Why VMware vCenter Operations Should Be Next on Your List

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Ten years ago when you looked in a datacenter it was row upon row of racks filled with servers. A lot of 1U little guys up to large 8Us. Dozens of them, perhaps even hundreds of them, stacked one on top of another. Every one of them had exactly 1 app on it and when we looked into their usage with tools available at the time we realized that most of these servers were heavily underutilized.

Enter VMware vCenter and Virtualization

We started small with low hanging fruit, dev boxes, test servers, etc – stuff people didn't really care too much about. And we jammed them on to these new ESX hosts and were amazed at getting 10-20 virtual servers on one physical host. A few years passed and the technology continued to advance. We started migrating production workloads on to ESX. We were even getting better consolidation ratios, perhaps even 50 to 1!

This was a huge thing just a few years ago. The number of VMs and number of hosts were doubling year after year. It was fairly easy to forecast the growth of the environment; whatever it is now we need twice as many next year. Now, measuring that growth isn't so straight forward.

Also with production systems coming in it brought a whole new set of things to worry about. I'm sure any of us that have managed an environment know the good ole fashioned complaint: "My VM is slow." This is probably the number one thing a VMware administrator hears from application support. Nothing specific, nothing measureable – just slow. A few tools were available to us, all third party that did some valuable monitoring, but wasn't integrated well and not holistic.

Now the push is tier 1 applications, and bigger workloads with higher SLAs – business critical stuff. Yikes.

Enter VMware vCenter Operations or vCOPS

vCenter Operations, or vCOPS, in its most basic form is a monitoring tool, able to display and alert a number of performance metrics. In its highest form it is a collector of multiple sources of information able to analyze, diagnose and capacity plan. vCOPS comes as a bundled vApp which is easily imported into your vSphere environment. You are able to get it running and collecting vSphere data in fairly short order. That means when someone comes to you and says something is slow you now have something to diagnose that; even better you might see it coming before they know! We will know we need to add compute or storage resources. We will see the trending and be able to adequately budget.

vCOPS is a fantastic tool for understanding our virtual environments from end to end. Sounds easy right? Well…kinda.

The challenge with vCOPS is that it's highly customizable. While this is a good thing, it's a tool that when not configured correctly is useless, or worse, wrong. Customized dashboards provided to business users can get them off your back, or maybe it tells them things they shouldn't know. What metrics are important? How does it integrate? What's a problem? Unfortunately I really can't give you these details. Most of it is particular to your environment, and to your business. It's really in your best interest to start looking into it now. Make your life easier, and help optimize your business. Start looking into what servers talk to what servers. Ask your application people what SLAs they need. Ask the business what is important.

Understand your environment first then set up dashboards around that. We deliver services to the business. That is our function in virtualization – figure out what they need and ensure we are delivering it.

Thankfully there are quite a few resources out there, including some vCenter Operations Manager Training. Get ahead of the curve and start now. This will be a necessary skillset in the very near future – help yourself, and your business, be successful.

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Contributor

Matt Vandenbeld

is VCDX-DCV #107 and a vExpert, currently employed at Long View Systems in Calgary, Alberta, Canada as a Technical Architect specializing in virtual infrastructures. He holds numerous industry certs, RHCSA, MCSE, VCP, VTSP, VCAP-DCA/DCD, and many others. He's been in the IT industry for over 10 years, specializing in virtualization for the last six. Cloud and virtualization is my passion. I know, Im a geek. Or is it a vGeek?

I love to learn and talk about any topic, especially virtualization!