VMware Acquires Shavlik: Where Has The Innovation Gone?

VMware has agreed to acquire Shavlik Technologies; the terms of transaction were not disclosed.  Shavlik was founded in 1993, is headquartered in Minnesota, and offers a full suite of products to manage physical or virtual servers and laptops/desktops.  Shavlik is no stranger to VMware as the companies jointly developed VMware GO, a SaaS based IT management offering.

While Shavlik is an excellent acquisition for VMware as their technology is solid and they are sure to grow faster under VMware’s umbrella, the question is why?  VMware paints this acquisition as a way to increase their penetration within small and medium business (SMB).  Mark Shavlik, President and CEO, writes via his blog, “We will also be entering global markets much faster by working with Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Solution Providers. This enables more companies around the world to utilize our SaaS and On-Premise solutions.”  If Shavlik’s solution can scale to meet the needs of MSPs and Solution Providers, then is it really simply a SMB solution?

Perhaps it’s just me, but this whole thing seems a bit scripted for my taste.  From the press release to the blog post to the media coverage, it feels a bit like listening to politicians running through their talking points.   In an effort to shield themselves from the wrath of traditional IT management companies such as Symantec, HP, LANDesk, and IBM, Is VMware intentionally downplaying Shavlik’s capabilities?  After all, VMware has acquired a company that has full management capabilities including antivirus, patch management, configuration management, asset management, and power management.

At a time when VMware’s Enterprise dominance is being challenged by both Microsoft and Red Hat, Shavlik looks to be a defensive acquisition to protect the lower end of the market.  However, how many people have heard about VMware Go prior to this acquisition?  Will VMware roll Shavlik’s products into Ionix rationalizing the overlap with Configuresoft?   Does this help VMware with Hybrid Clouds?  Public Clouds?  Workloads?

More importantly, has VMware become so large that they have lost the ability to innovate and disrupt a market that they created?  This is not VMware’s first acquisition from their 3rd party partner ecosystem, and I suspect it is not their last.  VMworld 2011 is certainly going to be interesting!

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Dell Avoids Aster and Dodges a 296 Million Dollar Mistake

Another one bites the dust as Teradata has acquired Aster Data for a reported $263 million.  This represents 89% of Aster Data shares as Teradata already owned 11% of Aster bringing the true acquisition cost to $296 million or $275 million after subtracting Aster’s $21 million in cash.  In any case, that’s a lot of money for a company of Aster’s age and size.

For Teradata this acquisition makes sense as they continue to compete against HP (Vertica), IBM (Netezza), EMC (Greenplum), Oracle, and SAP (HANA).  Teradata is faced with an age-old question for technology companies; hold on to their proprietary ways of the past or reach for the open and commoditized ways of the future.  It is not clear to me which direction Teradata will choose. However, it is clear to me that, unlike Dell, Teradata is the right company in the right industry to make such a gamble on Aster; the database guru’s at Aster, Tazo Argyros and Mayank Bawa, will find themselves at home within the halls of Teradata.

While I applaud Dell for continuing to blaze their own path, it seems others within the technical community are harder to please.  Per Gigaom’s Stacey Higginbotham’s article posted on March 3, 2011:

So for Dell, and any other big data wannabes out there, the only proven options left to
start
fulfilling this niche are ParAccel, Infobright, and Ingres’s VectorWise Platform.”

I’d hardly call Dell a “big data wannabe” and perhaps some have misconstrued their attempted acquisition of 3Par as a precursor to Dell entering this space.  In fact, Dell has been quite clear that any software acquisitions must have an impact on their strategic lines of business.  While Aster and other big data start-ups have the potential of driving Dell’s server and storage sales, their valuations and competitive landscapes make them a risky move for Dell.

Dell is quickly becoming the king of “Cloud Neutrality” as they are providing key pieces of the solution to their customers while working with various infrastructure providers such as Juniper, Cisco, and more. By purchasing disruptive Cloud software companies within the areas of management, orchestration, security, and monitoring, Dell could further their leadership in this market.  Think the completion of UEC; very exciting!

