7 virtual management companies to watch

Seven start-ups take on virtual server sprawl, configuration complexity, automation and more as they rush to fill the virtualization gap in today’s management tools.

Management technology newcomers tackle the challenges of managing multiple virtual machines across a heterogeneous environment.

Virtualization is taking enterprise companies by storm, and ill-prepared IT managers might find themselves struggling against a proliferation of virtual machines (VM), increased configuration complexity and other management issues that come with widely deploying virtual servers.

Yet IT cannot be blamed, industry watchers say, because most traditional management tools updated to take on virtual servers don’t adequately do the job.

"The larger, established management vendors arrived late to managing virtual servers because ultimately they approached it as though it was just another operating system," says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). "Add-ons to traditional tools are not enough, and there are big gaps in the market across different disciplines such as patch management, configuration management, discovery, inventory and more."

Those technology gaps have financial analysts bullish on start-ups offering products that install easily, track VMs from inception to destruction, and essentially approach managing a heterogeneous virtual environment in a whole new way.

"It is an early and dynamic market. We will see lots of competitive entry in this space," says Lars Leckie, an associate at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, which recently led a $4.6 million first round of funding for VKernel.

Here we shine a spotlight on seven start-ups that have taken on the challenge of managing virtual worlds. (While all of the start-ups claim to have customers, none were willing to name them.)

Embotics 

Founded: April 2006

Headquarters: Ottawa, Ontario 

Management: Jay Litkey, founder, president and CEO, also founded Symbium, a company that focused on autonomic computing and the automated management of IT infrastructure. Embotics acquired the development team and technology of Symbium and worked to apply it to virtual server management.

Funding: Privately funded by angel investors.

What company offers: V-Commander software, which became generally available in December 2007, provides centralized policy-based management of VMs. The software can track each VM throughout its entire life cycle, and associates specific policies around access, authorization and end of life with each VM.

Why it’s worth watching: "Embotics is coming at the problem of managing VMs from a broad, long-range view, incorporating inventory, usage, managing resources, applications and the policies that apply along the duration of the VM’s life cycle," says Rich Ptak, founder and principal analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates.

Where company got its name: Company executives combined the idea of embedded autonomics -- which are essential to managing virtual environments -- to come up with Embotics.

Fortisphere 

Founded: October 2006

Headquarters: Chantilly, Va.

Management: Michael Harper, CEO and president, formerly held positions with IBM and USinternetworking; John Suit, principal-founder and CTO, previously founded and served as CTO at SilentRunner, a company acquired by CA.

Funding: $10 million in Series A funding in November 2007, led by Fairhaven Capital Partners and Globespan Capital Partners.

What company offers: The Virtual Essentials suite includes two products: Virtual Insight and Virtual Foresight. Available now, Virtual Insight runs on hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix XenSource. Once installed, the software provides details around virtual-machine configurations, including patches, hot fixes and applications. The software also allows IT staff to associate business attributes, such as owner, functional group and trust level, with each VM. Virtual Foresight, which provides policy-based management and automation capabilities, is scheduled to become generally available later this spring.

Why it’s worth watching: "Fortisphere is working on the notion that configuration, change, life-cycle management and even security management of VMs will help desktop, server and storage pros get in front of management issues around virtualization," says Stephen Elliot, a research manager covering enterprise system management at IDC. "For many organizations, the performance management requirements don’t change when they go from physical to virtual servers, and a complete life-cycle approach will have to be put in place to meet those requirements."

Where company got its name: Fortisphere executives wanted to convey the security and control that effective monitoring and policy-based management would deliver to the virtual sphere and combined “fortis” -- which in Latin means strong -- with sphere.

ManageIQ 

Founded: April 2006

Headquarters: Mahwah, N.J.

Management: Joseph Fitzgerald, co-founder and CEO, previously served as CTO and director of product development for HP’s change and configuration management software business. He joined HP as part of the company’s acquisition of Novadigm, which Fitzgerald also co-founded; Oleg Barenboim, CTO and co-founder, also worked as an R&D leader at HP and previously worked at Novadigm.

Funding: Self-funded by founding members.

What company offers: ManageIQ’s Enterprise Virtualization Management Suite includes technology that allows the software to sit on the virtual fabric and see into virtual-machine containers. With that capability, ManageIQ’s applications can perform network, host and virtual instance inventory as well as manage configurations of virtual servers.

Why it’s worth watching: "ManageIQ has a lot of experience on the client side of things, and they have paid extra attention on how to manage configuration and change across a lot of endpoints," Elliot says. "Most IT shops will have more than one virtualization platform installed, and that means a lot of complexity. ManageIQ has seen that with their Novadigm history, and they are coming at managing VMs with that perspective."

