Stop Virtual Machine Sprawl with Colama

This is a product-pitch for Colama, a product built by Pune-based startup Coriolis. For the basics of server virtualization, see our earlier guest posts: Introduction to Server Virtualization, and Why do we need server virtualization. Virtualization is fast emerging as a game-changing technology in the enterprise computing space, and Colama is trying to address an interesting new pain-point that making its presence felt. 

Virtualization is fast becoming an accepted standard for the IT infrastructure. While it comes as a boon to the development and QA communities, the IT practitioners are dealing with the pressing issue of virtual machine sprawl that surfaces due to adhoc and hence uncontrolled adoption of virtualization. While describing the problem and its effects, this paper outlines a solution called Colama, as offered by Coriolis Technologies.

 

Virtual machines have been slipping in under the covers everywhere in the IT industry. Software developers like virtual machines because they can easily mimic a target environment. QA engineers prefer virtual machines because they can simultaneously test the software on different configurations. Support engineers can ensure reproducibility of an issue by pointing to an entire machine rather than detailing on the individual steps and/or configuration requirement on a physical host. In many cases, adoption of virtual machines has been primarily driven by users’ choice rather than any coherent corporate strategy. The ad-hoc and uncontrolled use of virtual machines across the organization has resulted in to a problem called Virtual Machine sprawl, which has become critical for today’s IT administrators.

Virtual machine sprawl is an unpleasant side effect of server virtualization and its near exponential growth over the years. Here are the symptoms:

  • At any given point, the virtual machines running in the organization are un-accounted for. Information like who created them and when, who used them, what configuration/s they have, what licensed software they use, whether security patches have been applied, whether the data is backed up etc are not maintained and tracked anywhere.
  • Most commonly, people freely copy each other’s virtual machines and no usage tracking and access control is in place.
  • Because of cheap storage, too many identical or similar copies of the same machines are floating across the organization. But reduction in storage cost does not reduce the operational cost of storage management, search, backup, etc. Data duplication and redundancy is a problem even if storage is plentiful.
  • Because there is no mechanism to keep track of why an image was created, it is hard to figure out when it should be destroyed. People tend to forget what each image was created for, and keep them around just in case they are needed. This increases the storage requirements.
  • Licensing implications: Virtual machine copied from one with a licensed (limited) software needs to tracked for its life span in order to put a control on the use of licensed software.
  •  

    There are many players in the industry who address this problem. Most of the virtual lab management products are tied to one specific virtualization technology. For example, the VMWare Lab Manager works for only VMWare virtualization technology. In a heterogeneous virtualization environment that is filled with Xen, VMWare, VirtualBox and Microsoft virtual machines, such an approach falls short.

    Colama is Coriolis Technologies solution to address this problem. Colama manages the life cycle of virtual machines across an organization. While tracking and virtual machines, Colama is agnostic to the virtualization technology.

     

    Here are some of the features of Colama:

  • Basic SCM for virtual machine: You can Checkin/checkout/clone/tag/comment virtual machine/s for tracking revisions of virtual machine.
  • Image inspection: Colama provides automatic inspection, extraction and display of image-related data, like OS version, software installed, etc and also facilitates “search” on the extracted data. For example, you can search for the virtual machines that have got Windows 2003 server with service pack 4 and Oracle 10g installed!
  • Web based interface: Navigate through the virtual machine repository of your organization using just a web browser.
  • Ownership and access control: • Create a copy of a machine for yourself and decide who can use “your” machine.
  • De-duplication: Copying/Cloning virtual machines happens without any additional storage requirement.
  • Physical machine provisioning (lab management): Spawn a virtual machine of your choice on a physical host available and ‘ready’.
  • Management reports: auditing and compliance User activity reports, virtual machine history, health information (up/down time) of virtual machines, license reports of the virtual machines etc.
  • Virtualization agnostic: works for virtual machines from all known vendors. 
  • Please note: This product-pitch, by Barnali Ganesh, co-founder of Coriolis, is featured on PuneTech because the editors found the technology interesting (or more accurately, the pain-point which it is addressing). PuneTech is a purely non-commercial website and does not take any considerations (monetary or otherwise) for any of the content on the site. If you would like your product to be featured on the front page, send us an article and we’ll publish it if we fell it’s interesting to our readers. You can always add a page to the PuneTech wiki by yourself, as long as you follow the “No PR” guidelines.

    3 thoughts on “Stop Virtual Machine Sprawl with Colama

    1. Hi Atul

      Thanks for your comment.
      Yes, Colama is fully brainstormed, designed and developed by Coriolis Technologies, a pune based startup.
      Please feel free to get back to me for details.

      Thanks
      Barnali

    2. Just a minor clarification — “Most of the virtual lab management products are tied to one specific virtualization technology.”

      While this is true of VMware, there are other leading virtual lab management products in the market e.g., VMLogix LabManager that are hypervisor agnostic.

      Btw, VMLogix was also founded in India (Bangalore).

      Thanks,

      Srihari Palangala
      http://blog.vmlogix.com

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