The Quest virtualization strategy

Posted by Staff   |   Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Quest involvement in virtualization has increased substantially over the last two years. The company initially made a controlling investment in Vizioncore in 2005, acquired Invirtus in June 2007, then Provision Networks in November 2007. Last month Quest finally completed the acquisition of Vizioncore.

While the acquired companies are focused on different virtualization segments (disaster recovery, VDI, P2V migration and virtual machines performance optimization), Quest itself has long been well-known for its focus on software management of applications, databases and operating systems like Windows.

So while Quest is becoming a major virtualization player, its parallel business focus, its acquisition strategy and its current relationship with its subsidiaries in virtualization can be confusing to customers. met Scott Herold, the new Lead Architect of Quest’s Virtualization Business Unit, to ask for clarification about the big picture. So far Vizioncore, Invirtus and Provision Networks operate as independent subsidiaries of Quest. Are they going to continue this way or they will be merged over time? In both cases, will “core” Quest continue focusing on its current software management business?

Scott Herold: As of right now, each of these acquisitions operates and is managed independently with guidance from the newly formed Virtualization Business Unit within Quest Software. Quest formed this new Virtualization Business Unit so the company can put a primary focus on one of the hottest datacenter technologies in history without detracting from its core Database, Application, and Windows Management business units. You may have already noticed a trend that will continue — a cross pollination of intellectual property from these various acquisitions that will help strengthen all of Quest’s virtualization offerings.

VI: In July, immediately after its acquisition, Invirtus product line was rebranded as part of the Vizioncore offering. Since that time Invirtus didn’t release any new product. Which plans does Quest have for this subsidiary?

SH: Invirtus was rebranded as a part of Vizioncore to prevent confusion and challenges in building parallel sales channels within the same overall organization. The first step of the integration process was to rename and re-release all Invirtus products under the Vizioncore name and get the new technologies properly introduced into the channel. Invirtus has a solid set of technologies that, although they weren’t released as Invirtus products, still made their way to market. You may notice that right around the announcement of Quest’s acquisition of Invirtus, Vizioncore announced P2V Disaster Recovery for vRanger Pro, which makes use of Invirtus’ vConverter technology. Invirtus is still working extremely hard as an R&D powerhouse, with the launch of vConverter Pro at VMworld Europe this year as evidence. The product provides the fastest, easiest, and most reliable P2V conversions on the market. Another product of note is vOptimizer Pro which will optimize the storage of ESX Server virtual machines.

VI: Quest has demonstrated substantial in-house expertise surrounding all facets of Windows management, and this may boost the current virtualization offerings or even enable the birth of new products. What should we expect in the coming months?

SH: One of the most daunting tasks on my plate is eventually reviewing more than 120 products (including the Windows management products you mention) and technologies that Quest Software either owns or has invested in to look at them from a virtualization perspective with the goal of either breathing new life into aging products or assisting product managers in determining how their existing offerings can be enhanced and extended into the virtualization space.

VI: Quest has long had a strong focus on Microsoft technologies, and the company has officially announced its support for the upcoming hypervisor Hyper-V. At the same time one of Quest’s subsidiaries, Vizioncore, is an historical VMware partner and has never released products for other virtualization platforms. Now that the acquisition is complete can we expect to see any Vizioncore solution for Microsoft Hyper-V?

SH: Part of the overall Quest Software strategy across all organizations is to work closely with our customers to determine which alternate platforms are being seriously looked at, and which technologies would benefit those platforms the most. I can easily say we are not ruling out any particular platform, but ultimately, it will be our customer base that helps us decide what we develop and when.

VI: Quest enters the already crowded VDI market thanks to the acquisition of Provision Networks, which offers a popular connection broker for multiple virtualization platforms. How does the company plan to compete against established players like VMware and Citrix, since they can offer a complete VDI solution on their own?

SH: In your question, you answered part of the question for me. Those that are familiar with Provision Networks Virtual Access Suite know that it already supports all major virtualization platforms. Within Quest Software and Provision Networks we don’t see VDI as the ultimate target for this technology. We see Application Delivery as our goal. VDI is one method for delivering applications or desktops to an end user; physical blade servers are another, and application virtualization is yet another. Provision Networks is taking the Switzerland approach to application delivery by supporting all virtualization platforms, as well as multiple other delivery technologies that enhance the offerings of all technology partners involved.

