The VMware Infrastructure package consists of 3 applications – VMware ESX, Virtual Center, and VMware Consolidated Backup. In this article, we’ll learn the features of VMware’s Virtual Center (VC) and what it can do for you.
For those who aren’t took familiar with VC, let’s start off by hitting the core features of Virtual Center. They are:
More detail on these features can be found on the Virtual Center datasheet.
Now let’s talk about how Virtual Center can help you. Specifically, I want you to SEE these features, not just read about them. As everyone’s company and needs are different, different features of the product will hit home with different people. What I am going to cover are the features that really hit home with me.
VC provides centralized management for all VMware ESX servers. Keep in mind that VC 3.x does not control free VMware Server systems. To control VMware Server systems, you have to buy Virtual Center 2.x (which cannot control VMware ESX 3.x servers).
With centralized management you get a single place to go to control all virtual servers. The more virtual servers you have, the more necessary Virtual Center becomes. Here is what the Virtual Machine Inventory screen looks like:
From this screen, you can see the status of all servers in a single place. You can tell if they are powered ON or OFF. You can see any alerts that are related to that server. You can also see the amount of CPU and RAM that is being used by each system.
On the next tab, Hosts Inventory, you can see the status of your Virtual Hosts. If you need to know the amount of CPU and RAM that is being used on each system, this is the place to go:
I could keep going on these Inventory tabs but I think you get the point that VC offers consolidated management. If you continue through the tabs, you will see how VC offers consolidated event management across all hosts, alarm status, permissions, and virtual resources maps.
Specifically, let’s talk about the virtual resources maps because, in my opinion, these are so amazing and useful.
If you click on the Inventory Map tab, you will find out that you can get some great maps like this one:
From these maps, you can instantly see a graphical inventory of all virtual machines, virtual networks, virtual server hosts, and virtual datastores. These maps can be customized to show or not show certain relationships. I just love being able to quickly print this type of map out on a custom printer to hand out to system administrators and upper management. It even looks great hanging on my wall.
As VC runs on a Windows server, Windows AD integration is a pretty natural feature. Still, it is great to have Roles for the Virtual “datacenter” where you can assign just a single user or a group of users to be able to control certain servers. This is done in the Permissions tab of each virtual server by assigning a Windows user or group of users to a certain VC Role. here is an example where certain users have administrator rights to a virtual system and other users have only Virtual Machine Administrator rights.
The ability to schedule tasks across all virtual machines is a nice feature. In this graphic, you can see that we created a scheduled task that will power up a certain virtual server after the backup process:
Yet another great feature of VMware Virtual Center is the centralized performance management ability it provides. Here is an example of this:
Besides showing server performance status on a single graph, you can also setup email or SNMP alerts if a server, for example, reaches 90% CPU utilization.
I could go on and on about the wealth of virtualization features offered by Virtual Center but I have tried to focus on some of my favorite VC features. Other important features are the ability to move a virtual guest machine from one virtual host to another virtual host, without any noticeable downtime to the virtual client. The feature that moves the virtual client is called “VMotion”.
In conclusion, VMware Virtual Center (VC) is a great product with a lot of featuers. Besides an integrated Windows authentication systems, VC offers a single place to go to check status of all your virtual servers. You can use the sample client to both administer Virtual Center and a Virtual Server running VMware ESX. In this article, we learned not only about the general features that Virtual Center offers but we saw, specifically, how these features can help you in a production environment.