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Over the last couple of years there has been a consolidation of the entire fabric of the data center into resource pools for server, networking, storage and compute resources. With this phase now essentially complete, organizations are now moving to virtualize mission critical applications.
Rob Smoot, director of product marketing for VMware’s vCenter management products, says the volume of recent acquisitions in the virtualization management space, by VMware and other vendors, underscores the importance of management tools in helping companies get to the next level in virtualization.
"This is where management function becomes critical," said Smoot. "If you're virtualizing applications, some of the management disciplines are more demanding, and customers are focusing on this."
Palo Alto, Calif.-based VMware has made significant investments in the past 18 months to beef up its management capabilities. Last August, VMware shelled out $100 million to acquire Integrien, a maker of performance monitoring and analytics software for virtual and cloud environments. Last February, VMware acquired several management products from EMC's Ionix portfolio, including Server Configuration Manager (previously known as Configuresoft), FastScale, Application Discovery Manager (formerly nLayers), and Service Manager.
The technology from both deals is baked into VMware's VCloud Director, a software layer that operates on top of vSphere to enable administrators to manage virtualized environments more efficiently. It's also part of vCenter Operations, a set of new products designed for performance, capacity and configuration management in virtual and cloud environments running on vSphere.
"IT is now acting more as a service provider, managing the virtualized infrastructure and providing all the resources to the business," said Smoot. "vCloud Director allows you to take all of the resources in the data center, pool them together into virtual data centers, and present it to a business unit."
Management challenges are just as evident in desktop virtualization, where the explosion of mobile device usage has been throwing curve balls at IT administrators, first with smartphones and now with tablet PCs. "Employees want more device choice, and they want to be able to access their desktops from different locations and from different types of devices," said Terry Cosgrove, principal research analyst at Gartner.
In light of the growing number of security attacks targeting vulnerabilities that have already been patched, and the ineffectiveness of signature based antivirus software, desktop virtualization gives companies a way to minimize their attack surface through a standardized infrastructure. But standardization has a tendency to strip away personalization, and so startups have been cropping up to address this need.
Unidesk, a Marlborough, Mass.-based virtualization vendor, sells products that tackle the complexity of managing VDI, the costs of which are especially high in large enterprises. Unidesk's technology provides the standardization that IT departments crave as well as the ability for users to download applications beyond what IT delivers.
Goldman Sachs' recent decision to invest $70 million in AppSense, a 12-year old user virtualization vendor, is a sign of where things are headed on the desktop virtualization side. User virtualization tackles the IT challenge of preserving and managing an employee's personal workspace across a range of different devices and connection scenarios, whether the desktop is locally installed, virtualized, published, or streamed.
If the notion of 100 percent virtualization is attainable, and many solution providers believe it is, management tools are going to play a big role in getting companies over the hump. Whether through in-house development or via acquisition, vendors are going to be pulling out the stops to add management to their virtualization toolsets, and the end result could be to propel the technology to an even higher profile than it currently occupies.