vPivot

Scott Drummonds on Virtualization

Alternative to DRS

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Now that I am six months removed from VMware, I will admit that we executed poorly in the space of performance management.  I know that there is intense work going on right now in acquisitions, unification of performance management tools, and vCenter improvement through folding in vscsiStats and esxtop data.  But in the area of performance reporting and visualization, VMware’s success has been minimal.  VMware hopes its acquisition of AliveVM will plug part of this gap but today it is safe to say the field is wide open for VMware’s partners.

This morning one such partner, VMTurbo, gave me a demonstration of their offering in this field.  Their product provides an obvious improvement on vSphere’s performance visualization capabilities.  But given the state of VMware’s visualization capabilities virtually any graphical front-end provides an improvement.  But what really set off my imagination were two features I had not seen before:

  • A third-party alternative to DRS.
  • Cross-cluster resource optimization.

VMTurbo provides a variety of monitoring and analysis capabilities but I want to focus most on optimization, in particular load balancing.  But before describing what VMTurbo has done, I want to point out the economics of competing with VMware’s DRS.

VMware provides four vSphere editions for its customers.  The cheapest edition that offers DRS is Enterprise at a list price of $2,875USD per socket.  The cheapest edition with vMotion is Standard at $995USD per socket.  There are plenty of cool features that come with upgrading from Standard to Enterprise: DRS, VAAI, Fault Tolerance, Storage vMotion, vShield Zones, and others.  But certainly DRS is one of the most valuable of that list.

By leaving such a big price gap between the cheapest vMotion edition and the cheapest DRS edition, VMware has provided its partners an economic incentive to innovate and provide DRS value to customers at a discount.  VMTurbo may capitalize on this incentive and it would not surprise me if numerous other ISVs are already doing so or soon will.  Once a vendor has built a robust monitoring environment, it is only a clever algorithm away from implementing DRS.  And then a trivial API call away from extending DRS to DPM.

The VMTurbo guys explained that their algorithm uses more resources than just CPU and memory and could therefore be better than DRS.  But I know how much work has gone into VMware’s memory-and-CPU DRS that I will only believe VMTurbo’s claims when I see the data.

Another area in which VMTurbo is tinkering is with inter-cluster load balancing.  The demo I received this morning showed a pre-cursor step to datacenter-wide load balancing by modeling the merge of two DRS clusters.  As the discussion in my maximum cluster size entry showed, choosing and changing cluster sizes is not easy.  And fluidly moving virtual machines between different clusters is not often possible for a variety of reasons.  But modeling cluster merging is the first step in considering cross-cluster operations.  And I think that there is a huge opportunity in the industry for someone to innovate in datacenter-wide optimization.

I would be curious to see what other vendors are doing with DRS, DPM, or datacenter-wide load balancing.  Can anyone refer me to any ISVs that are trying to crack these difficult problems?

9 Responses

A third-party alternative to #vmware DRS: http://vpivot.com/2010/12/03/alternative…. Are there others doing this?

  • Hi Scott

    I would love to chat.
    CTO and Founder of Vkernel

  • [...] one of the key vSphere performance experts who now works at EMC has a new blog with a post “Alternative to DRS” that is worth reading for Scott’s always valuable perspective. Scott makes two points; [...]

  • I’ve found that measuring IOps is one of the most requested performance management pieces and next to no one is offering it as an option. Hyper9 has it with its use of vscsi stats, vFoglight is trying to get it with their “for storage” product, but can only do it to the datastore, and array vendors offer this to the LUN level, usually for an add-on cost (I’m thinking EMC & NaviAnalyzer specifically).

    I’m impressed that VMturbo is offering IO monitoring (at least, relative IO monitoring) for free, down to the VM level. Above and beyond their DRS alternative, it’s this seemingly easy measurement that makes me interested in what else they have planned.

    Note: I am not affiliated directly with any of these companies, but I do work as a post-sales technical lead for a VAR of EMC, VMware and several 3rd party monitoring solutions (not VMturbo, though).

  • We at CiRBA do not provide a monitoring solution as such but a more strategic solution that will dramatically reduce the amount of DRS activity and the requirement for a reactive monitoring solution.
    If workloads/vm’s are placed correctly to begin with based on historical usage patterns then DRS is only invoked in severe cases. These occurrences would normally then require investigation.
    We have found that in most of our customers DRS is actually switched off due a variety of reasons from compliance,change control or the fact that it is not required due to intelligent planning.
    That is not to say we are anti DRS as we also have the capability to extend it by programming additional affinity/anti-affinity rules to for instance keep vm’s apart across racks or blade chassis’.
    DRS is a fine technology it just won’t tell you where to place the vm’s intelligently or how much kit you really need.

  • “But in the area of performance reporting and visualization, VMware’s success has been minimal.”

    If you would like to demo Veloxum’s product in the area, I would be happy to arrange it for you. We provide automated performance improvement and reporting for VMware. Where others report, we provide ROI out of the box.

  • [...] s’appuient 3 autres outils : capacity planning, reporting et optimisation. Ce dernier est un genre de DRS à large scope qui peut vous suggérer (et surtout le faire pour vous si vous achetez la licence) de diminuer la [...]

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