VMware, Novell and the Management Stack

Most of the attention on the rumors that VMware may be acquiring parts of Novell have focused upon VMware acquiring the Novell SUSE Linux assets. This would obviously result in VMware finally having an complete operating system of its own (unless you consider vSphere as an OS – which it obviously is at least in part).

From a management software perspective however, Novell owns some very interesting assets. Specifically Novell owns through the acquisition of Managed Objects in 2008 substantial monitoring and business service management assets. Prior to the acquisition by Novell, Managed Objects was arguably the 5th player in the Business Service Management market (after CA, IBM, HP, and BMC).

VMware has repeatedly made it clear that it intends to use virtualization as a catalyst to create an opportunity for a new management stack in the enterprise. VMware already has products on the virtualization security front, has recently announced and delivered vCloud Director on the IT as a Service front, and has a variety of assets on the configuration and monitoring front including those acquired last year from Ionix.

But that this point, VMware is still lacking a comprehensive resource and availability monitoring solution (it had one in the form of Hyperic but has chose to focus Hyperic on monitoring of vFabric), a infrastructure performance management solution, and a broad scale applications performance management solution (VMware has AppSpeed, but has appeared to remove focus from this product as there were no sessions on AppSpeed at the recent VMworld conference).

So, if VMware were to buy what used to be Managed Objects from Novell, what would VMware get:

  • A broad scale resource and availability monitoring solution that could monitor both the physical infrastructure that underlies a vSphere environment (storage arrays, routers, switches and physical hosts) as well as the vSphere environment itself.
  • A third CMDB. VMware already has two one a part of vCenter Configuration Manager and one a part of Service Manager both of which were acquired from EMC/Ionix last year
  • A Business Services Management solution which was competitive with those from the Big 4 (CA, IBM/Tivoli, HP, and BMC) and which also have most of the issues that were explored in this post about why BSM failed. The one advantage (which is a considerable one) that VMware would have in this case over CA, IBM, HP and BMC is that VMware just acquired a dynamic self-learning root cause engine in the form of Integrien.

If this occurs, VMware would still  be missing:

  • A broad scale and integrated resource and availability management solution that gets around the innovation problem that killed previous “frameworks”. Zenoss has solved this problem by having a fully integrated monitoring platform that is open source at the edges allowing anyone to extend the list of monitored devices and services. This is the only known way to get around the problem of innovation in things that need to be monitored outstripping the ability of any one development team to build support for them all.
  • A competent Infrastructure Performance Management solution like those available from Akorri, Virtual Instruments, Xangati and via the CA Virtual Assurance product.
  • A virtualization and cloud aware applications performance management solution like those available from New Relic, AppDynamics and BlueStripe.
  • An integrated solution. VMware would certainly add to its library of monitoring solutions, but these monitoring products (CapacityIQ, AppSpeed, Configuration Manager, Hyperic, and potentially Novell/Managed Objects all have different databases, product architectures and user interfaces. Years will be needed to make this into a well integrated suite of solutions. Of course the Integrien solution could be deployed as an overlay on top of all of these disparate products, but that seems a bit like creating a Franken Monitor only to then blanket him with statistics.

In summary, buying the Managed Objects assets of Novell would give VMware a credible entry into the Business Service Management realm with product assets that could compete head to head with those from CA, IBM, HP and BMC – especially on the VMware platform. However there were significant issues with BSM as implemented by all of these vendors, and acquiring a BSM product set would not in an of itself address those all of those (Integrien helps with root cause) issues. The real answer here remains a virtualization and cloud competent performance assurance capability which should be attainable without recreating the baggage of BSM.