Since I’ve never started a billion dollar company from my dorm room, I’ll defer to Michael Dell to make the right moves for his company.  Perhaps they’ll enter the big data market with a smaller software acquisition and integrate it into other cloud offerings thereby indirectly attacking the market.  For now, Teradata has gotten a bit stronger while Dell has avoided a $296 million mistake.

Cloud Wars: Cisco Invades OpenStack

Simply put, Cisco is an amazing company.  Love them, hate them, fear them, or fight them, but always respect them.  While other large companies such as IBM and GE have “reinvented” themselves, few have done so prior to having a profound downturn in either market share and/or stock prices.

With an innocent blog post by Lew Tucker, Cisco VP and CTO of Cloud Computing, Cisco has invaded OpenStack under the guise of Networking.  Remember, OpenStack was founded by NASA and Rackspace and currently has over 45 members with the mission of providing open source software to build public and private clouds.  However, none of OpenStack’s members have the shear size or market power of Cisco.

In his post (http://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco-joins-openstack-community/) Lew writes:

In our view, dynamic provisioning of the network and network-based services is an essential element of cloud computing…

…To achieve this, we believe that it is best to join with others from across the industry to work on open technologies and that open source is the ideal way to reach developers and learn from the community…

My Take, Cisco is spending billions of dollars to insure their continuing dominance in networking and Cloud computing.  By joining OpenStack, Cisco gains visibility into OpenStack’s interworking as well as the ability to influence the direction and speed of the project itself.  As an added benefit, Cisco will learn from the community while having the ability to reach a set of talented developers that otherwise may never have engaged with Cisco.

Clearly, Cisco understands how to build complex partnerships across competitive lines.  While VMware has vCloud, do they not work with other server vendors?  Would EMC not sell a SAN to an HP customer?  As a server vendor, Cisco is learning that choosing neutrality over products has its benefits especially when it comes to software.

While OpenStack is “hot” and an interesting project, they have their competitors as well with more coming. It remains to be seen if,  “a collection of open source technologies delivering a massively scalable cloud computing operating system” is supportable and useable by mainstream Administrators and Enterprises.  Perhaps this is what VMware is betting on with their vCloud solution.

One final note, where are the Operating System Vendors in this fight? Yes, Ubuntu is currently packaging applications like OpenStack and Eucalyptus but we need an integrated Cloud Operating System, not simply a collection of applications.  Microsoft, Red Hat, Apple, anyone….

Let the Consolidation Begin: Verizon buys Terremark

First, let’s have a round of applause for Verizon and their executive leadership.  Verizon has shown the ability to move beyond marketing trends to acquire ‘smart’ technology companies that address core business needs.  While others in this space have a ‘not invented here’ mentality, Verizon has no such issue.  Need proof?  Look no further than their Cybertrust acquisition in 2007.

Second, the giant smiles at Savvis, Rackspace, Hosting.com, GoGrid, and others are causing a blinding industry whiteout.  Savvis and Rackspace are both innovators and leaders in this space and are hot growth and/or acquisition targets.  These companies aren’t selling marchitecture; instead they are building unique architectures using leading-edge technologies from VMware, Cisco, EMC, Intel, and others.

Third, Amazon is the wild card in this equation.  No slighting of Amazon’s cloud prowess in this blog, as they are clearly a disruptive and growing force within the industry.  Amazon’s leadership made strategic bets before this rocket ship took off, and they are reaping the benefits of solid execution.  What remains to be seen is if Enterprises are truly ready for a Cloud or if they will demand collocation and/or dedicated server hardware, of which Amazon does not currently offer.

