5 reasons why I have fallen in love with SCVMM 2008

A few months ago System Centre Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (SCVMM) was fully released, I know I actually took a long while to give this a try, mostly due to a fairly miserable experience I had with it in beta.  However after taking a bit of time to install and get to know this it, I am really thrilled to say that this product is fantastic and it really delivers.

Less than 48 hours after testing and installation I was trying to bring the guys I work with around to my viewpoint on why we need this product in our organisation immediately.  If you have multiple virtual servers within your organisation, you cannot afford not to have this!

Here are my 5 reasons I have fallen in love with it, and I think you would too.

1.  Migrations

Three kinds of migration are now available in SCVMM.  Virtual To Virtual (V2V), Physical to Virtual (P2V), Host To Host (H2H?  Maybe I just invented a new term)

V2V – Virtual to Virtual Migration.  This feature is amazing, it allows you to do an on the fly conversion / migration of virtual servers to a new host.  I recently converted a set of VMDK files from an ESX Virtual Machine to new Hyper-V machine with no problem at all.  You can store the VMDK files in the SCVMM Library (See #5) and do an offline conversion, or if you have SCVMM managing an ESX server (See #4) you can do an online migration.  It will even install all the necessary drivers for you to get your VM up and running with a minimum of fuss.

P2V – Physical to Virtual Migration.  This is something that has been around in ESX for a while now, but it is very nice to have this feature running in SCVMM.  Either offline or online P2V can be performed; I have heard some rumour that the offline version may be more reliable, I have not yet substantiated this for myself.

H2H – Host To Host migration.  This is simply called "Migration" within SCVMM, in ESX it was called "VMotion".  This is an offline migration of a server from one host to another, during this process the server will be turned off and turned back on when migration to the new host server is complete.

2.  Web Console

This feature is going to be big news for Hosting companies.  It is a web based console you can log into to manage your Virtual Machines, Hosts, Anything!  Pretty much if you can do it in the SCVMM Administrators Console, you can do it in the Web Console.  Finally a tool to allow your end users, customers or even developers the ability to remotely manage their own servers.

This sounds like it could potentially be a security concern, but the SCVMM team has built in a fairly robust permissions system that will allow you to delegate appropriate permissions fairly granularly to your users.  A specific user may only be able to see the status of their own VM Guest, while another user may see an entire group of servers they can reboot at will.

3.  Operations Manager and PowerShell Integration

Combine SCVMM 2008 with System Center Operations Manager and suddenly amid a few new Management Packs you have the ability to monitor the health of your hosts and guests.  For any service provider being able to actually monitor the health of the VMs at a host level will be very useful.  There may be other features and benefits here too, but as yet I have not had a chance to fiddle too much with it. 

With every 2008 or later product, Microsoft has been including PowerShell providers, and SCVMM is no exception.  Anything you can do in the Administrators console you can do in PowerShell.  At a quick guess the administrators console merely generates PowerShell scripts and executes them in the background, and a plus side of this is that most of the wizards can export a PowerShell command so they can be re-run if needed.

4.  Management, Maintenance and Resources

If I have not mentioned it already, if you have ESX infrastructure as well as Microsoft virtualisation technologies, SCVMM can also manage all of your Hosts and VMs in one place.  Of course this is not just limited to Hyper-V and ESX, if you have Virtual Server 2005 SCVMM can also manage this.

For monitoring your resources the Administrators console allows you to quickly view on a pie chart the status of your hosts, guests and jobs. This console also allows you to select a host machine and quickly find out how many VMs are on there, and more importantly how many resources are available on the host.   This is something Hyper-V and Virtual Server do not have readily available. 

The SCVMM Administrator and Web console also give you an indication of how much CPU and Memory each of your guests are using, this is not a particularly new feature as it was available in the Virtual Server 2005 Web interface, but having it in the same place as all the other tools is fairly useful.

5.  The Library

Think of the library as a catalogue of Virtual Disks, Virtual Servers, ISO's and Configurations that you may want to deploy more than once.  By right clicking an object in the library you can bring up a deployment wizard. For example, deploying a new Guest would be as easy as right clicking on an image stored in the library and filling in a few blanks in the wizard, or you could potentially convert an ESX guest that was stored in the library to Hyper-V, and so on.Of course for the library to be much use, you need a fast and easy way to import new content. 

A currently running VM can be imported quite easily, the import process will copy the VM into the library as a template, and also perform a sysprep on the operating system VHD files, this way new VMs can be deployed extremely quickly.  VMM also allows the ability to run post-configuration scripts so that if you have any build scripts that would ordinarily be run after a server had been installed, this can do it for you with no interaction.

I have not gone terribly in depth with any of these features, but I hope I have given a few people out there an idea of what SCVMM can do for them.  If you have any lingering doubts, I recommend grabbing a trial copy and running it up on a VM.  It is probably not a supported configuration, but that?s what I did and it worked relatively well for me.

180 day trial downloads of SCVMM are available and more information can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/virtualmachinemanager/en/us/default.aspx

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