I do realise that comparing VMTurbo to Tesla is a bit much but it’s really not all that far away from the truth. When Tesla began designing their electric cars it was at a time when electric cars were unfashionable and some previous manufacturers had produced some real pieces of crap so most people were just thinking why bother. Why waste time on something that’s not going to sell? There’s already enough electric cars on the market by more traditional and trusted manufacturers. And this is where the link to VMTurbo comes in. VMTurbo has entered an already saturated market place with another monitoring tool. As with Tesla however, they have come to market with a product that does things very differently and rocked the status quo. VMTurbo is not just a monitoring tool but an analysis appliance that provides realtime recommendations and updates to reduce the number of alerts within virtual infrastructures and works towards keeping a desired state throughout the environment by supplying applications with the resources they require and ensure efficiency of available resource consumption. Two companies in different technological spaces are upsetting the market by thinking outside the box and finding novel solutions. If only VMTurbo had an Insane Mode like Tesla…

Over the past 10 years what has really changed with monitoring solutions? Well, not much. We now get more data and information to process but no real assistance regarding resolutions to fix issues. The most extensive monitoring solution I’ve used before is Microsoft SCOM, it’s just immense, and it covers all the way from application down to the virtual layer (with some assistance from 3rd party products for VMware like Veeam MP for VMware) but it’s just too big and time consuming and the recommendations provided in the alerts are really just pointing back to KB articles. And this has primarily been my concern with these tools. They are designed to provide as much information as possible to the point where the administrator/operator is getting overloaded and doesn’t know where to begin to fix the problem. Ideally these tools should analyse that data and provide actionable and automated recommendations so that it can intelligently keep your environment running efficiently. This would free up time spent by admins going through reams of data and allow them to work on adding value to the business rather than being stuck down some IT rabbit hole. VMware vCOPs does provide analysis and reports on anomalies and issues that cause peaks outside of thresholds and baselines but it doesn’t identify clearly what has caused this and even if it is something to investigate. I’ve spent countless hours tracing back alerts from vCOPs to find that everything is ok within the environment and it was just a different workload temporarily running on the VM that caused the anomalies to trigger. And as for capacity planning, well that’s just another massive pain in the ass. vCOPs does however provide fairly decent capacity planning in comparison to most other tools but it’s still clumsy and limited regarding customisation. It’s a bit like trying to reason with a 2 year old, you think you’re making progress but you eventually realise that it’s not going to do exactly as you wanted and will still throw your iPhone down the toilet anyway. (pesky kids :-)) vCOPS lets you add hosts/VMs etc but it’s just feels clunky and makes it difficult factor in all aspects of your infrastructure.

What I like about VMTurbo?

VMTurbo continually analyses your virtual environment to provide real-time monitoring and recommendations to assure application performance and resource efficiency across the entire virtual environment. These recommendations can be automated to allow VMTurbo to fully manage the efficiency of your virtual infrastructure to help reduce the number of issues faced by the Operations team and also reduce the amount of time it takes to resolve problems that do occur. VMTurbo looks at making recommendations that are preventative or to also assure performance. And it is really is as easy as clicking a checkbox and clicking apply to follow through on the recommendation to re-balance the environment. There is a question that most VMware admins have around the differences between DRS and VMTurbo recommendations which I think VMTurbo can explain better than I can.

VMTurbo describes the difference between DRS and their balancing methodology as being the below:

  • VMTurbo is application-aware, and will ensure ‘gold’ workloads are unaffected during times of resource over-subscription.
  • VMTurbo understands when you may need to add (or can claim back) capacity to ensure workloads healthy while using your hardware most efficiently (subject to HA constraints).
  • VMTurbo’s algorithm focuses on the workload versus the hardware. We will run resources at different utilizations across hosts or storage controllers (hence not balanced), for instance when some hosts are bigger than others.
  • In addition to memory and CPU, VMTurbo also considers CPU ready queue, IO, network, memory ballooning and swapping, and latency.
  • VMTurbo will move workloads across cluster boundaries (subject to business constraints like DR policies

My take on it is that while DRS doesn’t look at as many metrics it does provide a sufficient load balancing for a lot of infrastructure but I think it can lead to some VM bouncing between hosts as it’s more re-active rather than pro-active. The host hits the DRS set limits and then moves the VM or at least makes the recommendation. VMTurbo is more pro-active and moves the VM before it gets near those limits. Also, due to the supply chain algorithms they use the utilisation limits change to suit the workloads so it’s a lot more fluid and can make those recommendations as the workloads within the environment change. This element of VMTurbo is the hardest to sell back to managers or the business as it’s a hard one to justify. The supply chain used by VMTurbo is best described by the VMTurbo diagram which shows the relationships between each component as buyers and sellers and how the requirements roll up the supply chain.

VMTurbo Market Share Overview

For more information on DRS check out this article by Duncan Epping on DRS is just a load balancing solution and decide for yourself. Also the article Duncan links to by Frank Denneman is also quite informative.

The constant real-time and predictive analysis that is taking place within the VMTurbo engine means that one of it’s other great features is a breeze. Capacity planning has been for as long as I can remember been a major pain point for virtualisation teams. I’ve been one of those engineers stuck looking at a spreadsheet in the past to figure out future capacity until I found vCOPs. The capacity planning tool within VMTurbo is not only easy to use it’s actually fun. It’s really customisable and provides not only what the future capacity requirements are but also provides a list of recommended actions that would need to be performed elsewhere in the environment to ensure application performance and efficiency.

