IBM revs server control freak tool
VMControl system pool splash
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.
The VMControl Standard Edition adds virtual machine jukeboxing capability, which allows for VM images to be controlled centrally and deployed. This Standard Edition was confusingly delivered as VMControl Image Manager V2.1 for Linux on System z and for Power Systems as separate products. On Power Systems, the add-on for Systems Director that allows it to be a jukebox for AIX, Linux, and i/OS images costs from $125 to $1,625, depending on the size of Power Systems machine. (These are not only different names from what IBM told El Reg in its pre-announcement, but also higher prices).
The tool could also jukebox VM images for System x racks and towers and BladeCenter blades running Linux or Windows and sporting x64 engines. IBM did not provide pricing for the separate jukeboxing for Linux images on System z mainframes, but did ship this in July.
I don't know what happened to VMControl Enterprise Edition, which IBM said was coming in the fourth quarter, but what IBM has announced is called Systems Director VMControl System Pools V2.2, yet another add-on to Systems Director that has some of the capabilities that IBM's execs said would be in a the Enterprise Edition variant of VMControl. (Obviously, the names have changed, and IBM is going with separately priced plug-ins instead of Express, Standard, and Enterprise packaging.)
VMControl System Pools V2.2, which requires Systems Director 6.1 and VMControl Image Manager V2.2 (the latter of which did not get a separate announcement, but which is apparently available with some tweaks), which adds a layer of control to the jukebox such that system administrators can set policies in the tool, based on performance and quality of service metrics for applications and end users, that will allow it to automatically deploy applications inside a pool of VMs on Power-based machines to meet the QoS goals.
IBM is supporting system pools on machines based on Power5, Power5+, Power6, and Power6+ processors, and while IBM is talking up its support for the Open Virtualization Format, AIX images are stored on Power boxes in AIX's own Network Installation Management (NIM) format, and z/VM on mainframes has its own format for Linux images. The OVF images are only for x64 servers, and with V2.2 of the VMControl Image Manager plug-in, IBM can now create, deploy, modify, and destroy Hyper-V and ESX Server VM images in OVF formats. IBM has not announced support for system pooling for x64 or mainframe servers yet.
The VMControl V2.2 system pooling feature is not cheap. It costs $3,125 on a small Power-based box, $12,750 on a medium box, and $21,675 on a large box.
In addition to the VMControl update, a few other Systems Director plug-ins were tweaked this week as part of IBM's Dynamic Infrastructure blitz.
Systems Director Active Energy Manager V4.2, which caps power on servers and can quiesce them or start them up as needed by changing workloads running on a pool of Windows, Linux, or AIX servers, got some tweaks for Power Systems boxes. The update allows it to work with updated firmware for Power6 and Power6+ servers so they can be turned on and off in a more graceful manner, including taking into account how long it takes to power up a specific machine and what energy.
The updated tool can hook into power distribution units used in racks and quiesce and restart these as well. Active Energy Manager V4.2 will be available on December 11, and works with AIX 5.3 and 6.1, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.6, 4.7, 5.1, and 5.2, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9 and 10 on Power Systems. Pricing was not provided by IBM for this plug-in.
IBM also announced a new plug-in for Systems Director called Network Control V1.1, which allows the systems management tool to reach out and manage the network links used by physical and virtual servers and their storage. The plug-in hooks into the network management tools supplied by IBM's switch and converged network adapter partners, Blade Network Technologies, Brocade Communications, QLogic, Juniper Networks, and Cisco Systems. (Voltaire, also a switch partner, was not mentioned as being supported in the Network Control V1.1 announcement, but this is probably an oversight, not a snub). This network control add-on will work with System Director on Power Systems running AIX and Linux, mainframes running Linux atop z/VM, and System x machines running Linux and Windows.
The Network Control V1.1 plug-in costs $2,500 per server that it runs plus an additional fee per switch; on a small switch, it costs $1,000, on a midrange switch it costs $5,000, and on a large switch it costs $10,000. Small switches, in IBM's definition, have fixed ports and take up 1U or 2U of rack space. Medium switches have a modular architecture and support up to eight controller modules, while large switches support more than eight. ®