Virtualization Manger - Centralized relief to a virtualization firestorm
Updated February 10, 2016

Virtualization Manger - Centralized relief to a virtualization firestorm

Steve Jenovai | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 8 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Overall Satisfaction with SolarWinds Virtualization Manager

We use SolarWinds Virtualization Manager (VMAN) to provide key monitoring and metrics for our organization as well as for several of our customers. We provide industrial operational technology and traditional IT services to many of our customers, who often lack the technical knowledge to deeply monitor their environment. In the last three years, the amount of virtualization in the industrial arena has started to grow exponentially, and VMAN has given us a needed tool to be able provide the in-depth monitoring and trouble-shooting our customers are requesting. Since we also provide equipment leases, it is imperative that we be able to monitor across not only our our own servers, but customers as well. VMAN, combined with several other components of SolarWinds has given us that capability. In several cases, VMAN has allowed us to show up at our customers door with replacement hardware in hand without their even knowing they had a problem.
  • Near effortless addition of all VMs on a cluster. Simply add the information for the vCenter Server, and all VMs automatically populate in SolarWinds. In large environments, this is a huge timesaver!
  • Snapshot management is a power feature of VMAN. VMAN identifies phantom snapshots, large snapshots and old snapshots. Considering that snapshots shouldn't hang around too long, it is still too easy to make one and forget about it. VMAN makes it easy to locate these snapshots for removal.
  • Rightsizing VMs. VMAN analyzes VMs for CPU, memory and disk usage, and reports and provides tools to quickly identify undersized or over-sized VMs.
  • The ability to create alerts and alarms within Solarwinds is very well developed. You can generate highly complex conditional alerts.
  • VMAN's Integration with the main SolarWinds Orion console could be better. Not all functionality is well integrated through Orion. The VMAN console is available as an embedded website via the Virtualization tab, but going to a website is not the same as integrating the functionality. Syncing between Orion and VMAN seems to break somewhat often.
  • Navigation in the VMAN console needs to be improved. It is not always easy or quick to find what you are looking for.
  • Time Travel (besides hating the name) is a cool concept - that you can select an item, and 'travel back through time' to look at what was going on across the whole environment at a point in time. But I think it fails to deliver its full potential. Although you can click and stroll through time, there is no way that it will automatically find events. I'd like to see some search functionality that would allow it to travel back in time to find events, rather than having to know what date/time/device you are looking for.
  • We installed Solarwinds and VMAN at a customer site. They initially were not sold that it was a product that would be of any practice use. Two weeks later, they had an issue with one of their ESX hosts. The tech had spent hours trying to find out the issue, and finally called us. Enter VMAN. Less than 2 minutes later, I was showing the customer the problem though VMAN. Not only did this win the customer over, but they have now become one of VMANs biggest advocates to their peers in the industry.
  • Solarwinds is expensive, and the VMAN license costs are not trivial. Licenses are sold per socket (processor). For us, the start up costs for SolarWinds still have negative ROI. Our business model is heavily customer driven, and as we add customers, we expect positive ROI in a year to two.
  • Solarwinds has increased our staff efficiency. We now rely on Solarwinds, and VMAN as a key piece of it, to provide critical alerting as the primary means to identity problems. VMAN provides a fairly rapid means to sort through a complex mesh of data. Coupled with reporting and graphs available through VMAN, it lets us control our environment rather than the other way around. When there is a problem, we no longer spends hours or more trying to isolate it. Usually we can identify root cause withing minutes.
SolarWinds VMAN is purpose built to monitor virtual environments, and as such is integrated well with VMware. The completeness of Solarwinds product offerings made VMAN an easy choise, as did the fairly easy configuration and setup. A key feature that was essential to us was the ability to monitor multiple vmware clusters at multiple locations. VMAN made this extremely easy. And in spite of the complexity of what we monitor, VMAN continues to make it quick and easy.
There is much functionality that is lost if VMAN is not integrated with other SolarWinds components. Server and Application Manager as well as Network Performance Monitor are two modules that would likely need to be included to get the full benefit out of VMAN. VMAN is particularly well suited for large environments and scattered environments where centralized management plays a key role. VMAN does an excellent job of monitoring multiple different vCenters across multiple locations through a single instance of VMAN. I particularly like the centralized hardware alerting. This has allowed me in minutes to understand the health and issues across multiple data centers spanning hundreds of miles.

