2012: The Beginning of the End for Virtualization Management?

In the APM Digest, Andi Mann VP of Strategic Solutions for CA, predicted that “in 3-5 years Virtual System Management vendors will no longer survive, as virtualization becomes a core part of the enterprise compute fabric. Three years later this trend has definitely started, and will accelerate in 2012 as IT turns instead to hybrid IT management, recognizing that silos of standalone virtualization management is a costly and inefficient burden. Maybe 2012 is not the end of Virtualization Management, but it is going to be the start of the demise“.

The core of Andi’s argument is that virtualization is just the latest “silo” to come around and that all previous silo’s have been assimilated into enterprise management frameworks and that virtualization will be assimilated as well. This argument rests upon the following assumptions:

  1. That the decision as to which management products used to manage virtualization will be made by the same enterprise management teams at companies that buy management solutions from CA, IBM, BCM, and HP today.
  2. That virtualization will not become so pervasive that managing it will be the same thing as managing the entire environment, or nearly the entire environment – meaning that the ability to manage the existing legacy physical infrastructure will remain important.
  3. That enterprise management vendors can either adapt their products to work in the dynamic and shared virtualized world, or that they can successfully acquire products that do work and successfully glue those products to their management frameworks
  4. That the existing business models of the enterprise management vendors (software that is expensive to buy, time consuming (and expensive to implement), and expensive to own (with lots of required consulting) will work in the virtualization management market.

Can the Legacy Virtualization Management Vendors Adapt?

Today’s virtualization management market is certainly very different than what Andi Mann envisions in his prediction. Here is the current situation:
  1. The decisions as to which products to buy to manage virtualized environments are made by the virtualization team, not the enterprise management team. Furthermore it is often the case that the products from the legacy enterprise vendors that are used to manage physical servers, get uninstalled when those servers get virtualized. So today, the enterprise management vendors are not only not present at the table when the decisions are made, they are being kicked out of the building during the virtualization process.
  2. Whether virtualization is pervasive today or not is not really the issue. The issue is that most enterprises have correctly concluded that managing virtualization is so different than managing physical environments that they need new and different products to manage virtualization. They have basically taken the strategy of then letting virtualization grow on its own accord and letting the new management products squeeze out the old in the process.
  3. Can the legacy enterprise companies come up with viable products? So far the answer has been an emphatic no. The reason is that for the first time in the history of the modern computing industry, we have an innovation (virtualization) that not only creates new requirements, but that breaks the old products that were used to manage physical environments. So the legacy vendors cannot glue newly developed or acquired functionality onto their existing frameworks, because the frameworks are themselves worse than useless (they consume money, time, and compute resources, and add no value).
  4. Finally it is the case that as the start-up ecosystem for virtualization management has come into being with products that work, there has also been substantial innovation on the business model side. Vendors focused upon virtualization management typically have products that are easy (almost always free) to try, easy to buy (much less expensive than legacy frameworks), easy to implement (zero or near zero configuration in most cases), and inexpensive to own (little to no consulting required to implement and maintain the solution). Even if the legacy vendors were to come up with viable products, the market in its current state would not buy those products, because the business practices of the legacy vendors are out of step with the expectations of the virtualization market.

So Who is Going to Lead the Virtualization Management Business (in 2012 and beyond)

So if the virtualization management market is not going to be lead by the enterprise management vendors who is leading the virtualization management business today?

