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Rollout: VKernel Virtual Appliance

The Upshot

VKernel says its virtual appliance for chargeback and capacity reporting will enable IT to more accurately bill business units for VM use. Like other chargeback products, VKernel measures resource consumption and uses mathematical models to apply a dollar value to CPU, storage and other resources.

To charge for resources consumed, those resources first have to be measured, and VKernel's virtual appliance form factor means quick deployment and fewer support issues. While other software vendors target VM resource tracking, at press time VKernel had the virtual appliance market to itself.
VKernel is easy to set up and use, and we found it simple to divide virtual resources into business services and produce reports. However, the current version of the product reports only averages of resource consumption, rather than totals, which limits its utility for some measurements. Currently, storage usage is the most straightforward area to track for chargebacks because of its quasi-static nature and easily defined capital costs. VKernel could also do a better job archiving its internal database..

If you're using VMware ESX extensively but haven't deployed a chargeback tool, or at minimum a system for monitoring resource consumption and available capacity, you will lack valuable ammunition come budget time. Usage measurements can justify infrastructure expansion, help recover costs, even transform IT into a profit center.

The VKernel Capacity and Chargeback Virtual Appliance is ESX-specific software that reports on capacity and resource consumption. It also provides chargeback totals based on a user-defined unit cost for four core metering sources: CPU, RAM, storage and network usage. An unlimited number of custom fields are available for monitoring cooling costs, administrative services, software licensing or whatever else you can dream up. VKernel says the product can handle as many as 300 hosts, so there's definitely room to breathe.

Other software vendors, including Provment, VAlign Software, Vizioncore and Xentro, sell chargeback services for virtual environments, but none offers a virtual appliance. Why does that matter? Like a physical appliance, a virtual appliance is prepackaged and preconfigured to deliver functionality with minimal setup. Because you don't have to design and construct a system from scratch, the virtual appliance can save time, money and your sanity. Just import it onto a single ESX server in your cluster or into VMware Workstation or GSX, fire it up, and voila. You'll still need to declare ESX hosts to monitor, create logical virtual machine groups and define unit costs for metering, but you'd have to do that with other products, too.

The View From Above

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