IBM VMControl fails virtual datacentre promise

IBM is promising a single tool to manage all physical and virtual servers, but early versions of the software fall short of that goal.

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IBM is promising a single tool for customers to manage all of their physical and virtual servers, including mainframes, Unix boxes and x86 machines.

However, it is not clear whether it will be able to deliver.

The company has issued a press release about its new VMControl product line, claiming that this software "gives businesses for the first time a single point of control across multiple types of IT systems and virtualisation technologies [including] UNIX/Linux, mainframe, x86 and storage systems and networks."

But a close reading reveals that the enterprise edition of VMControl will initially work only with a limited set of proprietary IBM technology -- namely IBM's Power Systems servers running AIX operating systems.

The VMControl enterprise edition for Power servers won't be available until December, so it's likely that IBM will not deliver a truly heterogeneous management tool until 2010.

But the announcement can still be seen as a preview a technology that solves an important problem, says IT analyst Joe Clabby of Clabby Analytics. As businesses embrace virtualisation, they are likely to use multiple hypervisors and on different types of platforms, from x86 to the mainframe, he says. This will cause enterprises to create separate infrastructures that don't communicate well with each other, and require different skills to manage, he says.

Businesses need a "manager" for their multiple hypervisors, Clabby says.

"If you kept installing all of these different hypervisor products on your x86 and then a different management scheme on your Power systems and a different one on your mainframe and a different one on your Itanium systems ... you're going to end up with a whole bunch of different stacks," Clabby says.

IBM first unveiled VMControl in July, making the "express" and "standard" versions of the software available for download.

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