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VMware sucks server and app logs into vCenter control freak

All your IT operational data are belong to us

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Server virtualization juggernaut and cloud builder and parts supplier VMware is bolting more capabilities onto its vCenter management tools with the launch of a new module called Log Insight.

As the name suggests, vCenter Log Insight is designed to ingest and analyze the operational data that is generated by servers, storage arrays, switches, operating systems, middleware, applications and just about anything else you can think of in a data center.

VMware acquired the Log Insight tool last August from a company called Pattern Insight, is a spin-out of the University of Illinois from 2005 that also created a suite of code analysis tools called – you guessed it – Code Insight.

Rather than buy all of Pattern Insight and build up its coding toolset, VMware just wanted the log analysis piece. VMware could have built something in house, perhaps based on Hadoop, to munch log files, but Martin Klaus, group product line manager for the cloud operations suite at VMware, tells El Reg that the company took a shining to the engine at the heart of Log Insight.

"The Pattern Insight engine was purpose-built for real-time analysis of log data," explains Klaus. While Hadoop is moving towards real-time analysis, it is not quite there yet.

Virtzilla has done a bunch of acquisitions over the years to build up the vCenter operations console for its ESXi hypervisor and turn it into something suitable for orchestrating and managing clouds. vCenter Log Insight is a tweaked version of the Pattern Insight tool that has been integrated with vCenter Operations Manager.

vCenter Operations Manager is a bunch off add-ons that ride atop the vCenter console that are themselves an amalgam of various tools from Ionix, Integrien, and other acquisitions as well as homegrown code such as CapacityIQ and ConfigControl.

vCenter Operations Center – yes, that is two centers in one name – is the provisioning tool that VMware picked up through its acquisition of DynamicOps out from under the nose of Dell last year, compelling Big Mike to buy Gale Technologies for its cloudy control freak and ditch its own tools, which were based in part on a licensed version of DynamicOps.

If you can keep all this straight without reading El Reg's archive of VMware products and acquisitions, you're doing better than the VMware sales force and this server hack.

How vCenter Operations Manager and Log Insight mesh

How vCenter Operations Manager and Log Insight mesh

Here's one way to help keep it straight. There are three stratification layers to VMware's heavenly server and storage management. For cloud service provisioning, you have vCloud Automation Center 5.1 and vFabric Application Director 5.0.

For cloud operations, you have vCenter Operations Management Suite 5.6 and vCenter Log Insight 1.0. And for cloud "business management," meaning money and service level agreements, the kinds of things the CIO, CFO, and CEO care about, you have IT Business Management Suite 7.5. The latter came through VMware's acquisition of Digital Fuel two years ago.

The way Klaus sees it, system, network, and now virtualization admins are overwhelmed with metrics and alert storms coming out of their hardware and software. And the vSphere server virtualization management tool is by no means taking it easy on them, with the average ESXi host generating on the order of 250MB of log files every day.

There are 400,000 customers with 36 million VMs out there in the world according to VMware and El Reg estimates something on the order of 10 million hosts. So that is on the order of 2.5PB of log file data coming out of ESXi hypervisors every day.

Again that last bit is our guess, not VMware's, but that is a lot of stuff to sort through. An Exchange Server can generate four times as much data in a day. And so on and so on with all the hardware and software layers in the data center.

And then something goes wrong. According to polls of the VMware installed base, three-quarters of the customers use command-line tools or none at all to try to try to do root cause analysis. They correlate logs by having multiple log files open and scratching their heads. VMware wants to build better tools specifically for its vSphere virtualization and vCloud cloud environments, and hence the integration of Log Insight.

vCenter Log Insight has been in a private beta since the fourth quarter of last year, and a public beta of the code starts today. VMware wants the ESXi and vCloud community to help find bugs and make the code better before it goes into general availability sometime in the third quarter.

With the 1.0 version of the product, VMware can snort the data from syslog servers and keep an archive of from one to three years of data for historical analysis instead of the revolving log files most companies set up to save storage space on their iron.

vCenter Log Insight runs as a virtual appliance on top of the ESXi hypervisor, and with a later release it will support deployment on top of Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor. You can create your own "content pack" using VMware tools to hook into anything that generates a log file and share them with your friends.

Uncharacteristically, VMware has announced pricing for vCenter Log Insight ahead of its delivery. Klaus says the pricing model has been established.

Unlike some log analysis tools, which have licenses that vary depending on the amount of data that is ingested and analyzed, Log Insight will have a flat license based on any device that can be identified with an IP address.

That means you need to license the underlying physical server, the hypervisor, and the virtual machines if you want to have logs analyzed for the full virtualization stack. This is sensible – provided that per-instance charge of $200 does not add up too quickly for the IT budget, of course. ®

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