Wednesday, January 16, 2008

VMware Capacity Planner vs. Platespin PowerRecon

I have been asked to compare both products, so here you go... you will notice that it is virtually impossible to say which product is better, because they are fundamentally different in their approach to monitoring performance and creating consolidation scenarios. Except for one big difference...

Existing Comparisons

Peter van den Bosch has already done an analysis (see this PDF) of the differences between both products. However, it feels to me like comparing apples to bananas. Criteria like: 'Needs a database', 'Needs IIS' are listed alongside real features like 'Automatic discovery of servers'. Furthermore, features like being able to export to html are said to be not available with the VMware product, although (by construction) everything is presented in html. I do not blame Peter for this, precisely because both are different products doing the same thing in a different way.


I would like to compare the situation with the use of an email client: Outlook versus YAWEC (yet another web email client, think hotmail, gmail, etc.). Both offer interfaces to our email inbox, but both products do it in a completely different way. A feature that is very relevant for Outlook, synchronization and mail fetching for instance, is completely irrelevant for the web client because no synchronization has to occur.


That said, I will do an attempt to explain further the differences between both products and what I like and don't like about both.


Functionality and Differences

The following components can be found in both products:

  1. A monitor to get the performance data
  2. A database to store the performance data
  3. A 'client' able to analyze the data and create consolidation scenarios and other reports based on the data

The monitors of both Capacity Planner as well as PowerRecon enable one to monitor Windows and UNIX machines without having to install an agent. If required, monitors can be load-balanced. Prior to starting to really monitor performance, in both tools, one has to run an inventory scan at least once. This inventory scan looks up the configuration of the systems, software that is installed, services that are running, etc.

Obviously it is possible to select different accounts for different servers to connect with. This is all relatively easy to set up and use.

Both tools also have a database, but the main difference is that the database for Capacity Planner is hosted on a VMware server ( whereas PowerRecon installs/uses a local database on the monitor (or another database server). There is a difference in the way of storing data, but this is out of scope for the current post.

Consequently, when we come to the client part (the third component mentioned above), there are differences in how this is implemented: Capacity Planner is accessed using a web-interface whereas PowerRecon uses a client that can be installed on any Windows box (and also uses a web interface on the monitor server). The two types of client each have their own advantages.


Which one is better?

The fact that you like one or the other primarily has to do with personal preference and every benefit has a drawback associated with it (this is real life after all):

What is nice about VMware Capacity Planner:

  • Very light monitor installation and easy installation. The drawback is that on the monitor, no overview of the performance data is available, only an average and the latest value.
  • Information is uploaded to the VMware capacity planner website, which enables one to analyze the performance data from anywhere at anytime.
  • Additionally, it gives you the opportunity to compare your statistics to other systems in the database (Industry Average).

The main drawback is that in my experience the site is not always very responsive.

What is nice about PowerRecon:

  • Information is stored locally (but can be moved and analyzed off-site) in a database.
  • Because the data is locally available, and a fat client is installed to analyze this data, one can get a near real-time view of performance characteristics.

The drawback is that the installation is more involved and implies setting up IIS on the monitor server. Consequently, the requirements for this server are higher.


Main Difference: Monitoring VMs

Is there no difference that is really distinguishing both and has nothing to do with the way they work?

Yes, there is one big difference: PowerRecon has the ability to monitor a virtual infrastructure and virtual machines. Whereas you can monitor a virtual machine with Capacity Planner, the results for CPU utilization are not to be trusted. PowerRecon (given the correct license) connects to the VI server in order to get performance data, which is the only correct way of working.

Clearly, Capacity Planner is aimed towards consolidation projects and the people from VMware have produced a product that is perfectly aimed at that.


Note: I only scratched the surface in this post, no details are given. Bot products have a different data model, have slightly different feature-sets, completely different licensing schemes, etc. When interested in additional information, just let me know in the comments...


vzagvozdin said...


Computer discovery in Capacity Planner relies on Windows broser service (ports 137, 138). These ports are blocked on internal routers on most large corporate networks in order to prevent broadcasts. I cannot figure out how to overcome this limitation of CP, because our network techs obviously do not want to open ports on all internal routers. And I obviously do not want to plug my laptop to each VLAN.

Toni Verbeiren said...


Why would you use discovery, if you can import the list of systems to monitor by means of a CSV file? I hardly ever use discovery.

Nevertheless, I agree that a firewall, routing policies, etc. may make life hard. I had a case where an extra network cable was patches from the DMZ to a production switch, especially for monitoring one server.

paolo abarca said...

Hi, Toni, if you want to analyze different networks just install several CP collectors and split the license on different collectors if needed (verify this with VMWare).
In addition to the mentioned issues above, VMWare CP price tag is about half of Power Recon. In my opinion the CP would more interesting if you plan to do several analysis, also i believe CP has an advantage when you compare the results with others because of its widespread.

Toni Verbeiren said...

Thanks for you comment, Paolo.

Good point about the possibility of having multiple collectors. This is not always a solution, but might come in handy at times.

One thing I did not mention in the discussion, is the way the monitoring is done. Basically, CP triggers 3 or 4 WMI calls every hour. This means that the view on our systems is not very fine-grained. PowerRecon does a better job at this.

That said, I would like to repeat what I wrote in the post: they are both different products. If you're looking for a consolidation analysis only, capacity planner will probably do the job for less money. If you interested in a monitoring tool with the additional benefit of creating consolidation scenarios, PowerRecon is your friend.

Virtu-Al said...

Great post, very usefull. Thanks

Michael Han said...

You can get only 3 fixed formatted reports from CP whereas Platespin can produce many reports and in different format. It actually gives us peak/trough and average. Peak is absolutely necessary when capacity sizing even for consolidation.

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