10 virtualization vendors to watch in 2008

Virtualization could hardly be hotter as a trend, yet virtualization management and security tools are still in their infancy. At first glance, it defies logic.

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Sharpening your virtualization vision, by CIO Canada’s Dave Carey

But those on the front lines of virtualization efforts know the reality of the problem: VMs can be deployed in minutes, which is a big advantage on the tactical side — and a big worry on the management side.

After initial virtualization deployments wowed business people with their ability to save money and speed up processes like IT provisioning, the number of VMs quickly escalated in enterprises. Issues like balancing workloads on virtualized servers and tracking all those VMs became much more important. The big vendors in the space, VMware and Xen (now owned by Citrix), were, to some extent, learning along with the customers about the everyday management headaches and concerns.

Only as more of those worries arose did rival companies come knocking on IT’s doors with products designed to provide a comprehensive look at the virtualized data center, manage it and protect it.

Sure, VMware and Citrix/Xen have their own management tools. But who are the other key companies innovating in this area? We talked to CIOs and industry analysts to narrow down a list of ten virtualization management and security vendors that should be on any IT leader’s radar screen in 2008.

1. CiRBA

CiRBA’s Data Center Intelligence Software can help IT leaders analyze and visually map how to migrate and consolidate servers to a virtualized environment. For instance, CiRBA’s tools help you figure out which servers and applications can coexist efficiently. The tools analyze factors such as application middleware, database configurations, required service levels and workload patterns. Then CiRBA’s tools can help manage the virtualized environment. “CiRBA’s planning tool is extensible, allowing planners to add custom evaluation criteria to any planning scenario,” says Burton Group senior analyst Chris Wolf. “This is extremely valuable.” CiRBA’s tools can also be used in planning for OS virtualization, application stacking and migrations to blade environments—and prove helpful for virtualization security audits, notes Wolf.

2. Vizioncore

Who’s got your virtual backup? Many organizations continue to choose Vizioncore, which has become well-known for its VM backup tool, vRanger Pro. But Vizioncore tackles performance management as well. Vizioncore tools like vCharter, which examines what’s going on inside each VM, can provide a window into utilization and performance questions. For a look at one company’s tactical experience with Vizioncore, see How Server Virtualization Tools Can Balance Data Center Loads.

3. Akorri

Akorri’s BalancePoint suite can help solve one of the toughest questions IT teams have around virtualization: How far can I push this physical server by adding on more VMs without affecting application service levels? BalancePoint’s analysis tools can see across server, storage and software issues to help you plan and manage workload balancing issues. Monster.com, for instance, uses Balance Point to see which apps are competing for storage and server resources—and ensure IT’s ability to meet service-level goals. BalancePoint also can help decipher why a particular VM is not performing as well as expected.

4. Platform Computing

Also fighting on the workload automation front, Platform Computing’s VM Orchestrator and Enterprise Grid Orchestrator products could get the attention of more IT groups in 2008. “Platform Computing has a history of expertise in grid computing and workload automation,” notes Burton Group’s Wolf, “and I believe several virtualization vendors will look to leverage Platform Computing’s proven architecture as they build out products to compete with workload automation alternatives such as VMware’s Distributed Resource Scheduler.”

5. Embotics

Embotics calls itself a “VM Lifecycle Management” company. That’s the kind of jargon that not everyone likes. But the company’s V-Commander software (which integrates with VMware’s VirtualCenter management suite) deserves interest, says IDC Research Director Stephen Elliott. The product aims to reign in the problem of “rogue VMs” that IT may not know about, and lets IT apply policies and automation to the job of tagging and tracking each VM in the company. Embotics claims early success with customers in regulated industries who face extra audit pressure. “They are taking a lifecycle perspective, really looking at integrating security controls, change management and policy from one dashboard,” Elliot says. “The goal is to help users drive an integrated governance approach to managing virtual machines—notably from the use of policies that dictate the virtual machine lifecycle from creation to retirement.”

6. EqualLogic

Storage firm EqualLogic, recently acquired by Dell, became known for its iSCSI storage-area network (SAN) products, which have now been optimized for virtualization. These products can help enterprise IT radically reduce storage costs using a SAN. (Before iSCSI, the only other mainstream option was fibre channel, a technology that’s too complex and expensive to manage for many companies.) Within storage, iSCSI is a hot growth area: IDC expects 25 percent of all external storage sold in 2011 to be iSCSI-based. For more advice on why and how to deploy iSCSI SANs, see Rethink Your Storage Infrastructure.

7. PlateSpin

Known for its physical-to-virtual conversion tools and workload management tools, PlateSpin continues to win over customers even as some free conversion tools have become available, says Burton Group’s Wolf. PlateSpin’s P2V conversion tool, PowerConvert, has remained relevant due to its expanded use models, including disaster recovery staging and virtual-to-physical conversion capabilities, Wolf says. Also, PlateSpin added chargeback reporting to its PowerRecon product, an interesting reporting and management tool, just as many IT groups are trying to figure out how to do chargebacks to business units in the virtualized world.

8. Marathon Technologies

How do you deal with planned and unplanned downtime in a virtualized environment? Marathon’s everRun HA (high availability) and everRun FT (fault tolerant) products have won acclaim —including a recent VMworld Best of Show award — for their ability to help IT ensure availabilit

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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