What is our primary use case?
We use it to manage multi-site, multi-regional implementations of VMware. We use the security end roles to give different tiers of access from the VM up to the VMware installation. We manage the roles and responsibilities within the security to do this.
We do all the functionality inside vSphere. We use VMotion and DRS to manage some of our licensing issues that we have. With bigger software vendors, like Oracle, we use it to keep licenses and requirements compliant and keep VMs running on specific hardware.
We use it for quite a few daily tasks: cloning and testing out patching. Then, we can perform snapshots through vSphere.
How has it helped my organization?
Visibility: We can easily pull reports and give access to other people to look at specs or performance metrics. This came as a bonus to us. Yet, we have been using it for quite a long time (12 to 13 years).
The solution is simple and efficient to manage. It has brought ease of use to employees who are not at a senior level. It has been able to expose minimal tasks which can relieve some of my senior guys to do engineering tasks, as opposed to help desk, reboots, restarts, etc. We have been able to pass some of those tasks along.
What is most valuable?
The ability to segregate roles and responsibilities, as well as regions. For example, I can give access to my Chinese team to manage the China servers and hosts. On the other hand, I could give access to my Canadian team to manage global VMware installations. Therefore, I like the flexibility of this tool.
We have just migrated most of our SQL and enterprise databases to vSphere. We don't use it for Oracle, but we do for most other things. We also use it for our communications exchange link, etc. Therefore, it is pretty business critical when it comes to the back office support and server implementations.
What needs improvement?
There has been a lot of improvement with UI: its speed and usability features. Before, it was very slow. When it comes to cross-regional (e.g., someone in the US managing the China vSphere implementations), it can be a somewhat slow. I would recommend increasing the speed. While there has already been improvement there, I would like to see more.
For how long have I used the solution?
More than five years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
I haven't had any real issues. In the very beginning, there were some issues when upgrading or migrating from versions. However, our last upgrade was 5.5 to 6.5 where went from Windows to the Linux OVF version, and we did not have any issues with it.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
It is easy to scale and obtain as much power as we need. It is easy to provision and join it to the cluster. We haven't had any issues or limitations.
How are customer service and technical support?
Technical support is very good. I haven't used them in quite some time though, because we have on-staff VMware experts. When I did use them a long time ago for compatibility with network cards (we use FCoE, which is not the industry standard), they were pretty quick to link us back to some articles to help us resolve our issues.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
When I first came on board, they had a very small implementation of Citrix. The servers at that time would cost 20K per application. They didn't allow us to centrally manage any systems. There would be a hodgepodge of vendors and versions of hardware. Therefore, it was a more difficult to track. When I came on board, we were maybe 20 to 30 percent virtualized. Since then, we're probably 99 percent virtualized. This did reduce staffing costs.
The APIs and plugins are important. We used to use NetApp. We use now InfiniteApp and Compellent. Having these types of plugins and using their APIs in the storage subsystems, allows general admins to provision storage easily, as opposed to being a storage admin. It has alleviated having to have five to 10 storage admins. We consolidated to one or two storage admins, while having the others be able to provision their own storage.
What was our ROI?
We are spending less on buying bigger machines, which are overprovisioned. Thus, the ROI is found in consolidation and cost savings.
There are a lot of management and soft skills that we end up being able to save on. For example, my engineers in Canada could watch over systems in China, California, and Phoenix. Thus, it gives us the flexibility of administration.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We evaluated Hyper-V four or five years ago. They weren't as fast to develop technologies or even adopting the technology. There were some tools missing. Also, they were less innovative than VMware. Now, I think Microsoft has caught up a bit. However, it seems that VMware is putting a lot more R&D money into the product. So, we've been happy. We haven't had a need to leave.
What other advice do I have?
- Look at the market and see what is supportable. How long can you support the product. VMware has the history. It has the people who can support it in the industry.
- Look at the supportability of it. Look at the job market and how many people, from a staffing perspective, can support it.
- Then, look at the cost, because I don't think cost is everything.
Most important criteria when selecting a vendor: They are a leader and more innovative than the competitors.