News: Quest Software acquires vKernel

Quest Software has announced that they are buying VKernel. Now this is very interesting as Quest is the vendor of the market leading monitoring solution for VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V (vFoglight), and VKernel is a leader in resource constraint based performance and capacity management for these two virtualization platforms. Now you ask, exactly what is the difference between monitoring vSphere (vFoglight), and doing constraint based performance and capacity management for vSphere (VKernel)?

In the answer to this question lies the real reason for the acquisition. According to the announcement, VKernel will operate as a completely independent subsidiary of Quest and that nothing will change for current and prospective customers of VKernel except that VKernel will be “powered by and backed by Quest”.

While this may be true in the short term, it misses several key points (some of which are also alluded to the announcement on VKernel’s web site). Those points are:

  • VMware is demonstrating serious product vision and the start of some serious capabilities with vSphere vCenter Operations. The VMware vision of automatic detection and remediation of problems remains a compelling differentiator for VMware, unmatched by any vendor in the ecosystem except VMTurbo.
  • VMware has just announced its second generation APM solution, vFabric APM. This holds out the prospect for folding real application response time data into the automated problem resolution capabilities mentioned directly above.
  • vFoglight monitors, alerts on, reports on, dashboards, and stores just about every metric that you could possible care about in your VMware environment. But it does not tell you which of those metrics are impacting what you care about at any moment in time.
  • VKernel focuses upon a smaller set of metrics, but does a great job of distilling this set of information into what you need to know if you are having resource constraint based performance problems right now, or if you need to buy hardware soon to avoid them in the future.
  • While at a purely technical product functionality level vFoglight and VKernel do not compete, few organizations are likely to buy both products at the same time, especially if VKernel is an independent subsidiary with it own sales force. Most customers would budget for one additional performance and capacity management tool, but few would be willing to pay for two at the same time.
So What is Really Going to Happen?
Right now VKernel is going to be an independent subsidiary because Quest does not want to have the acquisition mess up the current ability of VKernel to add customers via its existing sales force and marketing process. However the intermediate to longer term strategic imperatives suggest that much will change (for the ultimate benefit of Quest’s customers):
  • The automated capacity management and capacity planning features of VKernel are a natural addition to vFoglight. Perhaps as a cartridge, perhaps just bundled in – but it is just too good a fit to ignore.
  • The integration of vFabric APM with VMware vC Ops is just too big a threat to ignore. Quest owns substantial APM assets in the form of Foglight. Having an application performance context for the performance and capacity management and planning that VKernel does is just to obvious a requirement to ignore.
  • Quest is the leader in virtualization management with the installed base and momentum of vFoglight. However even with the VKernel¬†acquisition¬†Quest still lacks the ability to bubble all of the vSphere metrics up to three simple scores (Health, Efficiency and Risk) that vC Ops can do via the analytics from Integrien. Quest has some serious work to do on this front.
  • Quest also still lacks the automated problem remediation and application performance management strategy that VMware is touting, even though Quest has far superior APM assets than does VMware. Quest has more serious work to do on this front.
For more information on VKernel’s perspective on the acqusition read this blog post by Bryan Semple, the VP Marketing for VKernel.
Quest buying VKernel is just the first in a series of steps that Quest will have to take to fully compete with VMware vCenter Operations – and starts the process of determining how the capacity, performance and availability management ecosystem for VMware will react in response.
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