Free VM Discovery
Embotics' V-Scout ends the days of tracking your virtual machines via spreadsheet.
Spreadsheets. At some point, every system administrator that deals with a virtualized infrastructure will have to deal with them: They keep track of everything in the environment, from guest operating systems to CPUs to RAM and so on. The issue with spreadsheets, as most of us know, is that they need to be manually updated, which is a chore and not 100 percent reliable.
An alternative to spreadsheets is writing customized scripts that report necessary data. Unfortunately, this usually involves having some sort of coding background that many system administrators don't have, or don't have time for.
A third option is to use an application or pre-built appliance, though these can be rather costly depending on the size of your environment. Embotics Corp., a company that specializes in these applications, has released a free, lightweight version of their flagship V-Commander product, called V-Scout.
V-Scout is an agentless tool for tracking and reporting on virtual machines (VMs) within a VMware environment. I installed V-Scout in my home lab to see what this free product brought to the table.
The product installed within minutes, and I was logged in and checking it out within a few more. Not having to install a single agent on any of my hosts made the deployment less painful. Because V-Scout pulls data straight from the vCenter database (vCenter, formerly VirtualCenter, is the management tool for ESX) almost all the data that I keep in my spreadsheets was available to me and kept current automatically.
The predefined reports immediately gave me a detailed view into my environment: host information, guest OS information and even the tracking of VM population trends. These reports can be kept for later use and regenerated as needed in order to note various areas of concern over time; some can even be exported to .CSV files if incorporating them into spreadsheets is still needed.
The ability to tag VMs, identifying them by their expiration dates or whether or not the VM has been approved to run in your environment, adds additional change- and lifecycle-management capabilities to this already feature-rich product. If the provided tags don't suffice or you have existing rules in place you'd like to adopt, custom tags are available to track VMs however you'd like.
In addition, V-Scout offers the ability to enter a basic cost model to allow for chargeback or usage reports to be generated, and the ability to handle multiple user accounts.
Overall, Embotics' V-Scout is a great free utility whose major benefit -- aside from no cost -- is the ability to rapidly provide an admin insight into his virtualized environments in an extremely unobtrusive and rapid fashion. If cost is an issue and getting quick results is a must, V-Scout is a tool that could prove handy in any virtual environment.
Brian Mislavsky, VCP, is a systems engineer specializing in virtualization and consolidation.