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EMC, VMware, Cisco Earn Top Scores for Data Center Management

EMC's Unified Infrastructure Manager earned the highest score for overall performance in InformationWeek's IT Pro Ranking: Data Center Management report. The report targeted data center management software that automates, orchestrates and monitors data center resources.

Three hundred fifty-seven IT pros who use or have used and evaluated data center management products evaluated 10 products on a variety of criteria, including general performance and data center-specific criteria. In addition to EMC, survey respondents weighed in on products from Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Symantec and VMware. Note that other vendors, including CA, BMC and ServiceNow, were included in the initial survey but did not receive a sufficient number of respondents for their results to be reported.

EMC earned a score of 78% for overall performance, the highest among vendors evaluated. Just behind EMC was a three-way tie among VMware's vCloud Director and vCenter Operations Management Suite and Cisco's Intelligent Automation for Cloud, all of which earned scores of 75%. The overall performance category includes criteria such as product reliability, product performance, and operation and acquisition costs.

Data center management tools are a core requirement for organizations looking to adopt a service-centric deployment model to deliver new applications on demand in their data centers, says the report's author, Joe Onisick, founder of Define the Cloud, a research and reporting firm focused on cloud computing and data center technologies. Onisick says he was surprised that EMC's UIM earned the highest ranking.

"If you look [at the tools] feature for feature, UIM is definitely not close to what [Cisco's Intelligent Automation for Cloud] CIAC or BMC's life cycle management products do," says Onisick. "UIM is basically an automation engine for Vblocks." Vblocks are preconfigured data center equipment that combine storage from EMC, networking and servers from Cisco, and virtualization from VMware. Because UIM is tailored to a specific hardware suite, notes Onisick, it's very good for that, which may have been the reason it won. UIM "may also have greater penetration than we expected," he says.

Data Center Management Software and SaaS Overall Vendor Performance

EMC's top spot in the overall performance category "has much to do with UIM scoring highest on reliability and performance," according to the report. "Both VMware vCloud Director and vCenter Operations Management Suite also had solid ratings in these key categories."

Respondents also evaluated vendors on category-specific features, including system health monitoring, service monitoring and service provisioning. Here again, UIM had the highest score, at 79%. Close behind was Cisco IAC, vCenter Operations Management Suite and IBM Tivoli Provisioning Manager, all of which earned scores of 77%.

While Onisick believes the most important features of management tools depend on what IT is looking to do with them, he says the basics--infrastructure automation, data collection and monitoring--are what most people are looking for. "But if you're looking to advance your IT environment, and do it in a more intuitive way to map to your business needs, a self-service portal and orchestration will become the most important features," he says.

CIAC's strong showing in the survey was interesting, Onisick notes, "because CIAC has a great feature list, but I haven't seen it win out when put into production." VMware's performance in the survey "speaks to fact that the customer base that answered the survey are very VMware-centric users … that do not today touch the outside world." However, VMware acquired DynamicOps, a provider of hybrid cloud products, over the summer. “That's a management suite, which, once further incorporated, will help VMware orchestrate and monitor other hypervisor environments," says Onisick.

The report also noted that just as virtualization is changing the way IT deploys applications and runs the data center, the rise of the public cloud gives IT and business leaders more viable options for application deployment--even if they aren't embracing those options in large numbers. For instance, the survey shows that only 12% of respondents use a public cloud service, though another 47% are thinking about it.

Among the respondents using cloud services, the report notes that 38% manage cloud services with the same tools they use in the data center. This may bode well for future adoption of hybrid clouds, which link private and public clouds to let companies shift workloads from a premises data center to a provider, or get access to additional resources, such as computing, as demand requires. The full report includes 23 survey result charts, including individual vendor ratings for each criterion. The report is available for free download, with registration, here.