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.

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Bernd Harzog
Bernd Harzog is the Analyst at The Virtualization Practice for Performance and Capacity Management and IT as a Service (Private Cloud). Bernd is also the CEO and founder of APM Experts a company that provides strategic marketing services to vendors in the virtualization performance management, and application performance management markets. Prior to these two companies, Bernd was the CEO of RTO Software, the VP Products at Netuitive, a General Manager at Xcellenet, and Research Director for Systems Software at Gartner Group. Bernd has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago.

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  • Bernd Harzog

    Al Sargent

    September 27, 2010 at 5:48 PM

    Hi Bernd,

    Thank you for mentioning Hyperic in this post. However, I’d like to suggest some minor clarifications:

    1) Hyperic focused on monitoring a broad range of servers that underpin modern custom applications. By no means is Hyperic focused just on monitoring vFabric, as you state above. Hyperic provides very broad monitoring footprint — over 50,000 metrics from 75 different server types. A partial list is at http://www.springsource.com/products/systems-management/plugins

    2) Hyperic encourages third party developers to build their own custom plugins, to monitor servers beyond the 75 that Hyperic supports out of the box. It does this by making its own plugins available as open source code that serves as a reference, and by making its documentation freely available. In this sense, Hyperic is identical to Zenoss in that it is “open source at the edges allowing anyone to extend the list of monitored devices and services”. Hyperic’s extensibility is described at http://www.springsource.com/products/systems-management/extensibility

    Again, thank you for the mention. It’s always good to read your analysis of our segment of enterprise software, and we’re fortunate to have someone with your experience tracking new developments.

    Best regards,

    Al Sargent

  • Bernd Harzog

    Bernd Harzog

    September 28, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    Hi Al,

    Thanks for the comments. I agree completely with you as to Hyperic’s technical capabilities specifically with respect to breadth of support and openness. In other words, I agree that the product can do all of the things that you say it can do.

    The issue is one of positioning. At VMworld 2010, the only time that Hyperic came up (in the sessions that I attended) was in the context of providing deep integration with vFabric (building byte code instrumentation into the JVM). This view of the positioning of Hyperic is further reinforced by the fact that it is listed in the vFabric section of your web site, and not in the Infrastructure and Operations Management section of your web site.

    If you were going to position, market and sell Hyperic as a broad scale event, availability and resource monitoring solution, then I would expect that the product name would be VMware vCenter Hyperic and not VMware vFabric Hyperic. I expect that this debate was had at VMware and the vFabric name was chosen for a reason.

    If you would like to have an offline conversation about this I am certainly up for it. You can reach me at bharzog(at)virtualizationpractice(dot)com.

    Best Regards,


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