VMware and System Center — all in

I considered entitling this post “What I did on my Christmas vacation” but that would imply that I’ve been at this effort for only a short time. That said, I have been spending a whole lot of quality time recently with Microsoft’s System Center products — namely, Data Protection Manager 2010, Configuration Manager 2007 R2 and Operations Manager 2007 R2. In our case, we also happen to be very heavily virtualized and have standardized on VMware ESX & ESXi (4.0 and 4.1) as our platforms of choice.

The combination is great! With the System Center products, we’re operating at the guest level and have deployed three agents into each individual virtual machine. The agents are not intrusive and don’t affect performance — at least not noticeably. Shortly, we’ll procure software that will allow us to use Configuration Manager and Operations Manager against our ESX servers at the host level, too. On the Configuration Manager side, we’ve already integrated our Macs through the use of Quest’s Management Extensions and we’ll do the same for VMware. On the Operations Manager side, we’ll use Veeam’s nworks Management Pack for VMware. I’m previously deployed the Veaam nworks product and it’s a fantastic addition to Operation Manager.

For protection/backup, we’ve standardized on guest-based Data Protection Manager and are not worrying about protecting at the ESX host level. Although we don’t necessarily get some of the benefits that might come with host-based protection, but that’s not that important to us right now. We’ve already enjoyed great success with DPM and, although it’s not a perfect product, we’re very happy with it.

So, what is the point of this post? If you’re heavily invested in VMware on the hypervisor side and Microsoft everywhere else – as we are – System Center can continue to do the job for you and can help you troubleshoot problems in your VMware environment. For example, if you’re seeing disk performance issues on either a VM or on an ESX host, the guest-based Operations Manager agent can be used to view guest-based disk statistics while the host can get information from the Veeam nworks management pack.

It’s good stuff all around! I’ll be writing a lot more in this space about these products as used in conjunction with VMware.

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