Where company got its name: Company executives pulled together “manage” and “IQ” to represent their goal to offer customers smart management for virtual infrastructures.

Niyuta 

Founded: September 2006

Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif.

Management: The company has yet to assign specific roles, but company leaders include Dhananjay Kulkarni,

who has 20 years of experience managing software development and delivery, and Yashodhan Deshpande, who has 15 years of software development and management experience.

Funding: Self-funded by founding members and angel investors.

What company offers: Niyuta’s vmGalaxy software installs on a Windows server and connects to an environment’s storage to collect asset, operating system and other inventory information from VMs, hosts and guest operating systems. The software requires that its users have administrative privileges on VMs and does not require any agents or drivers be installed. Company officials say the software can access virtual servers when they are powered down to administer patches and take other actions.

Why it’s worth watching: "The biggest gap that still hasn’t been addressed is around patching VMs," says EMA’s Mann. "Niyuta is trying to address VM sprawl issues, but also is putting effort into patch management."

Where company got its name: Niyuta is a Sanskrit word meaning infinite, which relates to the company’s plans to deliver software capable of managing an infinite number of virtual servers.

SignaCert 

Founded: April 2004

Headquarters: Portland, Ore.

Management: Wyatt Starnes, founder and CEO, previously founded change auditing software vendor Tripwire, and is a co-founder of Regional Alliances for Infrastructure and Network Security (RAINS), a nonprofit public/private alliance formed to accelerate the deployment of technology for homeland security.

Funding: $10 million in Series A funding in December 2005 from DCM-Doll Capital Management, Intel Capital, SmartForest Ventures and GarageTechnology Ventures.

What the company offers: Enterprise Trust Server is an appliance-based software measurement solution that captures, organizes, and compares what's actually running in your IT production environment with what should be running according to factorss such as set policies and known inventory. The company doesn’t focus solely on the virtual realm, but Starnes explains its technology can track multiple configurations and changes to a degree that would be needed in a virtual environment. "Virtualization really is the killer application for this type of measured systems management," he says.

Why it’s worth watching: "SignaCert can ensure virtual systems are deployed as intended down to a binary level, even as system configurations are changing because of patching and updates. Since there is no configuration drift, a lot of the performance, compliance and security issues are minimized," says Jasmine Noel, principal analyst with Ptak, Noel and Associates. "Since SignaCert can deal with a change to the ‘as intended’ part of the system configuration, you can ensure the most up-to-date version of the virtual systems are deployed, removed or redeployed."

Where company got its name: Company officials combined “signature” and “certification” to create a name that reflected the key technology it offers.

VKernel 

Founded: January 20070

Headquarters: Portsmouth, N.H.

Management: Alex Bakman, founder and CEO, previously founded automation-configuration-management software maker Ecora Software and Cleversoft, which sold Lotus Notes monitoring software.

Funding: $4.6 million in its first round of institutional funding, led by Hummer Winblad Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners.

What company offers: The Chargeback Virtual Appliance meters resource usage by departments and automatically e-mails cost visibility and charge-back reports to end users. The software comes with default charge-back rates and calculator to help customers quickly determine their own rates. A second virtual appliance determines the capacity available for new VMs and prevents bottlenecks from occurring. "We are delivering capabilities one slice at a time," Bakman explains.

Why it’s worth watching: VKernel gives customers “one virtual appliance for one problem -- direct and immediate results without bringing a large complicated suite into the IT purchasing department," says Hummer Winblad Venture Partners’ Leckie.

Where company got its name: The idea of kernel in an operating system being the essential component inspired company founders to create the name VKernel.

VMLogix 

Founded: January 2004

Headquarters: Palo Alto, Calif.

Management: Sameer Dholakia, CEO, most recently spent 12 years at Trilogy, a privately held enterprise software firm; and Ravi Gururaj, founder and CTO, also previously with Trilogy.

Funding: $3.5 million in Series A funding in October 2006 from Bain Capital Ventures.

What company offers: VMLogix LabManager is a virtual-lab-automation solution designed to simplify software testing and development. LabManager helps software developers and testers create a comprehensive configuration library of build, test and production environments by using virtualization.

Why it’s worth watching: "VMLogix is going after a broader market than just VMware. LabManager works in Citrix, Microsoft, IBM and VMware environments," says EMA’s Mann. "Our research shows that 95% of those planning to deploy virtualization will do it in a heterogeneous way, and VMLogix is leading the way by supporting them all now."

Where company got its name: The name reflects the logical approach to managing VMs the company aims to provide.

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Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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