VMware + Ionix Assets – Impact Upon the Virtualization Management Market

In VMware and the Ionix Assets – A Deeper Look, we took a fairly in depth look at the four products that VMware bought from EMC, and posited that VMware was now well on its way to fulfilling its promised intentions of becoming a vendor of a management stack for virtualization. In this article we take a look at the impact of these acquisitions upon the virtualization management market and the ecosystem of solutions available in this market.

First of all let’s briefly review what the four products that came with this acquisition do with respect to virtualization management:

  • Server Configuration Manager (formerly ConfigureSoft) is a fully functional cross-platform configuration management solution.
  • Application Stack Manager (formerly Fastscale) uses a unique scanning technology to scan the executable files that comprise the OS and the middleware on a server to find out what portions of the OS and the middleware are actually needed. ASM then builds a Just Enough OS (JEOS) version of the server resulting in a dramatic reduction in the memory required for that server when running as a VM.
  • Service Manager (formerly Infra Enterprise) is an application designed to help IT manage service delivery to IT’s constituents. It includes the ability for IT to produce a service catalog of its services.

The position of these three new VMware products along with the positions of the vendors in the third party ecosystem who focus upon Configuration Management, VM Life cycle Management, Extended Provisioning, and Service Management is shown in the diagram below.

VMware Ionix Virtualization Management1

Before we go through the impacts of these new products upon the existing VMware focused third party ecosystem, it is important one more time to review VMware’s strategy with the respect to virtualization management. VMware views virtualization as a catalyst which will create the requirement for and an opportunity to provide a new management stack in the enterprise. VMware intends to be the vendor of that management stack. VMware views existing solutions as being both to silo’ed (unique solutions for instances of OS’s, middleware, and applications), too complex, and to brittle to deal with the new dynamic data center and the cloud.

With these pieces VMware now certainly has the product assets out of which to construct a formidable virtualization management suite. Needless to say there is a substantial amount of work that VMware will have to do to integrate all of these pieces into vSphere, and to integrate them with each other – which should give the ecosystem 18 to 24 months to adapt. But the writing is clearly on the virtualization management wall – VMware is coming to play and they are extremely serious.

The seriousness of VMware not withstanding, it is also important to point out that VMware faces significant challenges in becoming the vendor of a management stack. Those challenges are:

  1. VMware is a platform vendor today. Platform vendors succeed by grabbing the high volume low price point in their market (the Windows and Linux models) and by relying upon a broad ecosystem of partners to add value to the platforms. Selling and marketing a management stack is completely different than selling and marketing a systems software platform. The value proposition is different, the target audience is different, and the sales and marketing processes are different enough to probably require a new a different sales force.
  2. History is not on the side of VMware. Not since the days of the mainframe has the vendor of the platform also been the leader in providing the management stack for that platform. Look at Windows, Linux, J2EE applications servers, database servers, and the TCP/IP network and in all cases the vendors that provided the products that comprised the platform are different than the vendors that stood out as managers of those platforms.
  3. As mentioned above an 18-24 month integration project is probably necessary in order for VMware to be able to productize these new assets and to fit them into an as of yet non-existent management stack framework. Each of these products is today a standalone entity with its own user interface and its own back end database. Significant integration and consolidation will have to occur in order for these products to become a cohesive management offering.
  4. VMware must decide if its management stack will be open or closed to the third party ecosystem. One could argue that Microsoft decision to open SCOM to third party management packs was brilliant as it enabled a broad ecosystem to add value to Microsoft’s management offering which at the end of the day created significant differentiation for SCOM. VMware could (and should) in a similar manner open up all of its management products to extension by the third party ecosystem. There is no way that VMware itself can address all of the use cases for these management solutions, and allowing them to be extended by the ecosystem will both increase their value, and allow solutions to come to market faster than VMware’s own development cycle allows.
  5. These products support many platforms outside of VMware vSphere. EMC/Ionix retains the right to resell these products, and will presumably insist that they maintain their support for the current set of physical platforms outside of vSphere itself. It was on the product roadmap of Ionix to add Hyper-V support to these products and VMware must now decide if it intends to truly become a vendor of a management stack that spans multiple physical and virtual environments.

What Does This Mean to the Ecosystem?

In this post about the impacts of these acquisitions to the infrastructure and performance management vendors, we concluded that vendors like Akorri, Virtual Instruments, and Xangati who have strong infrastructure response time solutions, and vendors like Bluestripe, AppDynamics, Coradiant, and New Relic who have strong applications performance management offerings for cloud and virtualized environments are not threatened by the technology that appears to be available to VMware.

On the virtualization management front, things are considerably more complex:

  • In the configuration management space several third party vendors like Reflex Systems, Embotics, ManageIQ and Hyper9 have very strong configuration management functionality for VMware environments today.  These offerings are for the most part fairly VMware focused today. VMware itself now owns a product that has strong configuration management features across vSphere and several physical environments. Therefore the third party vendors now have 18 to 24 months to put together plans to both broaden and deepen their features set before VMware comes to market with an integrated offering.
  • In the VM Lifecycle management space, VMware has Lifecycle Manager and Lab Manager today. Third parties like Hyper9, Embotics, ManageIQ and Vizioncore are successfully competing with these VMware offerings today. These acquisitions do nothing to change the competitive dynamics in this space.
  • In the Extended Provisioning space, VMware now has an extremely unique and valuable technology in the form of what used to be Fastscale. However this technology  is entirely complementary to what independent vendors in this space like ManageIQ and DynamicOps offer in terms of federated enterprise provisioning.  VMware is really left with vCenter on this front, and the idea of layering vCenters underneath each other for scalability is not what many people are looking for in a long term solution to this problem.
  • In the Service Management Space, VMware has stated that they intend to provide a Service Catalog (tied into back end scheduled provisioning). VMware now owns that Service Catalog but still need to do the integration to tie it into the back end provisioning and resource scheduling pieces. Independent service management vendors like Surgient, NewScale and ManageIQ are currently well ahead of VMware in terms of both depth of feature set and support for a broad set of environments.


It is clear that VMware intends to in an 18 to 24 month period come out with a true management stack that addresses capacity management, infrastructure performance, applications performance (and service assurance), configuration management, lifecycle management, extended provisioning and wrap all of that into a service catalog that lets IT provide a menu of services that can then be automatically provisioning on a dynamic (or even a cloud based) virtual infrastructure. The third party ecosystem has a lead today based upon the current VMware product set, and has that 18 to 24 month window to create offerings that compete once the VMware stack arrives in its full form. The critical dynamics will be whether or not VMware will learn how to market and sell a management offering (instead of just a systems software platform), and whether or not Hyper-V will gain enough traction in the enterprise so that third parties will be able to argue that customers should choose vendor for management that is independent of the platform vendor.

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