Virtualization is Driving the Need for Visualization

I can count on one hand the number of storage resource management (SRM) vendors who actually make money and are staying afloat selling SRM software. Oh sure, there are companies like EMC, HDS and IBM who sell SRM software along with their hardware but I always hesitate to count them in the mix. Having seen invoices that they provide to users (such as myself when I was one), the whole SRM software game as played is often a game of smoke and mirrors.

You can’t manage their hardware without their SRM software and they won’t sell their hardware without their SRM software. As a user you don’t really care how the invoice reads when you buy their storage, you just buy the stuff you need. However when the leaders in SRM software are announced by someone like Gartner, the leaders in SRM software are usually none other than the hardware vendors.

In any case, the point is that to succeed in the SRM space as an independent software vendor that does not tie the software purchase to the hardware, you need to deliver three things: (1) a great product; (2) great value, and (3) a genuine commitment to develop and evolve the product to meet customer’s needs.

One would think those points would be obvious but I believe a major reason that many SRM products failed on their first go-round was it seemed vendors were more interested in selling half-baked software and getting bought out by larger vendors than they were in providing products that worked, provided value out of the box and then delivered value to customers on a long term basis.

That’s why it is encouraging to see Tek-Tools Software and its Profiler Suite of storage and infrastructure management software thriving and claims to have closed its fourth consecutive year of double digit revenue growth in December 2007. I was briefed by Tek-Tool Software’s President and CEO, Ken Barth, in February 2008 on how Tek-Tools is doing in what continues to be a challenging climate for independent SRM software providers.

Like other vendors, Tek-Tools Software is seeing the impact of VMware among its clients – positive and negative. On the upside, virtualization is lowering client hardware and power costs and enabling them to consolidate their infrastructure. But virtualization is creating new storage management problems among its clients. Barth says clients are telling Tek-Tools, “When we virtualize, it is like we are putting on a blind fold.”

This has put pressure on Tek-Tools to evolve its Profiler suite to help its clients visualize their emerging virtual infrastructure. Virtualization simplifies the day-to-day server and storage management but makes it difficult for SRM software to drill down to view specific components in servers and storage systems without high level of integration with different operating and storage systems. “Virtualization is driving our customers to request that we extend our infrastructure management software to deliver visibility into virtualized environments alongside their physical infrastructure,” says Barth.

Tek-Tools clients are like most others – they don’t want to put agents on any their servers so Tek-Tools’ Profiler for VMware has evolved to become nearly an all agentless architecture. Reporting on most backup software, operating systems (including VMware) and storage systems is now done without any agents except for a few backup software products where it still makes more sense to use agents than without.

Yet what makes Tek-Tools Profiler for VMware somewhat unique is how it is evolving the software licensing for its Profiler software to keep it affordable and relevant in virtualized server environments. Nothing is more frustrating to customers than when they save all kinds of money by consolidating and virtualizing their servers and storage and then find out their software licensing costs stay the same because software vendors are not adapting their software licensing model for virtualized environments. In this respect, Tek-Tools wisely choose to license its Profiler software per VMware ESX regardless of how many VMs it hosts.

Tek-Tools Software is one of the few independent software companies that has managed to show value in enterprises and stay in business without wrapping hardware around its software, or vice versa. The fact that Tek-Tools continues to evolve its software and its software licensing demonstrates that it is listening to customer needs and adapting to the new virtual world. However when buying any SRM product, companies are advised to look before they leap and make sure that the Tek-Tools Profiler suite provides the seamless level of deployment and integration that is needed to ensure a transparent and easy implementation.

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