If you are in the market looking for/educating yourself on virtual lab automation solutions, this post might be useful for you. I’ll spend some time writing about basic capability that you are likely to find in any packaged virtual lab automation solution (i.e., VMLogix LabManager, VMware Lab Manager or Surgient’s Virtual Automation Platform) and also specific unique aspects of the VMLogix solution.
Basic functionality of virtual lab automation solutions
This is a high level list of functionality/capabilities that you will likely find in all virtual lab automation (VLA) platforms.
- Enabling self-service — All products provide a platform that will enable your lab users with the ability to self-provision and get access to virtual machines bounded by administrator defined policies and quotas
- Lab administration capabilities
- Ability to add users to the system and create teams/groups of users, including integration with Active Directory
- Managing a library of virtual machine templates to be used in the lab
- Some reports on the lab utilization/usage
- API access to extend VLA product functionality
- Working with Multi-machine configurations
- Allowing users to create and share multi-machine configurations (via a single URL)
- Network zoning — the ability to fence network configurations so that multiple copies of the configuration can be deployed in parallel without any IP/MAC or Windows SID conflicts
- Networking configuration support – Products provide the capability to create complex network configurations (public/private networks, multiple NICs per VM etc.)
What differentiates the VMLogix LabManager solution
Over and above the set of functionality that you see above, VMLogix LabManager provides a set of unique and powerful capabilities. I’ll capture only the highlights and essence of the differentiators here. You can register here to learn more about VMLogix LabManager (you will get a lot more details around specific functionality differences and other feature nuances that I will omit here).
- Support of Multiple Hypervisors – VMLogix LabManager supports all leading hypervisors from Citrix, Microsoft and VMware, including Citrix XenServer 4.2 and Microsoft Hyper-V. In fact, VMLogix is the only VLA solution that lets you keep your lab hypervisor options truly open by supporting such a vast array of hypervisor platform technologies. This support will be maintained and grown over time as other vendors develop and make their hypervisors available.
- Powerful set of guest VM automation operations – With VMLogix LabManager you can execute automation commands in the guest VMs of a multi-machine configuration. I’ve written in the past about it here and here. Among other things this allows you to bring up a multi-machine config. in a synchronized manner (DB server first, app server next, client in the end type of scenario), set up software stacks in the guest VM automatically (pick up the latest build from a location, deploy the bits, execute the test scripts type of scenario), capture flash movies and snapshots of the running configurations and so on…In fact, there are a set of 20+ operations that are built into the product for ready use. Over and above, the product allows you to create custom operations to meet your specific lab needs. This capability for executing operations in guest VMs makes VMLogix LabManager a compelling proposition for test/dev environments pushing for automation in their operations.
- License management – VMLogix LabManager provides administrators and lab users with a set of functionality to enable fully auditable license compliance management. I’ve written about this in a previous post here.
Obviously, there are a slew of other functionality and feature specific nuances in VMLogix LabManager that I will not dwell upon over here. This includes flexibility in storage management not offered in other products, optimized storage utilization, advanced user management capabilities including controlling UI functionality access based on user role & persona, working with non-LDAP users/teams, supported install platforms, ready integrations with ALM tools like IBM Rational and so on.
I hope this helps in putting things in perspective as you evaluate Virtual Lab Automation solutions. If there is any other clarification that you need, do not hesitate to drop me a comment here or a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Update]: I have included some videos below.
– Srihari Palangala