VMware vCenter Operations Manager 101
While VMware’s vCenter does provide basic performance graphs, it’s just not powerful enough to answer the performance and capacity questions that virtualization admins require. vCenter doesn’t do capacity planning or correlate change tracking with performance events. Finally, vCenter can’t tell you if your virtual infrastructure is meeting your agreed-upon service level agreements (SLA). VMware’s vCenter Operations Manager (or vCOPs) can do all that, and more.
vCenter Operations Manager – The Basics
In its most basic form, VMware vCenter Operations Manager is a performance and capacity management tool for VMware vSphere virtual infrastructures. In past years, VMware would recommend that you purchase a third-party performance/capacity analysis tool such as vKernel vOPS or Veeam Monitor. However, in 2010, VMware bought Integrien and their “Alive” product (after much improvement) became vCenter Operations Manager.
Today, VMware recommends you use their performance/capacity analysis tool. In fact, vCOPS is one of the fastest growing products in the VMware product line. Here are the basics of vCOPS:
- Deployed as a vApp, made up of two virtual machines
- Doesn’t require the purchase of a Windows OS or database license as it’s all self-contained inside the vCOPS vApp
- No Windows OS license to install, patch, or license tools like anti-virus for
- Can be up and running in a fraction of the time it takes other solutions
- Agentless so there is nothing to install on monitored virtual machines
- Uses both statistics gathered from vCenter as well as behavioral analytics
vCenter Ops Manager comes in four different editions:
- Foundation – totally free and included with vSphere Essentials Plus and above but lacks capacity management and other features
- Standard – the entry-level commercial edition offers additional dashboards, root cause analysis, capacity analysis, alerting, reporting, and modeling
- Advanced – managed performance, configuration, chargeback and capacity for virtual and physical infrastructures with the addition of vCenter Configuration Manager, vFabric Hyperic, vCenter Infrastructure Navigator (VIN), and vCenter Chargeback Manager. Additionally, Advanced and Enterprise offer the ability to create custom dashboards.
- Enterprise – covers all that the Advanced edition does but also includes compliance views, workflow triggers, monitoring of Microsoft OS and databases, storage adaptors (EMC Symmetrix and NetApp), and guest OS level patch/change/config management
vCOPS – What Makes It Unique
With so many tools vendors out there claiming to be the best solution to manage a virtual infrastructure, what makes vCOPS unique? Besides vCOPS being a VMware solution, the virtual appliance deployment, and behavioral analytics, there are a few other things that make vCOPS unique, as compared to other competing solutions.
- Beautiful interface – the vCOPS interface is both aesthetically pleasing and intuitive (which isn’t always true for management applications) which makes using it more appealing (as you can see above in Figure 1
- Badges and health scores – vCOPS uses unique color-coded badges and scores that represent the top super-metrics and all sub-metrics, below. For example, by looking at the health, risk, and efficiency scores for the virtual infrastructure you can very quickly tell if you are heading in the right direction or if you have a performance or capacity issue
- From VMware and Included with vSphere – I believe that there may be some value in using a tool from the manufacturer of your software (as long as the tool is a good one) as they may have additional insight into how the application works. Additionally, as it’s included with vSphere Essentials Plus, just about every commercial customer has access to download vCOPS.
Why You Need a Virtualization Performance / Capacity Solution
Too many virtualization admins think that they can get by with the simple performance reports in vCenter. However, what you need are answers to real-world questions like:
- How long before I run out of resources?
- Do I have virtual machines that are over provisioned (wasting resources that could be used for other virtual machines)?
- Is my overall virtual infrastructure workload trending up or down?
- What virtual machines are talking to each other and what applications are they running?
- When slow performance was experiences or an outage occurred, what was the root cause of it?
vCOPS can answer these types of questions (and many more). These are questions that vCenter’s basic performance charts and graphs just can’t answer.
You can download a free 60-day evaluation of vCenter Operations Manager (as well as the vCloud Suite) here.