Using SolarWinds Virtualization Manager

8 - The majority of VMAN users within our organization are technical. Because we also use VMAN to monitor several of our customer locations, we have also had to train field technicians in its use. These field techs have traditionally focused on industrial hardware and software, but now have added VMAN and Solarwinds into their troubleshooting arsenal. We also generate reports to management level staff both within our organization and our customers.
4 - Although VMAN is fairly simple to use and is an excellent tool for determining root cause, understanding what the data means requires someone with a good degree of understanding of virtualization as well as many other aspects of IT. A VMware systems admin should possess enough knowledge to be able to put VMAN to good use. However, because networking, storage, hardware and many other aspects also play into Solarwinds management, to get the full benefit from VMAN, staff with knowledge across the whole IT stack is needed.
  • Proactive support of multiple customer locations for lease based installations.
  • Alerting of error and warning conditions
  • Capacity analysis and performance analysis both internally and for customers.
  • VPN based monitoring of customer locations on a 24X7 basis
  • VMAN has allowed us to notify customers of problems before they know that there is a problem. This has included showing up at the door with replacement hardware before there was an outage.
  • VMAN provides a capacity planning tools that we will be able to use as customer environments grow.
  • VMAN will become an integrated part of documenting our SLAs with customers
Currently, there is no other tool that gives us what we need to monitor a geographically disperse environment with multiple non-related instances of VM clusters. In addition, the level of reporting, historical data trending, and alerting that VMAN provides is essential for our business process. Lastly, the effort to customize and set up any monitoring system is not trivial. This makes switching to any other product very difficult without being able to clearly demonstrate a ROI.

Evaluating SolarWinds Virtualization Manager and Competitors

Yes - We were using an open source package called XYMon. The product was limited in its ability to monitor a virtual environment, and failed to provide the integrated view that VMAN gave us.
  • Product Features
  • Product Reputation
  • Prior Experience with the Product
  • Analyst Reports
The single most important factor for us was the experience that peers have had in using and implementing the product. Although there are other products with similar functionality, VMAN scored high in recommendations for ease of implementation and overall usability.
I wouldn't change it. The ability to do a 30 day eval of VMAN and the SolarWinds suite made it easy to 'kick the tires". Because implementation was fairly quick and straight forward, we didn't have to burn a lot of time with setup and configuration. THhs was particularly true of the VMAN module.

SolarWinds Virtualization Manager Implementation

Pretty straighforward, as long as you check Solarwinds site for recommended installation path. KEY ITEM - be sure that you know which versions of all SolarWinds products you are using, because there are incompatability issues between versions for many products. It took me about 2 hours with a spreadsheet to figure out an upgrade path. Don't assume that the version you downloaded is the right/most current version without checking first!
Change management was minimal - For us, a few hours of monitoring outage was not critical, for others it might be. Solarwinds provides a 'ping alert' tool for upgrades when the monitoring system might be down. In our case, we had a back up monitoring application already in place, so used it until VMAN and Solarwinds Orion was ready. If monitoring is critical to your environment, you will need to carefully plan how you will continue to monitor while implementing/upgrading Solarwinds
  • There seemed to be a single right order for installing the solarwinds modules. VMAN itself was easy - deploy an OVF. Nevertheless, keep backups along the way, or you might find yourself starting all over again
  • We realized the need for more than just the need for SQL Express. We were able to complete the implementation, but had to order, install and migrate data to SQL-Standard not long after we were operations
  • Alert Storms were a nightmare originally. Too many things alerting by default. It took a while to stem the tide of alerts from things we really didn't need alerted on.

SolarWinds Virtualization Manager Support

For typical issues regarding configuration and operation of their product, Solarwinds does well and is very knowledgeable and helpful. However we have had several instances where the tech either gave up on the issue saying something couldn't be done (leaving us to figure out how to do it on our own), or giving a wrong answer - particularly when we were working with custom poller creation.
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Quick Initial Response
I don't yet have a single instance when I would say that SolarWinds Support went above and beyond, but they have always been polite, courteous and helpful. Several calls have been regarding specialized implementation, and SolarWinds has always been helpful in trying to resolve unusual issues with how we monitor industrial IT equipment.

Using SolarWinds Virtualization Manager

In spite of some of its shortcomings, VMAN is a very powerful monitoring tool. Combined with its ability to dig deep, and to provide complex alert triggers, I find there is nothing else that has yet been able to replace the functionality of VMAN. The interface could be better designed, but it is still not difficult to figure out navigation. It is a product that one can develop a high level of proficiency in using in a short period of time.
Like to use
Relatively simple
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
  • My favorite function is using VMAN to locate old/large/phantom snapshots. Much more convenient than vCenter!!!
  • VMAN integrated easily with Solarwinds Orion console. 95% of what I need I get from the VMAN Orion integration.
  • Reporting in VMAN is second to none. I have not found anything yet that there wasn't a report already created for.
  • Navigation screens are often cluttered and inconsistent. There is a mixture of tabs, buttons, links and icons of which the location changes from screen to screen. Some consistency and redesign is needed.
  • Graphing in VMAN needs improvement. Graphs have an unpolished look, and generally are sized too large to fit on a screen.
  • Integration with Solarwinds Orion does not include all VMAN functionality. This is too bad, because the presentation of data in Orion is much richer than in VMAN.