The right approach to monitoring a virtual or cloud based environment is to start with a clean sheet of paper, determine your requirements, and assemble a horizontally layered solution out of best of class vendor solutions that address each layer. Vendors should be evaluated on their mastery of one or more layers, their ability to keep up with the change in that layer, and their ability to integrate with adjacent layers.
While we may well be on the road towards VMware becoming the layer of software that talks to the hardware in the data center – removing Microsoft from that role, this is not the end of Windows. If Windows were just an OS, it would be severely threatened VMware insertion into the data center stack. But Windows is not just an OS. Windows is also a market leading applications platform with .NET have a far greater market share and base of developers than vFabric. Windows is also in the process of becoming a PaaS cloud – one that will be living at Microsoft, at thousands of hosting providers, and at probably every enterprise that is a significant Microsoft customer. This incarnation of Windows is at the beginning of its life, not the end.
Todd Nielsen has already succeeded twice at what he is now being asked to do at VMware – once at Microsoft and once at BEA. This time what hangs in the wind is VMware’s ultimate destiny. Will VMware be the device driver to the dynamic data center (vSphere), or will VMware be that and the next generation application platform for IT as a Service and Public Cloud based applications?
SolarWinds is betting that due to the size of its existing administrator community (the over 1M users of its free tools, and the 97,000 paying customers) that it can cost effectively reach the admin’s at the 225,000 VMware customers that are being under-served by the vendors targeting larger customers and larger VMware environments.
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If synthetic transactions are dead as an approach for determining availability and performance from the perspective of the end users of an application then something has to take their place. The two candidates are approaches that analyse data on the IP network, and client side agents. Both will likely rise in prominence as more applications become more dynamic.
Monitoring the performance of the infrastructure, applications and services in IT as a Service environments will require that monitoring solutions become multi-tenant, can be instantiated by ITaaS management tools without any further configuration, and that they automatically “find” their back end management systems through whatever firewalls may be in place. These requirements will probably be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for the heavyweight complex legacy tools that were in place prior to to the onset of virtualization, the public cloud and now IT as a Service. ITaaS is the tipping point that should cause most enterprises ignore every monitoring tool that they have bought in the past and to start over with a clean sheet of paper.
The acquisition of Akorri by NetApp demonstrates the importance of Infrastructure Performance Management solutions as virtualization progresses into the realm of business critical applications, and as public clouds hope to do the same. However rather than signaling a “game over” this acquisition really raises both the visibility and the importance of both the problems that Akorri solved, and the true end-to-end problems that remain.
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Given that vSphere provides significant benefits in terms of cost savings and business agility, those benefits are tied to and constrained by the ability of vSphere to provide backward compatibility with existing legacy enterprise systems. This backward compatibility makes it impossible for vSphere to provide infinite horizontal scalability. Moving to the same architecture as the most highly scaled out public cloud vendors provides for a more radical set of benefits, but at the cost of breaking backward compatibility for many applications.
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