Fortisphere product to manage virtualization sprawl

First, there was server sprawl. Virtualization is designed to combat that.

Now startup firm Fortisphere on Monday plans to launch a product suite aimed at managing virtualization sprawl.

“We spent nine months talking to [data centre professionals],” said John Suit, Fortisphere’s CTO. “What was apparent to us was that typically, how these guys are tracking their virtual machines is with an Excel spreadsheet.”

The company’s offering, Virtual Essentials, is based on two products. The first is Fortisphere Virtual Insight, a toolset for tracking, tagging and monitoring virtual machines as they move throughout their lifecycle, from preproduction to production.

Users get a visual representation of a virtual machines’ parent, sibling and child relationships. There is also a reporting engine and an auditing function for recording changes and transactions. Fortisphere Virtual Foresight is the other half, dealing with policy enforcement.

Policy rules are embedded within virtual machines, meaning the information will remain with each one, as well as any clones and copies, according to Fortisphere. There is also a repository component, and an analytic engine that monitors risk and compliance violations by crunching data from virtual machines and hypervisors.

Fortisphere’s product uses kernel-level drivers, rather than other means of interacting with virtual machines, such as agents. Fortisphere contends this approach affords a great deal of control, while remaining lightweight.

The company is competing with a number of other startups, such as Embotics. Fortisphere said it has a number of beta customers, but company officials declined to name any or make one available for an interview. Pricing for Virtual Essentials starts at “little bit over $10,000,” including maintenance, according to Fortisphere executives, who declined to be more specific.

The software was built with a mid-market customer in mind, in terms of its ease of use, according to Fortisphere.

Mark Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said one strength of Fortisphere is its ability to manage virtual machines across multiple hypervisors — VMware, Citrix‘s XenServer and Microsoft‘s Hyper-V. “This is a something end-users are asking for as they deploy more than one solution for server virtualization,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

Dan Kusnetzky, principal analyst with Kusnetzky Group, predicted that within five years, Fortisphere and its peers will either be absorbed into larger companies or those firms will develop software with similar capabilities.

“It’s likely in my view that these people are going to be acquired by the management framework players, because they are doing something different but also complementary,” he said.

Kusnetzky noted, however, that Fortisphere’s tools have a limited focus, aiming on the management and tracking of virtual machines and not other areas of virtualization, such as virtual storage. “If you’re working in the environment they’re targeting, this might be interesting,” he said.

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