The challenge of managing mixed virtualized Linux, Windows networks

Windows and virtualization are driving need for new management standards, tools

"We are starting to see IT put more mission-critical applications on Linux and from there you only start to see the stronger growth [of Linux]," says Ute Albert, marketing manager of HP's Insight management platform. In January, she says, HP will boost its Linux support with features HP already supports for Windows platforms, such as capacity planning.

Analyst firm the Enterprise Management Group reports that use of Linux on mainframes has grown 72 percent in the past two years while x86 Linux growth hit 57 percent.

In the trenches, users are moving to suck the complexity out of their environments and make sense not only of individual network and systems components but of composite services and how to aggregate data from multiple systems and feed results back to administrators and notification systems.

Console reduction

At Johns Hopkins University, managers are trying to reduce "console sprawl" in a management environment that stretches across 200 projects -- many with their own IT support in some nine research and teaching divisions, as well as healthcare centers institutes and affiliated entities.

Project leader pick their own applications and platforms with about 90 percent to 95 percent running Windows and 5 percent to 10 percent on Linux. There are also storage-area networks, network devices, Oracle software, Red Hat, VMware, EMC, IronPort e-mail relays, and hardware from Dell, HP and IBM.

John Taylor, manager of the management and monitoring team, and Jamie Bakert, systems architect in the management and monitoring group, are responsible for 15,000 desktops and 1,500 servers, nearly 50 percent of the university's total environment.

"Our challenge is we do not want to create another support structure," says Taylor, who has standardized on Microsoft's System Center management tools anchored by Operations Manager 2007 and Configuration Manager 2007.

Because Taylor doesn't control what systems get rolled out, he is using Quest Software's Management Xtensions for System Center to support non-Windows infrastructure.

"Quest allows us to bring in anything with a heart beat," Bakert says.

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