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VMware Manages the Release Lifecycle

Virtualization pioneer VMware has released the public beta of its new deployment management product, VMware Stage Manager. The application is based on the company's flagship virtualization platform, VMware Infrastructure 3.

Stage Manager is designed to allow IT to visualize, manage, and automate the process of bringing new applications and services into production.

The solution is similar to VMware's Lab Manager, a test-lab automation suite for developers. However, Stage Manager is aimed at the enterprise IT teams responsible for preproduction infrastructure and process, as described by Melinda Wilken, VMware's senior marketing director.

"These are the people responsible for the change-configuration and release-management process for production-bound software systems," she said. "This is the first virtualization product out there targeting those processes."

It's called Stage Manager because it manages the various stages of deployment required to deliver services safely to production across the "service release lifecycle," Wilken said. The solution keeps the process on track as new or modified services move along phases before being released into production. Those phases typically include integration, testing, staging and user acceptance, among others.

To minimize risk as they're trying to get their applications into production, IT teams and application owners often create "shadow instances" of the production environment, Wilken explained. But rarely are those systems truly exact replicas of the production environment. The changes in the actual environment simply don't always make it into these shadow instances. The resulting "drift" is called IT entropy.

Stage Manager helps to eliminate this IT entropy problem by allowing IT administrators and application owners to build up a preproduction image of complex production environments. The use of an image ensures that all environments are exact replicas. It allows managers to systematically propagate complex system changes over all stages of the release. Moreover, it aids in enforcing change- and release-management procedures. The image also assists in managing preproduction infrastructure assets, such as servers, storage systems and networking equipment, so they're used only as needed.

"As you can imagine, one of the benefits of all of that is lower production costs," Wilken said. "But it also improves IT's ability to support the business in a fundamental way. It makes it possible to make changes or updates to a production system more quickly, to respond to changing business conditions."

VMware's Stage Manager beta announcement came amidst signs of rising competition on the virtualization front. For instance, Microsoft is broadening its virtualization strategy with the acquisition of graphics virtualization vendor Calista Technologies. Moreover, Microsoft expanded its partnership with Citrix Systems to provide interoperability between Microsoft's forthcoming Hyper-V hypervisor and Citrix's XenServer.

The hypervisor (the most basic virtualization component) is already being commoditized. Leading virtualization vendors are reaching beyond the bare metal to provide a range of management solutions for this technology. As industry analyst Neil Macehiter, research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, puts it, "it's a race up the stack."

"Ultimately, the battleground in virtualization is going to be fought at the management, monitoring, optimization and resource-allocation level, rather than around the core hypervisor," Macehiter said.

Virtualization continues to spread through the enterprise primarily as a server consolidation solution, Macehiter added, but it's making inroads into other spheres, including storage, network and application virtualization.

The VMware Stage Manager public beta is available now for download from the VMware site.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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