Released to manufacturing in October, Microsoft’s System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 gives IT managers the capacity to manage their virtual infrastructures centrally.
Using SCVMM 2008, users can manage Hyper-V installed virtual machines, as well as VMs created with Virtual Server 2005 R2 and VMware VMs running on its ESX infrastructure.
Although currently Hyper-V has no support for moving live VMs across virtual hosts, it can use VMware’s Virtual Infrastructure 3 system to do this. Microsoft has addressed this problem in the next release of its flagship server, the R2 version of Windows Server 2008 (WS 2008), but users will have to wait until 2010 for this feature.
We installed SCVMM 2008 on a Dell PowerEdge R900 Server running the 64-bit edition of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Edition. Firstly the VMM Server was installed and then the local administrator console. It didn't take long for the install to complete, the most time-consuming part being the install of a SQL Server database which stores the VM configurations. Users can attach to an already installed database or create a new one.
It was easy to pick up virtual machines we had installed earlier, and also point to another host system running Virtual Server 2005 R2 under Windows Server 2003 and manage those VMs.
SCVMM 2008 also provides integration for WS 2008’s new clustering support, and can be used to set up fault-tolerant VMs, as well as VMs which will preferentially attach to hosts which are part of a cluster. SCVMM 2008 can also now manage a set of clustered VMs together as a single unit.
Apart from the expanded feature set, the GUI has been slightly enhanced, but still looks pretty similar to SCVMM 2007. Because Microsoft has written the 2008 version around its PowerShell (PS) command shell and scripting language, scripts and command files containing scripts can be executed to speed up tasks like migrating a VMware VM using VMotion.
We could use PS scripting to shortcut a lot of tasks, although one problem was how SCVMM 2008 would deal with VMs that needed patching. Currently the only method is to fire up the VM, patch and then restart. It would be nice to see Microsoft introduce a feature where VMs could be patched offline.
One of the key additions in SCVMM 2008 is an integrated performance and resource optimisation tool allowing alerts to be configured warning of specific VM hardware problems which could cause failure of that VM. SCVMM 2008 can be configured to react in real time to the alert and, for example, increase system memory or disk space allocated to the problem VM automatically.
Other minor improvements include the ability to create 'delegated administrators', who can work on a subset of the VMs in the virtual infrastructure with full administrator rights to those particular VMs. Updated network permissions have also been introduced allowing SCVMM 2008 to manage virtual infrastructure not part of a trusted domain.
Overall SCVMM 2008 significantly cuts down time spent by system administrators managing VMs, but the package won't be the 'full deal' until Microsoft's own Live Migration feature appears courtesy of WS 2008 R2 sometime in 2010.