VMware acquires EMC Ionix assets, it’s ready to control the physical layer

Posted by virtualization.info Staff   |   Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010   |  

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Last week, along with the acquisition of RTO Software assets, VMware also announced the acquisition of several assets from its parent company EMC.

The $200M deal includes Server Configuration Manager (formerly Configuresoft), FastScale, Application Discovery Manager (formerly nLayers), and Service Manager (formerly Infra), all parts of the EMC Ionix infrastructure management portfolio.

  • Configuresoft, acquired in June 2009, was a configuration management company founded in 1999 (with the name of Fundamental Software) and originally focused on the physical layer. The firm shifted its attention to the virtual infrastructures and VMware only in early 2008.
  • FastScale, acquired in August 2009, was a startup launched in 2007 and specialized in optimizing operating systems, deploying them on bare-metal hardware or virtual infrastructures, and managing them as a single application fabric.
    The firm originally promoted its capability to work with VMware infrastructures and then progressively exposed its support for the physical layer.
  • nLayers, acquired in June 2006, was a startup founded in 2003 and focused on network discovery and performance troubleshooting.
    It primarily supported physical infrastructures and it’s easy to see similarities with VMware AppSpeed (which used to support physical hardware too – acquired from B-hive in May 2008).
  • Infra, acquired in March 2008, was founded in 1991 and focused on Service Desk management (including Incident Management and Problem Management), Change Management, Release Management, Configuration Management (including Federated CMDB), Availability Management and Service Level Management.

Exactly one year ago, virtualization.info suggested that VMware was slowly morphing into an infrastructure management company and that it would soon compete against BMC, CA, HP and IBM for the control of physical layer.

At that time, HP, which would be severely impacted by a direct competition with the virtualization vendor, somehow suggested that VMware is missing a universal configuration management database (UCMDB) to aspire to become an infrastructure management behemoth.
There we go: VMware now has the Infra one, courtesy of EMC.

Another interesting aspect of this deal is the fact that EMC is retaining control on the Ionix Unified Infrastructure Manager (UIM) that is being used to glue together the hypervisor, the network and the storage layers inside Vblocks, the VMware-Cisco-EMC approach to fabric computing.
VMware and EMC may have decided to exclude UIM from the deal to not further compromise the relationship with HP, but for how long this critical component will stay in EMC’s hands?

With the acquisition of Zimbra, back in January, VMware already started to advertise itself in a new way:

This acquisition will further VMware’s mission of taking complexity out of the datacenter, desktop, application development and core IT services, and delivering a fundamentally more efficient and new approach to IT.

The acquisition of the EMC assets provides the final confirmation that VMware is getting ready to control the physical layer. And just in case it’s not clear enough, the company’s CEO Paul Maritz is explicit in the press announcement (our emphasis):

“Customers are increasingly leveraging virtualization as the foundation for modern IT architectures and their path to Cloud Computing,” said Paul Maritz, president and chief executive officer, VMware.  “Essential to this evolution is the ability to provide visibility and compliance from virtualized applications down to the underlying physical infrastructure.  The acquisition of these Ionix products and expertise promises to further establish VMware vCenter as the next generation management platform for private cloud infrastructures.”

The acquired EMC products and expertise will complement existing VMware development efforts and expand the VMware vCenter product family with capabilities to meet stringent compliance standards in a dynamic virtualized environment.  This new capability will provide a holistic view of configuration compliance of complete IT services from underlying physical assets to applications

Additional reference to the physical layer can be found in this post from Ben Verghese, Chief Management Architect, Virtualization and Cloud Platforms Business Unit:

We recently announced the ConfigControl product that works closely with vCenter to provide configuration management and compliance to policies in highly dynamic virtualized environments. Ionix Server Configuration Manager enhances this functionality in two important ways. First, it adds visibility of the guest OS and application configuration on virtualized and non-virtualized servers. Second, it provides built-in capability for Compliance Reports ranging from the ESX hardening guide to HIPAA and PCI. The Ionix Application Discovery Manager product (formerly nLayers) automatically discovers complex applications with components on multiple servers, virtual and physical. The combination of these three products, when integration is complete, will give us comprehensive configuration and compliance capability across a broad domain with virtual infrastructure at the core, but extending to the adjacent areas of the OS, complex applications, and physical hardware if needed.

So basically it’s time to forget “VMware, the virtualization (and, by the way, cloud computing) company”.
In a very short time (probably no later than H1 2011) it will be “VMware, the infrastructure management company, from the bare-metal to the applications, off and on-premises”.

This will have immediate consequences on the relationship with HP, IBM and Dell. But more than that, it will greatly extend the competition between VMware and Microsoft.
It’s no more just about the hypervisor and the management capabilities that Virtual Machine Manager offers. This is going to threaten the whole System Center family and the market share that Microsoft has inside the datacenter.



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