The operational needs and priorities of vSphere administrators vary from organization to organization and there are many datacenter operational management tools to serve those needs.
But if you ask any vSphere administrator, the one tool they consistently rely on is spreadsheets. Why are spreadsheets so popular with vSphere admins? Lots of reasons:
- The reports and views provided by the software tools existing today don’t cut it for most users.
- Every organization is different; the specific field or view that you are looking for to solve your use case may not be available in the software that you are using.
- To get meaningful insights you should be able to slice and dice the dataset and most management tools today don’t offer that functionality.
So, vSphere admins use spreadsheets as their Swiss army knife for doing capacity planning, resource rightsizing, charge back calculation, infrastructure expense calculation etc. What’s wrong with that?
Well, for one thing, spreadsheets are only as good as the data they contain – and extracting operational data from vSphere is not easy.
Big Data Extraction Problem
A typical virtualized datacenter generates about billion data points in any given day. Most management tools use traditional relational database to capture these data points. Managing and storing such a large volume of data in a database is cumbersome so they collect only a small portion of the operational data. In addition, to save disk space and to preserve performance the collected data is often rolled up. They are then presented in the form of charts, graphs and alerts, and not in a form that is easy to slice and dice.
Beyond simple data presentation, to actually manipulate the data you have to know how to write Power-CLI scripts and also have an intimate knowledge of the vSphere data model. In short, extracting useful operational data from your vSphere environment is a tedious job and a pain in the you-know-where. This is one the main reason why data driven decision-making is not yet become common in datacenter management.
Data Driven Decision Making Using Card Builder
CloudPhysics Card Builder is built from the ground up for vAdmins who want to easily create custom reporting and analytics. It’s got a simple-to-use drag-and-drop interface, so you don’t have to be an expert programmer or a vSphere data model specialist to take advantage of it.
Simply drag and drop any one of the 600+ properties about your datacenter and do a quick preview to see results. You can apply filters with complex Boolean logic combining properties of different objects. For instance you could say that you run a query to get the list of all VMs with snapshots, residing on VMFS volumes with VMFS version 3.1.2, with the VMFS volume label starting with “production.” Without Card Builder this kind of complex querying is impossible unless you spend time writing Power-CLI scripts. With Card Builder you can create these arbitrary queries in seconds.
You may wonder what you can do with such powerful analytical query engine.
Here are a few quick examples:
- Root Cause Analysis: find out which VMs in your datacenter with snapshots are sitting on a datastore that’s running out of free space
- Health Checks: Find out which hosts have a wrong HA setting, or which hosts have a specific version of ESX that needs to be patched.
- Reporting: Find out the list of Windows 2003/XP VMs on a particular cluster with more than 2 vCPUs. Find out the WWPN names of all your HBAs in your cluster.
- Locating a Resource: Find out which hosts are seeing a particular datastore, find out VMs that match a specific criteria (number of CPUs, datastore location, total disk capacity etc)
- Pulling performance data: extract performance data for VM rightsizing or a capacity planning estimation exercise. You can harness the power of the complex filter engine to reduce your search results.
There are many more use cases. If you don’t have the time build your own query you can also explore the CloudPhysics Card store to see if something there works for you.
What is really cool about Card Builder is:
- You can save each of your queries as a card and pin to your deck
- Once you constructed and saved a card using Card Builder you can share your creation with your own organization or to the entire world via Card Store
- You can export the data to CSV for further slicing and dicing in your favorite spreadsheet program (*available soon).
- There is zero impact on your vCenter server. All the queries run against CloudPhysics cloud backend, so you can run them as many times as you want. If you have ever written Power-CLI script that brought down your vCenter server, you know how important this is.
- Card Builder queries run lightning fast – they are not limited by SQL scaling and they truly benefit from the cloudphysics data platform
- It is free to try – and keep.
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