Testdriving the VKernel Capacity Management Suite

The life of an IT-Admin is getting more complex by the day. We’re dealing with: Endless endpoints, <Insert type>Servers, Tons of (Legacy) Applications,different layers of Virtualization, Workspace Management, Network and of course our precious users on a daily basis! So how does VKernel help simplify matters?

Let me start by asking you a question:
Does your organization have a dedicated VMWare (Citrix XEN or dare I say: a Hyper-V) team? Guys who do nothing all day but eat-sleep-and-breathe virtualization? In most cases the answer will be “No”.
The same goes for my current job. As much as would love to, I don’t get nearly enough time to sit down with my ESX environment and have a nice philosophical discussion like:”If VM XYZ has a constant CPU Ready time of 12% but nobody is complaining, then is there a deeper meaning to the Ready time in the first place..?” You should also ask yourself: would you even want to if you did have the time.
The ease and pace at which virtual servers get deployed nowadays can turn your Virtual Environment into chaos quite quickly. Software vendor’s specs are often sketchy or non-existent so VM’s get undersized, oversized and/or forgotten.
Enter VKERNEL! :
”VKernel offers capacity management products that help ensure performance and improve ROI for virtualized environments. Built with a sophisticated Capacity Analytics Engine, VKernel’s products are easy to deploy and provide immediate measurable value”.
Setting it up 
Since I’m allergic to Vendor BS I wanted to see just how easy the installation and usage of the VKernel Capacity Management Suite (Vkernel CMS from here) was, so follow me…
– Step 1: download the VKernel CMS appliance here
– Step 2: Unzip the download and use the free VMWare Converter software to upload it to your Virtual Infrastructure.
As you can see the Suse Enterprise Based appliance does reserve quite some juice for its operation:
vkernel-vm-settings
– Step 3: Power on the VM, and wait for the appliance to receive an IP Address (which will be shown in the console)
– Step 4: Alter your VC settings for the 5 minute interval to “2”
vkernel-vc-stats-change
– Step 5: Make sure your appliance has internet access or you’ll get an error each time you login (The auto update option will fail)
– Step 5: Browse to the IP-address and go trough the setup wizard:
vkernel-setup 

– Step 6: Login and let VKernel work its magic!
vkernel-setup-04
This whole process took about 45 minutes!
After this process has completed you’ll see the following dashboard for the first time
vkernel-dashboard 
*Sigh*..just look at the amount of Storage that can be reclaimed, if only thin provisioned disks where a best practice for VMWare ESX 3.5 🙁

Screens, screens and yes, some more screens
Because a picture usually says more than a 1000 words, Check out these screenshots from the different suites that the VKernel appliance contains:
vkernel-bottlenecks01
vkernel-bottlenecks02
vkernel-rightsizer
vkernel-vmdirectory 
How to tweak VKernel to get the most out of the results
By default the VKernel software measures the Memory Consumed metric. If you have any SQL, Linux and/or Windows 2008 VM’s you might want to change the measurement to the Memory Active Metric. For for information on memory usage check this website.
Changing this is very easy, select a VM, rightclick and change it!
vkernel-activememory 
Another handy thing to know is that the VKernel CMS keeps polling your environment 24×7. Some organizations might not care about what the VM’s are up to at night and only want the VM to perform optimally during regular business hours. To change the schedule, You select the Virtual Environment, Right click and go to the “Analysis Period”.
vkernel-time
Now select the when you want VKernel to do its thing.

Licensing, pricing and what should I get?
You’ll receive a trial license for 8 sockets but if you have more that 8 sockets, that license will limit you in determining whether the VKernel software is right for your organization. So a short email to the folks of VKernel resulted in quick response with an attached license file that contained more than enough licenses for my environment.
The software is sliced into multiple “suites” and is priced per socket.
VKernel-CMS-licensing 
You have two choices: Buy a $299/socket per suite for a perpetual license, or $139/socket for a one year term license. Seeing how much VKernel is updating/tweaking and adding features, the 299$ seems the way to go.
What should I get?
The Capacity Analyzer (Bottlenecks + Availabilty) and the Optimization Pack (Rightsizer + Wastefinder)  for me are must haves and are the backbone of the VKernel Appliance.
The Chargeback suite in my opinion is only useful if your organization actually enforces chargeback activities and the Inventory tool is a nice add-on but there are probably some nice powershell scripts that can give you the same information and will cost you nothing.

Updates
As stated before, VKernel is working very hard on its software. During my 30 day trial which is now almost at its end, I already received two major updates.
If the appliance detects an update, a snapshot of the CMS Appliance is created and then the update is applied.( I don’t know how long the snapshot is supposed to last but I deleted it after a week !)

What is good
– It’s an all-in-one appliance which is excellent, nobody wants another (monitor) VM to administer.
– It has an internal db with the OPTION to divert the data to an external DB which is great!
– It truly is really easy to use no BS there
– VKernel people are quick to respond to email
– Quick ROI
– Have I mentioned that it’s a ready-to-go appliance..?
– The VKernel CMS is like having an extra colleague watching your Virtual Environment at a fraction of the price

What could be better
– Still a bit rough around the edges (some minor bug-issues that I’m sure will be fixed)
– The Interface needs to be a little more snappy. The first time you login it takes about 1 minute until you can click something. After that the login time goes down to about 40-45 seconds.
– The description of the VM’s does not appear on any of the reports which will make you switch between VC and the reports to see what a VM is used for in order to assert if action is required. (if the hostname of your VM doesn’t ring a bell that is)

Summary
VKernel has earned its “Best of VMWorld 2010” award no doubt about that!
I really enjoyed having the VKernel appliance at my side and informing me what I needed to optimize in my environment.
You install it, configure it and from that point on, VKernel will supply you with valuable information whenever you want it.
You can also get all the reports by email and make this a weekly or monthly routine in which you adjust the VM’s according to the reports you receive..what’s not to like!
The people at VKernel told me that they have big plans for 2011 so I can’t wait!

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Tags: VKernel, experience, VMWare, Monitoring, Testdrive,
Capacity Management, Bottleneck