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VMware analytics wade into DevOps monitoring fray

Wavefront will add microservices support to the vRealize suite in an attempt to raise VMware’s profile in progressive IT shops.

A VMware analytics acquisition this week seeks to win over the hearts and minds of progressive enterprises as part of a bigger -- and still hazy -- foray for the virtualization company into microservices and DevOps.

The addition of Wavefront, a Palo Alto, Calif., startup, offers support for large enterprises to manage VMware analytics as they shift to microservices by capturing more granular infrastructure data than VMware tools currently provide. The move is also meant to raise VMware's profile among app development and DevOps teams.

Wavefront will add the ability to normalize logs and other data generated by infrastructure, as well as by other application monitoring tools, into metrics for rapid analysis. Wavefront's analytics on that data -- claimed to be over 100 original algorithms -- can help IT pros get to the root of problems and predict how the infrastructure will behave. Such capabilities have largely been the domain of large web-scale IT shops with massive infrastructures to manage, as well as progressive enterprises that develop cloud-native, microservices-based apps.

VMware already offers VM and infrastructure management and monitoring with its vRealize products, but microservices are a different animal. The vRealize tools collect information every five minutes, for example, which may not be fast enough to capture transitory container-based microservices. By comparison, Wavefront's software can sample infrastructure data every second. Microservices may also involve an order of magnitude more objects and services than are present in a VM infrastructure -- Wavefront can collect a million data points per second and analyze them simultaneously.

IT analytics is a burgeoning field, with dozens of companies having entered the space in recent years. Forrester Research counts 60 such companies on the market, and those are just the ones that target IT, with dozens more that target the general line of business, said Milan Hanson, an analyst at Forrester.

Hanson predicted further consolidation as big players such as VMware look to capitalize on analytics companies' foot in the door with progressive DevOps shops.

"I don't think the market can sustain 60 different players," he said.

Wavefront's claim to fame in this crowded market -- now part of VMware's analytics intellectual property -- has been its query-centric interface, which can parse sophisticated questions to figure out what's going on in a complex infrastructure, said Nancy Gohring, an analyst at 451 Research.

"It's the way large web-scale [shops] do troubleshooting -- they keep asking questions until they find the root of the problem," Gohring said.

This is more efficient than dashboard-based monitoring, provided the operator knows what they're doing. "It's harder to use for enterprises just beginning to adopt modern infrastructure," she said. Wavefront also introduced canned dashboards to accommodate this type of IT user last June.

Competitors erode VMware analytics customer base

Wavefront can act as a manager of managers, ingesting and correlating data between existing tools throughout a hybrid cloud infrastructure, which is similar to VMware's goals with vRealize tools. But there's no guarantee this new combination will increase VMware's relevance among progressive IT teams, as competitors in IT analytics already do brisk business within VMware's customer base.

OpsDataStore, for example, this week claimed an industry first in root-cause analysis and infrastructure mapping -- historically the domain of the vRealize suite from VMware. The company's Dynamic Topology Mapping can establish the relationships between transactions, applications, and their virtual and physical infrastructure every minute, and it reportedly solves a correlation problem between application monitoring and change management tools.

It seems like VMware is playing catch-up and they're behind the curve ... for me as a customer, there's not a lot of clarity about their portfolio.
Jason GreenbackSystems engineer, Varian Medical Systems Inc.

One large VMware shop has already left vRealize in favor of monitoring with tools that include Cisco's AppDynamics and Turbonomic, with OpsDataStore as an umbrella over them all. The company, Navis, maker of software that runs shipping ports around the world, has begun to use analytics to predict the availability of IT resources on a global scale and place workloads appropriately.

OpsDataStore's correlations also make it easy to prioritize troubleshooting on mission-critical systems, said Dave McCandless, vice president of IT at Navis, based in Oakland, Calif.

"VRealize is something I could look at again in the future, but Turbonomic and OpsDataStore already put a stake in the ground," he said. Navis has begun to look at the new Dynamic Topology Mapping for root-cause analysis in an infrastructure composed of thousands of VMs.

VMware users want clarity

VMware's largest and most entrenched customers still look to the company for help as they move forward into microservices infrastructures and DevOps software development techniques. Those companies still need updated VMware analytics tools to help modernize their approach.

Varian Medical Systems Inc., a medical devices company based in Palo Alto, Calif., has a massive private data center infrastructure, but also uses Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services public cloud platforms, and it wants to unify management across them. No human can sift through all the metrics associated with such an environment, which is where Wavefront's analytics would come in.

"It seems like VMware is playing catch-up and they're behind the curve, which would explain the acquisition of Wavefront," said Jason Greenback, systems engineer with Varian. "But for me as a customer, there's not a lot of clarity about their portfolio."

Due to confusion about VMware's overall strategic direction, Varian has also begun to look into vRealize competitors such as RightScale and Cisco's CliQr.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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