  1. VMware. VMware is shipping vCenter Operations 5.0 in Q1/2012 and has already significantly driven innovation in the space by combining resource based performance management, capacity management and configuration management with self-learning analytics. The best way to understand the impact of this is to compare the feature set of vCenter Operations with what any of the legacy vendors offer. You will quickly see that the legacy vendors lack the integration, focus on virtualization and analytics that are the core features of vC Ops. VMware will further drive innovation by focusing upon its monitor–>remediate–>notify strategy for service assurance – something that none of the legacy vendors have even started to address. The only flaw in VMware’s strategy is that VMware’s management offerings are limited to vSphere, and to the extent to which enterprises are looking to have more than one virtualization platform, a cross-platform solution becomes appropriate.
  2. Quest Software. Quest already has over 48,000 customers for the combination of vRanger, vFoglight and the recently acquired VKernel. It is safe to say that no matter what the legacy enterprise vendors and VMware do, Quest is not going to go away in the virtualization management market. In fact is is reasonable to expect Quest to leverage its substantial APM assets and come to market with something that ties together the management of the virtualization layer and the applications layer.
  3. Veeam. Veeam has over 30,000 customers for the combination of its backup and monitoring solutions and is adding over 1,500 new customers a month.  This makes Veeam along with Quest Software into one of the two current business leaders of the Virtualization Management market. It is safe to say that there is little that the enterprise management vendors could do in 2012 (or even beyond) to derail the momentum and erode the installed bases of these to business leaders.
  4. Microsoft. While you may not think of Microsoft as a leader in Virtualization Management, SCOM and SCVMM are not to be either discounted or taken lightly. The reason is simple. Microsoft has a business strategy of being very open (via Management Packs) to vendors adding value to SCOM.  For example, Veeam has a plug in to SCOM that allows you to use SCOM/SCVMM to manage vSphere. BlueStripe has a plug-in to SCOM that allows you to manage the end-to-end response time of every application in your environment via SCOM. The fact that Microsoft is both technically open to such partnerships, and the fact that Microsoft aggressively works with complementary vendors (in a way that VMware does not) means that Microsoft will be a force to be reckoned with in the Virtualization Management business.

So Who are the Innovators?

The Virtualization Management Market is very driven by innovation today. A large number of startups are taking “clean sheet of paper” approaches to the new problems presented by virtualization, and coming to market with solutions that both meet new needs and that are easy to try, buy and use:
  1. On the Cloud Management front, Abiquo, DynamicOps, Gale Technologies, and Platform Computing have all delivered solutions that meet substantial needs left un-addressed by by VMware (vCloud Director) or certainly the enterprise management vendors. In particular, all of the innovators here deliver cloud management solutions that work across hypervisors and some (DynamicOps, Gale, and Platform) even allow for self-service provisioning of services that require physical resources.
  2. On the infrastructure monitoring front the management business is being completely re-invented by new companies. Zenoss has an enterprise management solution that spans physical and virtual environments, and that combines rich functionality with easy to try and easy to buy. Virtual Instruments and Xangati (each in their own way) bring unique data about infrastructure latency to the table. This is extremely valuable, as latency turns out to be the most important metric for understanding infrastructure performance. Reflex Systems has demonstrated an ability to manage multiple aspects of virtualization in an integrated manner across very large scale environments – something no other vendor has achieved. VMTurbo is actually delivering the level of Service Assurance in its product today, that VMware is promising as a future strategy. SolarWinds is applying its easy to try and buy business model to it virtualization management offering, and won a best of show award at VMworld as well.
  3. On the applications management side, there is extremely robust innovation. New vendors are pushing the envelopes of automatic discovery, zero-configuration, depth of analysis, and breadth of applications support. Leaders here are BlueStripe, Confio Software, Correlsense, ExtraHop Networks, New Relic, and dynaTrace (now part of Compuware).
  4. The entire process by which systems are managed and provisioned is being reinvented by a brand new set of companies that are taking a completely new approach to how systems are actually set up and managed. Leaders here are ScaleXtreme, Puppet Labs, OpsCode (Chef), and rPath.
  5. The innovators on the data protection side continue to both grow in number and add depth of functionality. Leaders here include Veeam, Quest Software, Quantum, PHD Virtual, and Zerto.
  6. While VMware certainly offers a robust set of security products for its own platform, the envelope for how security is handled is also being pushed by Trend Micro, HyTrust, Afore and Vyatta.
  7. While none of the legacy vendors have self-learning analytics as their core of their solutions, and VMware does in in vCenter Operations, the question of how to best employ self-learning analytics to automatically ensure the performance of business critical applications is far from being fully addressed. Netuitive is both the business and technical leader on this front, and Prelert is providing some important innovation. This will remain a critical area for innovation, as unless this is solved, automated service assurance will not be possible.
  8. While the management of the Desktop is not often thought of in the same breath as virtualization management, it is the case that virtualizing desktops (in one of several ways) provides an opportunity to improve how desktops are managed. Leaders here include AppSense, Desktone, LiquidWare Labs, Virtual Bridges, and Virtual Computer.


While the legacy enterprise management vendors might like to think of themselves as the Borg (prepare to be assimilated – there is no escape), the new technical requirements and the new buying patterns in the virtualization market do not lend themselves to a repeat of history. Legacy management vendors are unlikely to be able to acquire themselves into this market because their core platforms and business models do not work with the customers who are running virtualized environments and buying management solutions.  So to my good friend Andi Mann, I respectfully disagree.