VI: Besides VDI another emerging market for virtualization seems to be the so called VM Lifecycle Management. Quest has a notable experience in Microsoft PowerShell technologies, which could be manipulated to create a powerful VM lifecycle management product for Hyper-V and ESX Server (since VMware is integrating the technology inside VirtualCenter). Does Quest have any plan to enter this market as well?

SH: While you are correct that Quest has demonstrated thought leadership in the PowerShell space and accurate in assuming that the company is always looking out for new ways to add value on top of the Microsoft platform, we do not have any specific development efforts to announce in the space you mention at this point in time.

VI: Another major vendor entering the virtualization market is Sun, with the hypervisor xVM Server and the management solution Ops Center. Quest has announced its support for these two products. In which way will the company support Sun offering?

SH: Initial xVM support will come natively based on work that we will be doing for integration with the other Xen-based platforms on the market. Each implementation of Xen, whether it is Virtual Iron, Citrix, Sun, or Oracle, will require unique customizations that will further enhance the offerings for the particular platform. What we are seeing is that Sun has a strong footprint in the banking and financial industries, and there is a very strong interest in virtualization. Our research in this area has gone a long way in helping us properly prioritize xVM support. Something that is unique to Sun and Microsoft, is that within Quest we have some of the best technical resources available that are more than willing to assist us in providing the proper features for virtualization within these platforms.

VI: Scott so far you covered the roles of Director of Research & Development at Vizioncore and of Director of Engineering at Invirtus. And even before these experiences you already were a popular and appreciated virtualization architect. In your opinion what is the today’s biggest challenge in virtualization technologies adoption? Is Quest going to address it in any way in the near future?

SH: I personally still think that the biggest challenges in virtualization adoption aren’t technical, but more business process oriented. Even with the successful implementation of virtualization at many large organizations, people are struggling with changing the way they have traditionally run IT as a business. Virtualization brings challenges because new servers are a mouse click away, virtual machines are portable and Disaster Recovery is as simple as copying a few files … and all of a sudden you have a way to track system utilization to levels that haven’t been possible outside the mainframe world. Many organizations, without the proper help, continue to treat and manage virtual infrastructures the same way they have for years and simply cannot see all of the available benefits to them.

VI: Do you think that the customers demand for virtualization changed over time? Are companies still looking for the same features? Are they still using virtualization technologies mainly for server consolidation?

SH: The demand has definitely changed over time. Virtualization originally provided a way to consolidate the number of servers running in an environment. Not long after the first few large implementations, people started to notice how much more recoverable virtual machines were and how their disaster recovery plans could be significantly enhanced. Now, the next big thing is changing the way desktops and applications are delivered to the end user. The use cases for virtualization are seemingly endless and moving rapidly.

I think an initial driver for virtualization is still server consolidation, especially in parts of Europe where real estate and energy costs are at a premium. Green computing is not only a popular buzzword; it is a reality, and many organizations are willing to do their part. Once virtualization is introduced, the possibilities are almost endless.

VI: What is the next big thing in virtualization according to the Quest vision?

SH: As I mentioned earlier, there has been a lot of acquisition activity of late for Quest in the virtualization space. Now the company is focused on turning this activity into customer benefit and company revenue. There’s no question that virtualization is the hottest space in IT in 2008, and as the leading provider of IT management tools, products and solutions, Quest is now naturally nurturing a leadership position in managing virtual environments. This is a logical extension from Quest’s existing core business, supporting a comprehensive portfolio of management offerings across all tiers of the IT hierarchy. And it’s good for Quest’s virtualization subsidiaries as well because it gives them broader access to Quest’s enterprise customers, an expanded global reach and a greater partner network to tap into than they had before being acquired. All these benefits are coming together in a product roadmap for virtualization that will build from Vizioncore’s existing leadership in key customer need areas like business continuity and server consolidation to the ever-growing set of benefits organizations can gain from virtualizing their IT infrastructure.