What tools should a VMware team have to monitor their environment
I have worked with a bunch of customers over the last couple of years and there has been a very common theme. The overwhelming majority of IT shops have not invested in any tools to help them manage and monitor their VMware environments. Sure they have vCenter and you can get some great info out of it, but unless something is going really wrong or has already you might not have a clue. You are essentially driving blind.
VMware event monitoring
To me the first thing that I think shops should invest in if they don’t already have a tool capable of doing this is, get something that can properly monitor your VMware environment. To be clear of what I mean by this is a tool that will scrape logs and watch for events in your environment and notify you about issues. How it notifies you can vary, whether you want a ticket created or simply an email.
Without something actively monitoring your hosts and vCenter you could be missing some very serious issues. I’ve seen customers that had paths down and did not know about them. You could also be exceeding some threshold that could be pointing to something more serious. Basically there are a ton of small and large issues that you could discover with proper monitoring.
There are products from several companies like Veeam, Quest software. One of the tools that has impressed me a few times was the SCOM plugin called Veeam Management Pack. This is a very powerful tool that can be used by Windows shops that already have SCOM deployed and are monitoring. The plugin contains a ton of items that it monitors for and maybe the most extensive set of items that I have see out of any tool so far.
VMware Performance Monitoring
There are many more companies and products that are actively selling and creating monitoring applications that focus on VM performance. This is more about how your VMs or Hosts are performing and less about warning you of loss of connectivity and items like that. A performance monitoring tool can be very helpful for most admins, especially more junior ones in finding the root cause for performance issues. Most will help you cut down the time it takes to find the cause of what is causing your issue and might even give some insight on how to fix the issue.
Most major tools companies that are developing tools for VMware are offering some type of VMware performance tool. A couple of the leading ones are vCenter Operations from VMware and Vkernel has a nice offering also.
VMware Capacity Planning
So this is probably the third item on my importance list but its an item that I hear IT teams say they have no way of planning for growth. This especially rings true when you talk with the managers of the teams and is usually a pain point. So what does capacity planning mean to the average IT team?
To keep it simple, capacity planning is a process that monitors your environment to see what resources you have used over some period of time. The tool can then help you predict based on your history how many more VMs you can add to your environment. Each tool takes different approaches to this, some will give you an estimate something like you can add X number of VMs. While another tool might take the approach that you will run out of memory in XX of days, you will run out of CPU in XX number of days and disk in XX number of days.
From what I’ve seen most shops doing is just trying the old peek into vCenter and make a guess on whether and how many VMs they have space to add. This does not help them with planning for future projects. You don’t want to plan your capacity like the dude in the picture trying to check for wind direction.
What are you using?
If you know of a tool that you think is great at one of these tasks or maybe something else, drop a note in the comments and share with everyone. Does not matter if its a free tool or a paid tool.