Finally, here we go again, it’s AT&T vs. Verizon.  Let’s not kid ourselves, Verizon’s real target is AT&T and Terremark gives them a strategic energy boost.  However, AT&T’s no slouch in the Cloud or Managed Services arenas.  AT&T offers a complete portfolio of IAAS, Cloud Storage, Co-Location, Virtualization, and Managed Services.  Furthermore, AT&T has an impressive track record of providing high quality Enterprise Class Solutions to their customers. Not to mention, AT&T has a rock-solid partnership/relationship with IBM.

One last thought, lets not forget that the Cloud depends on many physical elements such as datacenters (real estate), servers, storage, networking, security, applications, and people (talent).  As the cloud grows, datacenter growth (global) will become increasingly important.  Verizon gains on all fronts with Terremark; not to mention a healthy mix of Government and Enterprise Customers.

Let the consolidation begin and may the best valuations win.

NetApp Acquires Akorri: A Nice Band-Aid To A Complex Problem

NetApp has announced their plans to acquire Akorri Networks.  While the terms of the deal are unknown, we do know that Akorri raised over $50 million dollars in VC funding and that they have over 200 customers.  We also know that Akorri “develops cross-domain analytical software solutions that optimize performance and utilization in the dynamic data center.”

Underneath the marketing literature, Akorri plays in the crowded space of Virtualization Capacity and Performance Management with a twist; they have concentrated on storage bottlenecks within a virtual infrastructure.  Akorri supports VMware and Hyper-V as well as storage systems from NetApp, Dell, HP, IBM, LSI, EMC, and HDS.

Meanwhile, NetApp has become quite a virtualization storage powerhouse that includes FlexPod, a partnership with Cisco and VMware. Moreover, this is not NetApp’s first rodeo as they acquired Onaro, storage management software, in January of 2008.  Unlike their competitors, NetApp managed to integrate rather than deprecate Onaro’s software, as it remains very much alive within NetApp’s software portfolio branded as OnCommand Management Software (OMS).

Why does this matter?  While we are firmly within the grasps of an IT paradigm shift, there are major challenges that require both short-term band-aids and long-term solutions.  After years of hiding behind the silo’d walls of IT, storage is such an area.  Specifically, storage is becoming a major bottleneck for virtualization deployments and a major headache for traditional IT Management Frameworks.

Clearly, NetApp understands this challenge and I can only surmise that their customers are clamoring for a solution.  Although Akorri does not address the long-term challenge, they do offer NetApp a nice band-aid with the ability to extend OMS to provide their customers a view into their virtualization storage bottlenecks.  I’d expect two versions of this new solution offering both a NetApp only and an Expanded solution.

Meanwhile, it is time to address the long-term challenge of the next generation datacenter.  Virtualization is an incredible technology, but we cannot forget the physical world that includes servers, storage, networking, and security.  We cannot forget the applications, both old and new, that are the centerpiece of this revolution.  We cannot forget the dynamics of a changing world and its hunger for ‘Green’ solutions.  We cannot forget the tremendous complexities and pressures that the next-generation datacenter imposes on system engineers and their operation counterparts.

Ah, but that’s another blog post.  For now, let’s celebrate that Akorri has found a new home while NetApp has added a nice band-aid to a complex problem.

Can Cisco Eat their EMC and Have Their NetApp To?

With 2010 nearing a close, could Cisco be contemplating another major acquisition to complete their next generation datacenter portfolio?  The last glaring hole within Cisco’s portfolio is their reliance on outside vendors for storage solutions.

Over the past few months, Cisco has patiently watched as HP purchased 3Par, EMC purchased Isilon, and Dell is acquiring Compellent.  Meanwhile, EMC’s arch nemesis NetApp continues to grow and innovate in a tough economy.

Further complicating matters, is Cisco’s reliance on the VCE, a partnership between VMware, Cisco, EMC, and Intel.  It is no coincidence that the current Vblock VCE Reference Architectures specifies EMC storage offerings (CLARiiON, Symmetrix, and Celerra).

