I'll be honest with you - I think this tool is a cracker.  I've blogged about System Center Virtual Machine Manager before, back when it was still in beta, but it's now been released, and it's about time :-)

"Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007, part of the Microsoft System Center family of system management products, provides a simple and cost-effective solution for unified management of physical and virtual machines, consolidation of underutilized physical servers, and rapid provisioning of new virtual machines by leveraging the expertise and investments in Microsoft server technology"

So, why is it cool, and why should you want it?  Well, as stated above, VMM not only assists with management of your virtual, but also your physical environment, and not only works with current technologies, but will, further down the line, also support the up and coming wave of virtualisation technologies from Microsoft.  One of the big gripes of Virtual Server was the web front end.  I know it.  You know it.  Microsoft knows it, hence why for Windows Server virtualisation, the interface has been replaced by a clean and tidy, and functional, MMC 3.0 interface.  VMM has a very similar interface, and another one of the cool things with VMM is, is that it's built on Powershell.  What good is that?  Well, say for example, you have a number of VMware virtual machines, with VMDK's, that you want to convert into Microsoft virtual machines, with VHDs - well, you'd select one in VMM, and go through the wizard to convert it, and right at the end of the wizard, there's a magic button.  This magic button say's "View Script" and magically pops up the Powershell script that it will execute to convert that VMware VM to a Microsoft VM.  Oh, in around a minute.

Great, you say.  So what?  OK, so you have your Powershell script - whack a loop round it, to say something along the lines of, while there are still VMware VHDs existing, run this script...I'm not saying you have to try it with this, it's just an example!

But what other cool stuff can it do?  Well, Physical to Virtual conversion is in there, and once it's converted your physical box to a virtual machine, it will also intelligently suggest the best place to put it, I.e. on which host.  Clever stuff hey?  It doesn't stop there.  It integrated perfectly with the other Microsoft products too, especially System Center Operations Manager 2007, which monitors the health and status of not only your physical, but your virtual machines too.  So, when a VM, say running an IIS Server as part of a web farm, starts to get hammered with traffic, SC Operations Manager can pick this up, as it's registered above some pre-defined threshold, and it will communicate with SCVMM to start up another instance of the IIS Server, from its library of VM's and configuration files, and plop it into the farm, hence spreading the load!  Genius!  The systems working together really do help to push an infrastructure closer to that Dynamic level that we all want to be at!

What's clear to me is, is this virtualisation battle that Microsoft are finally stepping up to, isn't just about a tick-box comparison of viridian vs. VMware vs. Xen, it's a comparison of how different pieces of software and technology can work together to enable a dynamic infrastructure, that requires less intervention from the IT Admins, and can effectively manage and heal itself.

You don't have to wait until Viridian ships to take advantage of SCVMM - it works with Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 today, so you can prepare your foundation on the platform, before migrating across to Windows Server virtualisation next year.  Both Virtual Server and Windows Server virtualisation utilise the VHD file format for virtual machines, hence the logical migration from one to the other.

The guys are Rackspace have been using the System Center VMM, and as detailed over at Computerworld, "Sysadmin James Bothe can get a quick snapshot rating of each physical server based on a combination of factors. Those include parameters such as CPU utilization, RAM usage, and hard drive space.  That information gives Bothe quick insight into how many more virtual machines he can deploy onto a given physical host, and what kind."

At present, VMM will only manage virtual machines created using Microsoft virtualisation technologies, but we already have in the works, a version that will allow that management of not only Microsoft created virtual machines, but also those created by VMware, or Xen.  Great for those interested in interoperability.  Another interesting piece of information on VMM is the price; just $499 for a workgroup licence, which will handle unlimited virtual machines, but you're restricted to 5 copies.

Anyway, that's enough blabbing on by me - as you can tell, when I'm passionate about something, it's hard to shut me up!  I'll leave you with some resources:

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