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InfoWorld Reviews Akimbi Slingshot

Andrew Binstock from InfoWorld posts a review that InfoWorld did on Akimbi Slingshot 2.2.  He writes:

Akimbi Slingshot is one of several products in a nascent product category called virtual lab automation. Slingshot and other tools, such as Surgient’s Virtual QA/Test Lab Management System (VQMS), enable IT test sites to make good use of virtualization technologies by simplifying the process of configuring, deploying, capturing, and simultaneously running multiple VMs.

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Slingshot deploys on an architecture that includes three kinds of servers (all of which can exist on the same physical machine). First is the Akimbi Slingshot server, which runs on Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (a limited version can run on Windows XP), and hosts the software. It runs the main console from which virtual machines are directed.

These virtual machines execute on so-called managed servers, which are systems that run either Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 or VMware GSX Server. Configuration files and snapshots of executable VMs are kept on what Akimbi calls storage servers, of which Slingshot inexplicably supports a maximum of only five instances.

The general idea is that you can easily deploy a configuration involving many virtual machines across any or all of the managed servers. An administrator at the Akimbi console manages a configuration, which is the basic unit in the Akimbi model. To add new VMs, simply drag and drop them into the configuration. You can start them up collectively or individually, deploy them in different ways, reconfigure and redeploy them, and, most critically, you can take snapshots of the entire configuration at any point in its operation.

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Slingshot does have a few holes and several rough edges. Its biggest shortcoming is its lack of a reporting system. The closest you get is a log that provides only basic information. Also, the management console will not allow you to see a VM screen at full size. To do this you must install remote-access software and burrow in that way. In addition, Akimbi does not allow you to assign a specific MAC address to a deployed VM. This limitation can lead to complex roundabouts if the licensing mechanism requires a known MAC.

Several operations were far more difficult than they should have been -- installation, in particular. Despite using a fresh copy of Windows Server 2003 to host Slingshot and choosing only default options, the software generated many error messages. None of these error messages was documented. Given that most users will not have installed anything like Akimbi before, each of these undocumented errors is a show-stopper. I also stumbled across numerous small bugs in the interface, such as incorrectly reporting the number of processors on the host system, not graying out invalid menu options, and the like. Finally, I was disappointed that Slingshot supports only one version of Microsoft Virtual Server and exactly one version of VMware. Later releases will broaden the support for hypervisors and will one day include Xen.

Despite these problems, Slingshot is a good product that handles configurations and deployments without error. Even if you never use the fence feature or the snapshot capabilities, Akimbi Slingshot will pay for itself by the ease with which you can set up, deploy, and manage configurations. It should be evaluated for all enterprise lab settings.

Check out the entire review, here.

Published Thursday, May 04, 2006 6:45 AM by David Marshall
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