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Embotics shoots low with V-Commander Cloud Edition

vCloud on the cheap for SMBs

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If you are an SMB thinking of building a private cloud based on VMware's ESXi hypervisor and vCenter console, then Embotics wants you to think about using its V-Commander control freak instead of shelling out big bucks for VMware's vSphere tools or its full-on vCloud Director cloud fabric.

With VMware rolling the functionality of its Lab Manager VM jukeboxing software and its Lifecycle Manager (which does just what the name suggests, managing the creation, deployment, and destruction of virtual machines) into its vCloud Director stack, the virtualization giant might have left itself exposed to competition from below, among SMB customers who cannot afford to buy vSphere and the vCloud Director extensions that turn it into a self-service, automated private cloud.

That, at least, is what Jason Cowie, vice president of product management at Embotics, hopes is the case, since the company in January slowed down development of support for Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor so it could extending V-Commander with cloudy extensions making it suitable for use as a poor-man's vCloud.

'VMware built an infrastructure that is very deep," Cowie tells El Reg, referring to vCloud Director and its vSphere underpinnings. "but it is expensive and overkill for midrange companies."

Enter V-Commander 4.0 Cloud Edition. No, there is no non-cloud edition, but the software has been updated with a slew of features that Embotics customers have been clamoring for to control their virtual machine deployments atop VMware's ESXi hypervisor, including IT costing and chargeback, self-service provisioning, automation and orchestration, compliance and governance, and collaboration. With these extra features, the V-Commander tool graduates from virtualization management to private cloud automation – a matriculation that every other virtualization tool maker coming out of the woodwork is trying to attain.

Prior versions of V-Commander had chargeback features so system administrators and their IT manager bosses could see what resources each VM was consuming over a set period and peg a price to the usage of CPU, memory, I/O, and storage capacity as well as software licenses. With the Cloud Edition, this chargeback data is pushed into the new service catalog so employees requesting VM resources can comparison shop for VM resources and see the effect of their choices before they ask IT to commit those resources.

The request management system that has been added to the V-Commander tool not only manages the workflow as a VM request makes its way through the approval process, but also tracks how quickly the IT approves or denies requests so the bossman can see how efficient the IT staff is in doing their job. (It is reasonable to assume that this feature cannot be disabled, but it is probably tempting to try.) The updated tool also includes a rapid provisioning system that does "intelligent placement" of VMs onto specific hypervisors and physical servers to match the rights of particular users and business line service level agreements to the requests automagically. The provisioning system is wizard driven to make sure system admins adhere to whatever business and IT policies are set up for the company.

The V-Commander tool can already sniff the network for ESXi-compatible VMs, tag them, track them, and then rightsize them as they are running so they don't waste IT resources. V-Commander runs on a Windows-based server and reaches into VMware's vCenter console to do its work.

Cowie says that three customers and two partners helped to shape the cloudy features added to V-Commander, which are being tossed into the tool for free. V-Commander 4.0 is available with a perpetual license that costs $640 per socket plus $128 maintenance (20 per cent) per year. Customers can also buy the tool with a subscription license, which costs $299 per socket per year plus an additional $99 per year for the policy engine that is used to automate V-Commander functions.

Most of the customers that Embotics sells to have 250 or more VMs under management, and it even has some larger customers that have 2,000 to 3,000 VMs scurrying about on their server networks. As you might expect, such large companies often already have system management frameworks – HP Service Manager, IBM Tivoli, BMC Remedy, and so forth – that they use to monitor and manage their physical servers. That's why V-Commander has an API stack that lets these tools feed data into V-Commander and vice versa.

Embotics is still working on integrating V-Commander with Hyper-V, and Cowie says that once it gets a couple of customers under its belt, it will finish this work. The issue is getting a set of requirements from a range of customers who are willing to shell out money for the code, which means Embotics develops the features that customers want instead of what it thinks they want. Support for Red Hat's open source KVM hypervisor is the obvious next hypervisor to support – particularly if Red Hat decides to charge a lot for its CloudForms infrastructure-as-a-service stack. CloudForms, and its platform cloud integral (well, it's not a derivative. . . ), OpenShift, are not going to be available until later this year and have not been priced yet. ®

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