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SolarWinds Offers Free Virtualization Management Tool

SolarWinds has released a free tool, VM Console, for managing ESX-based virtual machines. VM Console can shut down and restart a VM--also known as "bouncing a VM"--and track multiple VMs from a dashboard without administrators having to log in to VMware's vCenter or vSphere. It also lets administrators track up/down status and take a snapshot to compare the VM before and after it's bounced. Administrators can also search VM names or IP addresses. The company, which develops management software such as Orion Network Performance Monitor, has a mandate to release at least one new, free tool on a quarterly basis.

"Every quarter the product managers have to come up with a free tool," says Denny LeCompte, senior product manager at SolarWinds. He says customers repeatedly spoke of the problems they've had keeping management tools such VMware's vCenter or vSphere up and running. LeCompte says customers asked for a lightweight tool runs on a desktop.

Gustavo Sosa, a VMware consultant at Atlanta-based LogicsOne, downloaded VM Console and found it useful to have on the desktop, saying that "it doesn't do anything you don't already have with vCenter or vSphere, but they're very slow and defined for high-end management. This little tool isn't going to replace anything but it's very handy to have floating there to reboot." Sosa expects this tool to do well, especially with smaller companies that may not have a comprehensive virtualization management capability.

SolarWinds targeted VMware because of its market dominance. While LeCompte acknowledged Microsoft's Hyper-V and Citrix's Xen, he doesn't see them playing a large role in the market, so a version of a tool to support their hypervisors won't be in the works for some time. "VMware does have a huge installed base, and if you're going to build a free tool, you need to solve the pinch they're feeling today," says LeCompte. He notes Microsoft is becoming a more serious virtualization player, so SolarWinds may release a Hyper-V product next year. Citrix is "interesting" but it just seems to be holding its place, not growing, according to LeCompte.

SolarWinds has released a total of 16 free tools. LeCompte says the free tools are central to the company's strategy, in part because it helps build SolarWinds' user community. "Part of our value proposition is that you're buying into a community of IT professionals... the community is just essential," he says.