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Hypervisor management -- indifference is key

IT shops don't need vendors to be agnostic about hypervisor management; they want them to be indifferent to hypervisors and design management tools that work well with any of them.

The Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines indifference as:

  1. Lack of difference or distinction between two or more things
  2. Absence of compulsion to or toward one thing or another

I frequently use the term agnostic in my talks and presentations on virtualization, but I recently found that I've been using it incorrectly. I have become a believer in what some techie bloggers refer to as the radical and eccentric mindset that the hypervisor should not matter. I also firmly believe that vendors should fully embrace the definition of "indifference" when they design and develop tools to manage the hypervisor.

Andrew Kutz is a developer and blogger who wrote the opinion piece "Ubiquitous underpinnings and idyllic interfaces -- The virtualization ecosystem of the (very near) future," which said that while hypervisors themselves should not matter, the tools necessary to manage them do. The last statement he makes in the article resonated with me:

Software vendors that wish to play in the game need to produce idyllic interfaces that are fun, functional, interoperable, are delivered via the Web and can manage any of the ubiquitous hypervisors on the market.

In my many years of working in the IT trenches, I have been subjected to a few dozen or so management applications that had to be installed on my machine in order for me just to get through my daily grind. When I ventured down the path of virtualization, I soon realized that virtual app makers were making the same mistake that hundreds of vendors had made before them, which is requiring proprietary management tools.

The era of these types of tools is over -- or at least it should be. While no complete admin software package has come to reality yet, some vendors of individual pieces have already claimed their hypervisor independence, such as Vizioncore and Abiquo. If others would actually talk with (notice I said "with," not "to") their customers, I believe they would also understand that the terms "vendor lock-in" and "proprietary" are not what we IT folks hold near and dear to our hearts.

Read more about hypervisors:

Smartphone hypervisors -- what's the use?

Citrix releases immature version of XenClient hypervisor

Why hypervisor lock-in is an advantage for VMware View

I encountered this quandary earlier this year. I was at a large trade show in Las Vegas, and two of the largest virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) vendors -- I'll call them Vendors A and B -- were up on the stage. After a few self-promoting arguments from both sides, they started the Q&A session. I raised my hand and asked Vendor B a simple question, "When will your VDI product and associated management software support multiple hypervisors and not just your own?" The company representatives responded with "Truthfully, our customers aren't asking for it". That answer surprised me a bit, and judging from the reaction of others in the audience, they were as perplexed as I was.

So I asked the follow-up question "Are you actually asking your customers if they want that option?" I got a single "No" in response, and as quick as it came, someone took the microphone away and picked another question. It was like the guy onstage had pushed a big red button that told the mic wranglers, "Make him go away."

Now that type of reactive response from Vendor B may reflect the temperament of the person giving the response, but it is representative of the company as a whole, as its releases have shown. All that the vendor provides for its products, including the hypervisor, is a single proprietary and limited platform management solution, while its two main competitors boldly stand out and say, "Yes, we can manage them too." Sure, those solutions are still more beta than gold image, but they are going in the right direction, the direction that most of us in IT want to follow

Is virtualization technology a perfect world out where everyone gets along and plays nice in the same sandbox? Not by a long shot; I bet there are many big players that'll steal you shovel and bucket faster than you can blink. But I'm not really asking for perfect, or even nearly perfect, just indifference. But maybe that's too "radical," or "eccentric," or even "agnostic."

Mike Nelson has been in IT for over 20 years and had exposure to a very diverse field of technologies and solutions. He has devoted over half a decade to virtualization and server-based computing. Nelson is currently a senior analyst at a Fortune 100 company in the U.S. Midwest.

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