IT budgets are feeling the squeeze these days, and virtualization can be one of the best tools in your IT toolbox for keeping infrastructure expenses under control. In keeping with the holiday spirit (and with an eye towards cost savings), I've gathered up a few promising virtualization tools and utilities that can help you get the most out of your IT budget. And here's the best part: They're all free. As in no cost, no charge, and no fee required.

With Microsoft and VMware both giving their basic hypervisors away for free, it was only a matter of time before more virtualization vendors followed suit by introducing no-charge apps and utilities. In this installment of Virtualization UPDATE we'll take a look at four of them: Veeam Software's Veeam Monitor Free Edition, Embotics V-Scout, the Catbird Compliance Enforcer, and Sun MicroSystem's latest update to their VirtualBox product.

Veeam Monitor Free Edition \[Download\]
When VMware slashed the price of ESXi to zero a few months ago, it opened up their latest hypervisor-based virtualization technology to a much wider audience. Recognizing the need for a no-cost, real-time monitoring solution for ESX and ESXi environments, Veeam Software has introduced the Veeam Monitor Free Edition. According to Veeam, this app leverages the VMware API to keep tabs on ESX and ESXi environments, monitors resource allocation at the individual VM level, provides support for access by multiple administrators, allows for the creation of email alerts and alarms, and can correlate performance and event information. Veeam also touts the fact that the free edition of Veeam Monitor can connect directly to the VMware VM console.

Find out more about the Veeam Monitor Free Edition at the Veeam Software website.

Embotics V-Scout \[Download\]
Helping IT pros get the most out of VMware VirtualCenter is the focus of Embotics V-Scout 1.1, a free tool that aggregates and organizes information from up to two VMware VirtualCenter installations. V-Scout provides a single pane of glass for administrators to track and report on the performance of their VMs, uncovers both online and offline VMs, generates VM population trend reports, allows for the creation of standard and custom attributes when deploying VMs from clones or templates, and essentially makes working with VirtualCenter a much more effective process. If you're using VMware VirtualCenter, V-Scout should be at the top of your download list.

Find out more about Embotics V-Scout at the Embotics website.

Catbird Compliance Enforcer \[Download\]
The words "security" and "compliance" are two words that most IT pros would like to see less often. Throw a virtual data center into the mix, and finding out ways to keep all that virtual data secure and in compliance with an avalanche of corporate and federal rules and regulations, and you have the perfect storm to create some serious IT pro indigestion. That's where Catbird Network's Compliance Enforcer enters the picture. Offered as a free service, Compliance Enforcer can analyze your existing virtual infrastructure and highlight rogue VMs, quarantine suspect ones, and generate a host of compliance and security reports. Compliance Enforcer can be configured to monitor and enforce controls to keep your infrastructure in compliance with federal regulations (like Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, GLBA, and others), and can help keep your data secure by suggesting best practices for hardening your virtual infrastructure.

Find out more about Catbird Compliance Enforcer at the Catbird website.

Sun MicroSystems VirtualBox \[Download\]
Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware may routinely get all the headlines when it comes to desktop virtualization software, but there are alternatives. One of the best is VirtualBox from Sun MicroSystems, an open source hypervisor that offers impressive host OS support (from Windows and Mac OS X to Solaris, Linux, and many permutations thereof) and a robust list of features. VirtualBox 2.1 was released just a few days ago, and features upgraded support for storage appliances, revamped network performance, new 3D graphics support (via the OpenGL API), improved performance using Microsoft's virtual hard disk (VHD) and VMware's virtual machine disk (VMDK) formats, and also adds 64-bit guest OS support on 32-bit platforms. VirtualBox has come a long way in the last few years, and this latest release is the best one yet. It's free for individual enterprise users, but enterprise for larger installations subscriptions are also available, starting at $30 per user per year.

Find out more about VirtualBox 2.1 at the the Sun MicroSystems website.

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Related Reading:

The Virtualization UPDATE Archive
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Virtualization Tips and Tricks
By John Savill

Q. What are the correct terms for Hyper-V servers and virtual machines (VMs)?

A. There have been a number of evolutions of Hyper-V terminology, but the correct term for the server with the Hyper-V role enabled is the root partition. Other names for the root partition have been "host" and "parent." Microsoft employees and the current Microsoft Hyper-V page say that the correct term for a VM running on Hyper-V is guest partition. Other names for guest partitions have included "child" and "VM."

Check out hundreds more useful Q&As like this in John Savill's FAQ for Windows. Also watch instructional videos made by John at ITTV.net.

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