Understanding the vCenter Operations Manager Suite 5.8

by [Published on 20 May 2014 / Last Updated on 20 May 2014]

This article takes a look at vCenter Operations Manager Suite 5.8 (vCOPS).

Introduction

For a long time, VMware was content to focus on the hypervisor and allow partners to complement that product with their own solutions. Even when VMware included some additional functionality in its own products, such functionality was often inferior to what was available in the broader partner market. In recent years, however, VMware is taking on the very partner market that helped the company become the infrastructure behemoth it is today. From backup to disaster recovery to storage and to comprehensive monitoring, VMware is working hard to expand their share of the markets beyond the hypervisor.

vCenter Operations Manager – vCOPS for short – is one such foray into a space beyond the base hypervisor. Whereas vCenter itself provided customers with basic monitoring and performance metrics, vCOPS is VMware’s separate and competitive monitoring tools that goes well beyond vCenter alone and is a direct competitor to third party partner solutions.

vCOPS provides administrators with a plethora of information, some of which is intended to help correct current problems and some intended to help avoid future ones. Here are the broad information categories provided by vCOPS.

Environmental health

One of the main reasons that monitoring systems are introduced into the workplace is to improve the way that problem resolution takes place. The environmental health part of vCOPS provides a hierarchical look at the computing environment and gives administrators an at-a-glance view regarding current status. As you can see in Figure 1, vCOPS provides you with an overall health dashboard.

Image
Figure 1: vCOPS environmental overview and health score

Workload details and environmental alerts

The red spots shown in Figure 1 require attention of some kind. This is where vCOPS workload details function comes into play. This function provides a bit more depth into a specific aspect of the environment, as shown in Figure 2 below. Here, you can see that the current host is RAM bound (as evidenced by the fact that RAM is the most used resource, percentage wise, at 50%). This is the view to use to get information about host workloads.

Image
Figure 2: Get some additional details about the current host

Perhaps one of the most important jobs that a monitoring system performs is altering administrators when something goes amiss. vCOPS performs this function well and brings forth items that require immediate attention as well as those that need attention at some point. In Figure 3, notice that the alert isn’t one that is indicating an availability issue with the computing environment, but is indicating that individual workloads may be overprovisioned, leading to wasted resources. You’ll learn more about capacity management later. Here, though, vCOPS is letting you know that you might have the opportunity to reclaim 35 vCPUS, 1.5 TB of disk space and 205 GB of RAM.

Image
Figure 3: Alerts raise both immediate and long term concerns to the administrator

Perhaps one of the most vexing challenges in infrastructure monitoring is attempting to determine cause/correlation between issues that arise in the environment and other activities that may have taken place in the environment. This feature means that customers don’t have to wade through log files and other documentation to determine what may have changed in the environment.

Image
Figure 4: vCOPS provides event correlation anaylsis

Capacity management

The ability to plan for ongoing environment resource needs is a critical one that is often overlooked until it’s to late. I’ve seen many cases in which organizations, for example, run out of disk space or exhaust memory resources and experience performance and availability issues while they await the arrival of new resources

vCOPS provides administrators with all kinds of information about ways that capacity is managed and how certain parts of the environment are impacting capacity. For example, the Powered Off Virtual Machines report shows administrators how much provisioned disk space is currently being used by powered off virtual machines. With this report, administrators can start to evaluate the need for these virtual machines and remove them in order to free up resources.

Further, vCOPS provides administrators with capacity forecasting information that can be used to help predict when new resource expenditures will be necessary in order to keep paced with anticipated growth.

Image
Figure 5: Capacity optimization is a critical task

To aid in maximizing the capacity of the virtual environment, vCOPS also monitors running virtual machines and determines whether or not their configuration levels are appropriate. If they are oversized, vCOPS provides this information to the administrator, as shown below in Figure 6. Here, you can see all of the resource reclamation recommendations that vCOPS is making.

This kind of information provides administrators to improve the overall economics of the virtual environment by lowering the total cost per workload and enabling the potential to increase virtual machine density.

Image
Figure 6: vCOPS provides workload rightsizing opportunities

Of course, vCOPS would be a pretty terrible monitoring solution if it didn’t have some kind of reporting capability. Fortunately, as shown in Figure 7, this capability is provided in vCOPS.

Image
Figure 7: vCOPS provides ample reporting capability

Additional suite components

The information that I’ve provided so far is just the tip of the iceberg, though. The vCenter Operations Management Suite provides much more than just monitoring and capacity management tools.

vCenter Configuration Manager

Change is the enemy of availability and cost. To be specific, unmanaged and undocumented change in an environment can lead to issues that result in loss of service and increase in expenses. By normalizing an environment and then tracking and managing deviations from a baseline, an IT organization can help improve the overall stability of an environment while keeping costs reasonable.

vCenter Configuration Manager is VMware’s answer to addressing this need. Here are some of the product’s capabilities:

  • Centralize and monitor baseline configurations across the virtual and physical environment (VMware, Windows, Linux).
  • Capture ongoing configuration data information to provide administrators with delta information that can be used.
  • In some cases, take automated action to bring a system back into compliance.

Image
Figure 8: Configuration Manager helps to prevent againt "change drift"

vCenter Hyperic

Hyperic brings to vCOPS the ability to monitor operating systems, middleware environments, and applications. These applications can run on cloud, physical, or virtual infrastructure. Here’s a look at the services that are supported by Hyperic.

Image
Figure 9: Hyperic provides broad support for common services

vCenter Infrastructure Navigator

Infrastructure Navigator discovers dependencies that may exist between infrastructure and applications and provides a visual look at how these dependencies exist in the organization. This information helps administrators understand the impact of changes in the environment.

Image
Figure 10: Infrastructure Navigator helps to define dependencies that may exist in the environment

vCenter Chargeback Manager

Ensuring that the right department or business unit covers the costs for their services is an essential task in many organizations. It can also be a complex one. As such, VMware includes in the suite Chargeback Manager, which provides organizations with a vCenter-integrated tool for managing this activity.

Image
Figure 11: Chargeback Manager in action

Summary

Gone are the days when organizations could get by on just current performance management metrics. Today’s complex and cost-sensitive organizations need tools that can provide better total cost of ownership prospects and that can solve more than just the need for monitoring.

See Also


The Author — Scott D. Lowe

Scott D. Lowe avatar

Scott has written thousands of articles and blog posts and has authored or coauthored three books, including Microsoft Press’ Exchange Server 2007 Administrators Companion and O’Reilly’s Home Networking: The Missing Manual. In 2012, Scott was also awarded VMware's prestigious vExpert designation for his contributions to the virtualization community.