If you are using VMware's VI3, you probably use VMware VirtualCenter to manage your VMware ESX Server farm.

VirtualCenter provides the monitoring, remote management and rapid provisioning capabilities you need in your virtual environment, and it also acts as the central control point for VMware VMotion and VMware Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS). The last two features are important to help maintain and provide your virtual environment with much needed business continuance or system uptime as well as increased performance efficiency and flexibility.

But what happens if VirtualCenter goes down? Who is watching it? Or better yet, who is taking care of it to make sure it doesn't go offline?

Neverfail recently announced the release of Neverfail for VMware VirtualCenter. The product was designed to ensure that IT administrators won't lose access to the features provided by VMware VirtualCenter despite IT interruptions ranging from component failure to external interruptions.

According to the company, it offers advanced proactive monitoring of VMware VirtualCenter Server and its underlying environment by constantly checking the health of the hardware, network infrastructure, operating system and the management server software itself. If an issue arises with VMware VirtualCenter Server or one of its components, the system fails over to a secondary server which contains all data and maintains connectivity to VMware VirtualCenter until the outage can be resolved. The entire failover process is transparent and IT administrators can continue utilising the management features of VMware VirtualCenter.

Peter Parker, Neverfail Group CEO, said: "VMware VirtualCenter manages the entire virtual infrastructure, and by offering a continuous availability solution for this product, Neverfail ensures that both IT administrators and end users experience the full benefits that virtualisation has to offer."

Keeping VirtualCenter up and operational is a must have in any VMware environment. So products like this are a welcome addition. However, contrary to some reports, Neverfail's solution isn't the first product to market to provide this ability.

In April of last year, SteelEye Technology had announced SteelEye Protection Suite for VMware Infrastructure 3.

When asked about SteelEye's product, Bob Williamson, senior vice president of Product Management and Product Marketing at SteelEye said: "Among other capabilities, this suite includes an agent that monitors and clusters VirtualCenter. We demoed the solution at VMworld 2007 and have it in production at customer sites."

He continued: "SteelEye LifeKeeper constantly monitors critical VirtualCenter services, the associated database, servers, network connections and all other critical components. On detection of any problem, an automated recovery process is begun based on policies defined by the system administrator. It also provides a simple interface for manual movement of applications to eliminate outages from planned maintenance. With support for both data replication and shared storage environments and for configurations where VirtualCenter and the underlying database reside on either the same server or separate servers, LifeKeeper provides maximum flexibility in the configurations that can be deployed."

And when asked about Neverfail being first to market, Williamson told me that simply wasn't the case. He added: "In addition to the SteelEye solution, VMware has documented for some time the use of Microsoft Cluster Services to protect VirtualCenter. NeverFail is over six months behind in the delivery of their solution."

Williamson did say that NeverFail's release of a competing solution validates the need that SteelEye recognised over nine months ago, and also offered that his company is always quick to identify single points of failure in critical business applications and quick to deliver a solution to protect their customers.

Both Neverfail and SteelEye offer numerous other solutions to help protect a wide range of applications other than just VMware's VirtualCenter.