Not to be left out of the party, NetApp entered into  ‘collaboration’ with Cisco and VMware creating FlexPod that delivers ‘leading computing, networking, storage, and infrastructure software components’.  It seems that Cisco isn’t the only one hedging their bets as VMware exerts a rebellious streak against their parent (EMC).

Cisco’s future hinges around UCS being adopted as a true next generation computing platform without legacy baggage.  Cisco did not go to war with HP while potentially jeopardizing their relationship with IBM only to be saddled with the competing interests of three large companies.

In the past, I have speculated that Cisco should simply purchase EMC thereby owing a majority stake in VMware.  However is NetApp a better choice?  After all, does VMware need to maintain a ‘Microsoft’ level of independence from the server vendors?  Would HP, IBM, Dell, etc. be inclined to sell a product that lines the pocket of Cisco?

Only Chambers (ok perhaps Ellison as well) would be as bold to acquire an enemy of one of their strategic partners.  By acquiring NetApp, Cisco would be able to offer innovative solutions such as storage blades for UCS or even accelerate the adoption of FCoE.  Imagine a new Cisco Architecture with Cisco UCS, Cisco Nexus, Cisco MDS, Cisco FlexPod, and Cisco Management with the availability of VMware, Citrix, Red Hat, or Microsoft virtualization.

In the end, Cisco could offer a true end-to-end solution as they continue to lead within the edge and core routing markets with near dominance in the switching market.  Furthermore, Cisco would stand alone as the only integrated next generation data center provider that does not develop or sell enterprise class applications such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, etc.  In effect, they become the Switzerland of computing against their rivals.

The only question is how long will Cisco be able to ‘Eat their EMC and have their NetApp to’? Don’t look now, but perhaps Larry (Oracle) will crash this party and make the decision for then.

IBM Throws a Pebble at Cisco UCS; Buys Blade Networks

In the wake of increasing competition from the likes of Cisco, HP, vEMC (VMware plus EMC), IBM responds by purchasing Blade Networks.  For those who have never heard of Blade Networks, Blade was mercifully spun out of Nortel Networks and has hundreds of customers and several hardware OEM deals.  Coincidentally, I think not, Blade has been a long time partner of both IBM and IBM/Netezza.

After years of transforming themselves into a software/services company, IBM is being forced back into the networking business.   While some have postulated that “IBM has turned their back on Juniper Networks”, the reality is Juniper’s baggage may be too big for even IBM to swallow.  Additionally, IBM’s purchase of Blade Networks is a pebble across the bow of Cisco and will do little to anger one of their most strategic partners.

Blade gives IBM a converged networking fabric company while eliminating their competitors from Blade’s technology; namely HP, NEC, and SGI.  Additionally, Blade provides IBM a way to ‘dip their toe in the water’ to see if the market, customers, and partners approve of this new direction.  If IBM is truly looking to challenge UCS or Matrix, then they need additional pieces to this puzzle.

What IBM needs is a new platform ala Cisco UCS that eliminates the baggage of the original blade systems; optimized for density and space.  They must examine how to better integrate their storage platforms with their blades using FCoE and perhaps should look towards a true Multi-Hop FCoE solution.  They must revolutionize virtualization and I/O as perhaps no one else on this planet has the experience, patents, and real world deployments as IBM.  Finally, IBM has the opportunity to rethink management by acquiring, integrating, and refining their current solutions.

If IBM needs a little inspiration, then they can look to their long time bitter enemy Oracle.  While virtualization, fabrics, networking, server chassis, and storage is interesting, applications are still king.  Oracle’s vision is clear; you can run our apps on any server or virtualization platform you want, but it just runs better on Oracle.

The last time I checked, IBM is still Big Blue and they have an arsenal of technology at their disposal.  The question is  ‘if’ and ‘when’ IBM will wake from their slumber and lead the industry once again.  Aside from a blockbuster merger between IBM and Cisco, … hey, one can dream… your move Dell.

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