VMware announced today vCenter Protect Essentials, based on the Shavlik NetChk Protect product that it acquired earlier this year. The newly rebranded product is good news for companies who currently leverage the built-in Update Manager technology in vSphere 4 and earlier version for patch management. Previously, these customers would be looking at the hefty-priced upgrade to vCenter Configuration Manager if they wanted to stick with VMware for their patch management or were stuck at version 4, which is the situation I found myself in at work.
I thought it worthy to post about this since I used patch management as my example of how VMware eroding value from the vSphere suite by removing functionality between the version 4 and version 5 product lines. In many ways, this eases the pain, though patch management does still come at an additional cost for an additional product with vCenter Protect Essentials.
VMware is clearly positioning the product for the small to medium business (SMB) space. Billed as ‘a complete on-premise management system’, vCenter Protect Essentials will handle patch management and previous Update Manager users will gain a good bit of functionality not previously available to them, such as the ability to stage patches to occur, scanning hosts organized by their Active Directory structure (and assuming still by their VMware hierarchy), and additional alerting capabilities to administrators and users. In addition to VMware guest systems, vCenter Protect Essentials appears to be able to scan and remediate physical systems through the use of agents, just as NetChk Protect did before. For NetChk Protect customers, it appears that more integration with vCenter is found in the new product along with a small list of other enhancements.
VMware has a second level of vCenter Protect Essentials, named the Plus version, which includes antivirus protection using SunBelt VIPRE Enterprise Antivirus and basic configuration management features. The configuration management features include the ability to download templates for regulatory audit baselines like PCI, SOX and HIPPA which can be compared against systems and then remediated. I assume that this version includes less features than vCenter Configuration Manager, but as I said before, it is a product being positioned for the SMB space.
What is unknown today is whether the vCenter Protect Essentials product will work as Update Manager did using the same network ports to scan hosts and VM’s which are behind a firewall or if it will have a new security implementation. For users who are familiar with NetChk Protect, I would assume it would function the same, but having no prior experience with NetChk, I cannot say, but the at least there is now a solution for the SMB’s where Configuration Manager did not fit due to cost or complexity.