7 virtual management companies to watch

Seven start-ups take on virtual server sprawl, configuration complexity, automation and more as they rush to fill the virtualization gap in today’s management tools.

Virtualization is taking enterprise companies by storm, and ill-prepared IT managers might find themselves struggling against a proliferation of virtual machines (VM), increased configuration complexity and other management issues that come with widely deploying virtual servers.

Yet IT cannot be blamed, industry watchers say, because most traditional management tools updated to take on virtual servers don't adequately do the job.

"The larger, established management vendors arrived late to managing virtual servers because ultimately they approached it as though it was just another operating system," says Andi Mann, research director at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA). "Add-ons to traditional tools are not enough, and there are big gaps in the market across different disciplines such as patch management, configuration management, discovery, inventory and more."

Those technology gaps have financial analysts bullish on start-ups offering products that install easily, track VMs from inception to destruction, and essentially approach managing a heterogeneous virtual environment in a whole new way.

"It is an early and dynamic market. We will see lots of competitive entry in this space," says Lars Leckie, an associate at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, which recently led a $4.6 million first round of funding for VKernel.

Here we shine a spotlight on seven North American start-ups that have taken on the challenge of managing virtual worlds. (While all of the start-ups claim to have customers, none were willing to name them.)

Embotics

Founded: April 2006

Headquarters: Canada

Management: Jay Litkey, founder, president and CEO, also founded Symbium, a company that focused on autonomic computing and the automated management of IT infrastructure. Embotics acquired the development team and technology of Symbium and worked to apply it to virtual server management.

Funding: Privately funded by angel investors.

What company offers: V-Commander software, which became generally available in December 2007, provides centralized policy-based management of VMs. The software can track each VM throughout its entire life cycle, and associates specific policies around access, authorization and end of life with each VM.

Why it's worth watching: "Embotics is coming at the problem of managing VMs from a broad, long-range view, incorporating inventory, usage, managing resources, applications and the policies that apply along the duration of the VM's life cycle," says Rich Ptak, founder and principal analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associates.

Where company got its name: Company executives combined the idea of embedded autonomics -- which are essential to managing virtual environments -- to come up with Embotics.

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