VM management: How deep is your visibility?

Fortisphere's approach could bring unique benefits

"Ours is an intermediate driver much like a sound driver," he says. It's a micro-kernelised device driver that's about one-twentieth the size the size of a standard agent. We spent six months working with Microsoft to get this right, which reassures our customers.

"And on the performance issue, we don't impact performance as much as any agent. We implement a virtual network but we're not chatty."

According to Suit, the technology works on both Linux and Microsoft platforms. "It works kind of like WMI," he says. "It can use the AD interface and just connect, so you can then do domain deployment and you don't have to restart the VM. On Linux we deploy via yum. It takes about two minutes to get into 1,500 VMs on 10-12 ESX Servers, for example."

Vendors are naturally keen to tout the advantages of their products so when asked why an IT manager might decide not to deploy the technology, Capuano deflects the focus away from the product. "Push-back comes when people are doing infrastructure upgrades to ESX 3.5 for example, and they don't have the resources to install this. They also have to have 100+ VMs in production to make it worthwhile."

We haven't tested this product, which sells for around US$10,000, nor have we yet seen it in action, though that might change at VMworld Europe, VMware's first European customer and developer event, on which we'll be reporting this week. But, if it lives up to its promises, this unusual technological approach could bring unique benefits.

As Mark Bowker, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, recently observed, Fortisphere's strength is its ability to manage virtual machines across multiple hypervisors, something end users are asking for as they deploy multiple server virtualisation platforms.

But the company's focus is fairly limited and, like many point solution developers, it would seem probable that, in the not too distant future, the company will be snapped up by one of the major players. It's a prospect that the company's founders and shareholders will no doubt relish - and customers might even benefit too. One to watch.

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