Virtual Server Third Party Software

There are quite a few packages on the market that can make your transition from the physical server to the virtual server world easier. Here’s a summary of the products that work in the virtual server environment.

Vizioncore ESXRanger (
This software works exclusively with VMware ESX Server and allows you to create an image backup of the .dsk virtual server files while the virtual server is still running. Usually you have to shut down the virtual to get an image backup of the virtual server, but with ESXRanger you can get an image backup while the virtual server is up and running. ESXRanger is VMotion aware so scheduled backups will follow the virtual server regardless of the server that hosts the virtual server.

This is a great solution for a disaster recovery site because you can push the backup images to a standby ESX Server in your disaster recovery site. One strategy is to perform weekly image backups to a disaster recovery site, then run differential backups throughout the week. In the event of a disaster, you only need to restore the latest differential backup from tape onto the standby virtual servers and the warm disaster recovery site is now hot.

PlateSpin PowerConvert (
PowerConvert is a neat package that converts physical servers to virtual server images. It also supports some popular archive image formats like Symantec Ghost, Veritas Backup Exec, CA BrightStor ARCserve and Doubletake Software's Doubletake. It supports Virtual Server 2005, VMware Server and VMware ESX Server virtual server images. It’s very useful for building a lab that simulates your production environment because the virtual servers can be imaged directly from the physical production servers. Servers can be imaged while they’re running, so there’s no need to take the servers offline or reboot them during the imaging process. It’s very useful when you move a physical server to a virtual server environment because you can use PowerConvert to create the virtual server images and bring up the new virtual server with little disruption to the production environment.

Surgient Virtual QA/Test Lab Management System (VQMS--
If you’re using virtual server technology for labs and continually building and taking down test labs, consider using VQMS to streamline the lab-building process. If you’ve done any significant lab building with virtual servers, you know that managing virtual server images as well as building and taking down labs is time consuming. You often spend more time creating and taking down the lab, than actually using the lab you’ve created. VQMS lets you define the configuration of the lab based on virtual server images, and schedule the period when the lab must be available. If a desired time isn't available, VQMS will display the earliest possible time the lab can be built based on existing resources. The program is smart enough not to duplicate similar images, but instead creates a delta file that contains only changes to your base images, thus saving a significant amount of disk space. It integrates with automated testing applications such as Mercury. If an exception occurs during the testing process, VQMS can take snapshots of all virtual machine (VM) states when the exception occurred. This can make reproduction of the issue much easier than having to manually reproduce it at a later date.

Datacore SANSymphony/SANMelody (
SANSymphony/SANMelody combines the power of virtual servers and virtual storage. SANSymphony is Datacore’s Enterprise Class product that creates virtual storage; SANMelody converts Servers into disk expansion servers. Both allow storage to be virtualized, so available disk space from multiple resources can be pooled into one virtual storage area. You often run into situations in which a specific server might be low on disk space, and other servers have plenty of disk space, but it’s not practical to move data files to these under utilized servers. Or you may have relatively small amounts of free space across multiple storage sources, so any single amount of free disk space isn't significant, but if you could consolidate all the disk space into one usable volume it would be large enough to use. This package will warn you when you’re running low on physical disk space, so you can plan upgrades before space becomes critical. Virtual storage is highly scalable and lets you take advantage of storage that often goes unused.

Tip: The Dangers of Using RDP Without a VPN Connecting to a network via Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP)/Terminal Services without a VPN is very dangerous. I’m amazed by how many companies allow RDP (TCP Port 3389) into their networks without first establishing a VPN to protect this (and other) traffic. By default, RDP traffic is encrypted, but it's still subject to Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) poisoning, where a client can be fooled into connecting to a rogue server with a man-in-the-middle-attack. Because the authentication process during a RDP session is weak, a system acting as the rogue server can intercept all of the RDP traffic and decrypt it. Microsoft acknowledged the problem and has released a new version of the RDP client with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), however even this version is still subject to a man-in-the-middle-attack attack.

If you need to allow RDP connections from remote locations, make sure to establish a site-to-site VPN tunnel before allowing this type of traffic into your network. Even computers that have a VPN client aren't secure because hackers often go after the poorly protected client end-points of the RDP session. To protect RDP traffic on a broadband connection, make sure to use a firewall-to-firewall VPN.

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