Another reason I like VMTurbo is the interface. It reminds me in a way of Veeam interfaces which I find very aesthetically pleasing to work with. No matter where you are within the console it’s easy to find the data that you want. There is normally a show details graph icon near the information you want to expand upon which then quickly opens up a new tab. This is really useful when comparing the performance of two VMs as it can be done on two side-by-side tabs and it’s also possible to scrub back to previous points in time (hourly for the first 24 hours) to see what the performance metrics were at a specific point in time, like during a backup window for example.

I recently ran an evaluation of VMTurbo and below is the criteria I was working from. This was used against other monitoring and analysis solutions as part of the same evaluation but VMTurbo was the only solution to satisfy all of them. All other fell short on at least 2 or more of the criteria.

Success Criteria:

  1. Alert on performance problems to signify the environment is not in the most optimal state
  2. Prove the level of hardware needed to assure performance at the most efficient state
  3. Define areas where resources can be reclaimed while not impacting performance assurance
  4. Must be able to plan for change: adding/removing VMs, replace or upgrade hardware/storage, plan with constraints enabled
  5. Answer questions regarding Capacity Forecasting, Chargeback/showback, Netapp Storage visibility, UCS visibility

Preferable Criteria:

  • Be able to take action to prevent performance problems by controlling the environment in the most optimal state
  • Potential ability to monitor physical devices
  • Ability to automate alerting/resolution without requiring manual operator input
  • Customisable dashboards, thresholds and policies

 

What does VMTurbo look like?

To get VMTurbo up and running it’s as easy as deploying an appliance via an OVF template within VMWare. Drop an IP address on it and add credentials to authenticate into vCenter and within 15 minutes you’re up and running and you’ll have a bunch of recommendations for your environment within 1 hour. I was quite impressed that VMTurbo was able to provide recommendations so quickly and also to analyse the storage capacity within that time. I was evaluating another solution at the same time and that took almost 4 hours to pull back any reasonable statistics.

As mentioned previously VMTurbo provides recommendations based on prevention and performance assurance. As you can see there’s a recommendation to move a VM to another physical host and also another one to provision new physical hosts. This is based on the ESXi host memory usage and the admission control settings in VMware. VMTurbo respect HA admission control and DRS affinity groups and factors these into any recommendations that are made. 

VMTurbo execute recommendation

 

An example of the performance deep dive on a host shows the metrics for vMem, vCPU, Swap, vCPU Ready and Ballooning. On top of that it provides easily accessible information on resource usage and capacity and also what recommendations are waiting to be carried out for that host.

VMTurbo ESX host utilization

VMTurbo also provides a list of errors within the environment such as memory congestions etc. It’s easy to access this information from the Inventory dashboard by clicking the alerting icon and viewing the alerts for all devices within that cluster/datacenter etc. This is one of the beauties of VMTurbo, information is easy accessible, clearly defined and easy to expand upon.

VMTurbo inventory risk-opportunity

The supply chain view of VMTurbo is quite useful for seeing how each component is tied together and the impact that each one has on the next. You can drill down quickly on each component to get more information. It also provides the desired state in a green box and the current state in the purple box so you can quickly tell by looking at the component if there’s a disparity between the current and desired states. If you drill down into that component you will see recommendations from VMTurbo on how to achieve the desired state, whether that is migrating VMs, storage vmotions or provisioning of new hardware.


VMTurbo supply chain storage controller VMTurbo supply chain physical machine

Capacity Planning shows the expected projection of resources over the coming weeks, months, year etc. As you can see from the example below the physical host capacity is not expected to exceed capacity until early next year and up to that point there will be no expected issues. It looks at VMs, datastores and physical machines so all aspects (I’m excluding networking here I know) are being catered for. 

VMTurbo Project Cluster Resources

VMTurbo also supply extra modules that provide further and more in-depth view of various parts of the infrastructure or application. The below image shows an example of the Cisco UCS module which provides information on utilisation on the interconnects and also the throughput. This module helps to filter up information to VMTurbo Operations Manager to provide better and more accurate recommendations for data center efficiency. Similar modules are available for applications, NetApp storage etc. As an engineer working with Flexpod it’s great to get information and metrics on the entire infrastructure in one console. I won’t refer to it as a single pane of glass, I’ve a rant to go on about that at some other time.

VMTurbo ucs domain network utilization

 

What next?

I’m still in the process of evaluating VMTurbo but I have to say I’ve been greatly impressed by it. It’s easy to get your hands on a trial version and I’d recommend it, even if for no other reason than you want to get a very quick view into your infrastructure and how you can immediately begin to drive efficiency. There is a free version of VMTurbo Operations Manager which doesn’t go as deeply as the full product obviously but even getting your hands on that and having a play with it will give you a good feel for what the product is like and what it can do.

You can find more information about VMTurbo Operations Manager here.

 

Note:

Just before I started to write this post I found a link to a product called OpVizor which looks similar in a way to what VMTurbo has to offer but I haven’t evaluated the product so I don’t know if there are playing in the same space but their promo video makes it look like they do. Another rumbling I’ve heard is that the new release of vRealize Operations Manager from VMware is supposed to incorporate some similar environment recommendations which can be acted upon but I don’t know if that automation requires deploying vRealize Automation as well. The release is due in a few weeks so it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of it.

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