People will perceive this story one of two ways, depending on their perspective.
The first (and most common) perspective will be "so what?"
The second (and less frequent) perspective will be "this might be a big deal ..."
And I'd like a chance to share why I think this is more of the latter, and less of the former.
Most people would agree that virtualization is transforming how we think about IT infrastructure. Whether it's simple server consolidation with hypervisors, or more grand view of private clouds -- we just don't think of IT plumbing the way we used to. And it’s pretty clear that VMware is leading this charge.
I think most people would also agree that we've gone just about as far as we can do with using legacy operational models and management frameworks with these new, fully virtualized environments. It's not about just doing what we used to do in the new world; it's about operating and managing IT far more effectively than we were able to do in the past.
The next stop in the industry's virtualization journey? Integrated management that reflects the new way of doing things in the virtual world, rather than the physical world we're coming from.
VMware hasn't been a point product for many years. I think of it as a platform for next-generation IT. And part of that platform has to include highly differentiated management capabilities that just aren't available with other alternatives.
In parallel, EMC has been assembling a $1B portfolio of next-generation IT management capabilities under the umbrella family name of EMC Ionix. A string of fascinating acquisitions coupled with big helpings of organic R+D has created a set of capabilities that look very different than what you'd find in the "Big 4" of classical IT management.
VMware needed to acquire some powerful and differentiated assets to propel their vCenter and related strategies forward in a big hurry. EMC had already done a good job of assembling that portfolio. It became pretty clear that VMware could benefit greatly from these technologies in ways that were unique and compelling from a VMware perspective.
If VMware was a normal business unit -- rather than a standalone entity -- this would be the sort of asset realignment that goes on all the time in large tech companies.
For example, when we acquired Data Domain, we wrapped several related assets into a new EMC business unit -- BRS for Backup and Recovery Systems.
But, as everyone knows, VMware is a completely independent entity. This means they are free to acquire any assets as they see fit. And they hand-selected the pieces of the Ionix portfolio that they wantedmade sense . VMware had their choice of virtually anything, and I’m very pleased with their choice.
So, what are the goodies, and why are they moving to VMware? Glad you asked ...
The Four New Components Of VMware's Management Offering
A good starting point is Ionix ADM -- application discovery manager. Acquired many years ago as nLayers, this is a real-time discovery and correlation engine that dynamically maps entities (applications, clients, middleware, database, servers, storage, etc.) and presents a composite view of the "big picture".
Just to be clear, it's not a CMDB -- but it does a damn fine job of populating one in a meaningful way based on discovery rather than assuming a static config table is up-to-date. If you think about it, effective management starts with a near-real-time view of "truth" -- what's out there, and how are the pieces working together.
This "real time version of the truth" is moderately important in traditional physical IT environments ; but in dynamic and fluid fully virtualized environments, it's a requirement for effective control of applications and service delivery.
ADM has always been one of those cool products that only took a short demo to get people really interested. The wealth of information that it assembles feeds all sorts of useful IT processes. And now it’s destined to be an integral part of the VMware portfolio.
Next up? Configuresoft's server configuration manager. More than a few tools out there can do the traditional "golden copy" style of templated provisioning. Configuresoft goes further by ensuring proper composition of the provisioned images: patch management, configuration compliance, monitoring, licensing -- all in a next-generation paradigm.
This sort of dynamic template approach to provisioning resources can already be found in vCenter, as well as Cisco's UCS and more than a few EMC storage products, you'll understand why this is a nice and very attractive piece to embed in the heart of VMware's management product strategy.
And then there's FastScale. This fascinating technology creates optimized "thin images" of what runs in the virtual machine: operating system, middleware, application code, etc. -- as well as dynamically composing these images from a library of source software components. The run time images not only have the potential to be much smaller (think much less memory per VM) but better managed as well.
VMware has always had the ability to use computing resources more efficiently than any other alternative – that great story is now extended even further through the acquisition and integration of FastScale.
Finally, there's the Infra family of web-based IT process management capabilities. A key example is "help desk" and related concepts. If the notion of low-touch and zero-touch operational processes really appeals to you for your next gen IT environment, you'll appreciate what Infra brings to the discussion.
I see Infra as a key component of these next-gen workflows: both for enterprises and service providers. And now it’s part of the VMware family of next-generation IT management solutions.
All of these are a win for VMware, and – more broadly speaking – a win for the industry. We’re now clearly moving the discussion beyond simple enabling technology, and towards next-generation operational and consumption models that we’ll all need going forward.
What Happens Next?
First, it'll take some time for our friends at VMware to rationalize and integrate their new acquisitions, and communicate the results over time. I can only guess what can come from combining some of these technologies with VMware's exceptional capabilities. Like the rest of what VMware does, it should be very cool indeed. But I’m prepared to be a little patient in getting the details.
Second, for EMC Ionix customers and prospects, nothing really changes in the short term. EMC will continue to source these components from VMware as part of the broader Ionix portfolio, honor existing commitments, and so forth. A nice side benefit is that this frees additional resources for our EMC Ionix team to invest in broader infrastructure management capabilities, now that VMware is covering the virtualization front.
Third, to the extent that EMC Ionix customers are interested with tighter and more strategic integration with their fully virtualized environments, this is a big win over time as roadmap integration results in potentially better and better deliverables over time. There’s only so much deep integration you can do externally.
And finally, for our friends at VMware, they'll be able -- over time -- to offer a signficantly expanded set of enterprise IT management capabilities that aren't the same-old same-old, but truly differentiated approaches that reflect what's possible in the fully virtualized world.
Why Do I Think This Is A Big Deal?
OK, by now it should be clear than I’m pretty enthused by all of this – but why?
First, this is a clear message that virtualization has progressed far beyond simply hypervisors and enabling technology, and into re-wiring the operational and management model for next-gen IT. VMware wouldn’t make this kind of move unless you really believe the market is evolving, and fast.
Second, it's a further reflection of specialization in the management world. One might assume that VMware intends to be the very best at managing its own technology. And that EMC Ionix intends to be the very best framework in integrating VMware with the rest of the broader IT landscape.
Third, it's yet another sign that business-as-usual in the IT vendor world is becoming a distant memory. The industry is consolidating, shifting and accelerating in new directions far faster than anyone would have guessed.
And I for one feel privileged to work for a company that's so close to the action.