VMware is releasing two bundles of management and automation products designed to streamline disaster recovery and curb virtual server sprawl.

The bundles, announced Monday, include several previously released products built on top of VMware's virtualisation software and two that are brand-new. The new products are Site Recovery Manager, designed to simplify disaster recovery on virtual machines; and Stage Manager, designed for deploying and updating applications on virtual machines.

IT departments often struggle to keep hardware and data in sync when a disaster-recovery situation forces fail-over from one server to another, says Melinda Wilken, a senior director of marketing at VMware. Changes at primary sites have to be reflected on fail-over servers, and this can require a lot of manual work, she says.

"There are a lot of moving parts involved and the upshot is most disaster-recovery plans and processes really fail to meet the recovery objective," Wilken says.

VMware described three key features of Site Recovery Manager:

* Integrated management of disaster-recovery plans, letting IT pros create, update and document recovery plans in the VMware VirtualCenter management interface.

* Automated tests of disaster-recovery plans in an isolated testing environment.

* Automated failover and recovery in the event of an actual disaster.

Site Recovery Manager is part of the VMware Management and Automation Bundle, which includes the new Stage Manager software and previously released products Lifecycle Manager and Lab Manager.

A second software package called the IT Service Delivery Bundle is identical to the Management and Automation package, except it is less expensive and does not include the Site Recovery Manager.

Stage Manager targets virtual server sprawl, a common problem in which virtual machines spread through an enterprise with IT managers exhibiting little oversight or control. Administrators don't want to make changes directly in production environments, so they create "shadow instances" for testing new applications or patching and updating existing ones, Wilken says. The shadow application instances end up being out of sync with those in production, she notes.

"As IT managers roll out or update applications, instead of having to keep track of multiple instances of configurations throughout these stages, IT managers using VMware Stage Manager can automate the process so changes and updates are efficiently propagated," VMware states in a press release.

This reduces risk and eliminates errors, the release adds. Essentially, the product lets IT update an application using an exact replica of the one in production, and then transfers the updated software to a production server when it's ready, Wilken notes.

VMware Lifecycle Manager, recently released, provides an automated system for requesting, approving, deploying, updating and retiring virtual machines. Lab Manager, which has been available since December 2006, gives users quick access to virtual machines without sacrificing IT control.

The VMware IT Service Delivery Bundle can be ordered from distributors and resellers beginning 19 May for $3,000 for every two processors. The Management and Automation Bundle, available the same day, will cost $4,000 per two processors. All products within the bundles can be purchased separately.