but to get a leg up on the systems management business in distributed systems - an area where it was weak.

Whether out of frustration or rivalry, IBM's System x server division created their own tools with the launch of the BladeCenter blades, and these tools have evolved into a freestanding set of tools that support all of IBM's platforms, in some ways and in others. These tools also compete with as well as mesh with IBM's Tivoli tools. It can be a bit confusing, but this is Big Blue. Things often don't make sense unless you take into account politics and control freakery, but the resulting tools coming out of Systems and Technology Group and the Tivoli Systems division of Software Group are useful just the same.

The main thing to consider - and El Reg nailed this when Systems Director VMControl was announced back in July - is that by offering sophisticated physical and virtual machine management and resource pooling in Systems Director, IBM's server salespeople can use this as a lever to push IBM boxes and as a bulwark against the encroachment of non-Blue machinery. That's the idea, anyway. The heterogeneity that IBM is embracing on machines that bear its own moniker is a lot broader out there in reality, and that means there will be a Tivoli resource pooling manager at some point, thereby negating any advantage the server folks think they have gained with Systems Director.

The VMControl add-ons for Systems Director come in three flavors, and the third one was announced this week, providing the control of pools of physical and virtual servers based on IBM's Power Systems iron. Systems Director already had features to allow it to discover and monitor virtual machines (called Virtualization Manager) and storage (called Storage Manager), but VMControl Express, which shipped in late July, is a free plug-in that allows Systems Director to create, modify, and delete virtual machines or hook into live migration and other high availability features inherent in server hypervisors to move running VMs from machine to machine.

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