By Joe Clabby, Clabby Analytics
Almost two years ago we wrote our first report on Virtual Instruments (VI), a fast growing, analytics-driven performance management company with a strong focus on making infrastructure more efficient. We described the VI product portfolio which included “VirtualWisdom,” the company’s infrastructure performance management platform, and associated hardware and software offerings known as “Probes” (ProbeVM, ProbeSW, Probe FC and Probe NTAP). We also observed that the company was using “advanced correlation techniques, analytics and visualization to provide definitive and actionable insights on infrastructure/application behavior” using hardware appliances to offload systems from having to burn precious cycles gathering monitoring information. In essence, VI had created a separate performance monitoring/availability management/utilization optimization environment that has a very low impact on system operation and latency.
Last year, we reported that Virtual Instruments had merged with Load DynamiX – adding a performance testing, validation and change management environment to its analytics-driven infrastructure management portfolio. With these combined facilities, customers are better able to understand and test application/infrastructure relationships – enabling them to significantly improve application performance, particularly as it relates to Fibre Channel storage. Since that acquisition, Virtual Instruments has expanded Load DynamiX functionality into network-attached storage with its new NAS Performance Probe – and will soon introduce and iSCSI Probe. VI customers have reacted favorably to this acquisition: for 2016 year to date, Virtual Instruments revenues are running at 122% of plan.
On November 15, VI announced that it had acquired Xangati, a provider of products that monitor, analyze and control private and hybrid cloud infrastructure in real time – in an application-aware context. VI describes Xangati as “a service assurance analytics and performance control platform that optimizes virtual application workloads, leveraging an in-memory platform architected for automation based on machine-learned heuristics.” The way we see it, however, is that Xangati expands the VI portfolio by providing new insights into application behavior in environments beyond storage – particularly into cloud network infrastructure and compute/virtualization layer activities. And what is special about Xangati is that it uses new types of analytics (contention analytics, predictive capacity analysis and adaptive control) to examine application activities within networks, private clouds, deep compute environments, at the virtualization layer and in public clouds.
With the Xangati acquisition, VI is expanding its reach – moving beyond its initial application/storage infrastructure performance management focus into the complex world of application behavior within hybrid clouds. And Xangati is a perfect match for VI in that the company’s solutions were built on using machine-driven analysis of networks (particularly real-time security analysis) to speed the analysis of activities and application behavior. By merging Xangati functionality with the VI’s VirtualWisdom analytics/reporting platform, VI customers will now be able to understand application behavior within cloud environments – expanding VI’s reach and value to IT infrastructure managers and application owners looking for a holistic application/infrastructure performance management environment. The VirtualWisdom infrastructure performance management (IPM) platform will become the ideal complement to application performance management (APM) solutions.
The competitive environment
The Xangati acquisition also extends VI’s reach into one of the hottest market segments in the IT marketplace: public/private/hybrid cloud, and gives VI customers the ability to monitor application behavior across networks, within virtualized environments, within virtual desktop environments, within cloud environments and even down to the granular container level. This is all accomplished from a single-pane-of-glass management, analysis and reporting environment (VirtualWisdom – expect Xangati functionality to be blended into this VI management environment in phases in 2017). We are aware of only one other company (IBM) that offers this level of rich application layer analysis combined with deep infrastructure analysis – and IBM’s approach and price points are completely different.
What makes VI’s approach different from application performance management vendors and other infrastructure performance management software suppliers (that usually offer point product solutions) is that the company can use hardware appliances known as “Probes” to relieve systems from monitoring, management and analysis duties. The reason this is important is that running VI’s software obviously burns system cycles. Those cycles aren’t free – they consume anywhere from 2 to 5% of a system’s resources – and that can be costly across dozens, hundreds or even large scale systems. In addition, software-only based monitoring solutions don’t support true real-time monitoring. VirtualWisdom hardware probes enable sub-second wire data collection and analysis whereas software solutions typically poll the infrastructure once every 2 to 5 minutes. What VI has done is offload most of this processing to independent low-cost, Intel-based servers that analyze large amounts of systems-/storage-/network-monitoring data – and then use analytics to look for problems, anomalies or opportunities to tune systems.
It is also worth noting that some application performance management vendors are just starting to use machine learning and analytics while VI already offers a rich and varied suite of analytics tools and reporting facilities. VI’s solutions already work across domains, they already measure and contextualize how applications are deployed (topology) and how they behave; they already perform analysis on large amounts of data in real time; they already use predictive analytics to suggest recommendations; and they already close the loop by providing testing and validation in order to ensure that applications can be deployed on underlying infrastructure in a high-fidelity, highly efficient manner. In other words, VI has already taken a leadership position in application-centric infrastructure performance management.
The big impact
As far back as 2011, Clabby Analytics started to report on the increasing role of analytics in managing systems and infrastructure. The basic concept that we have been trying to get information technology (IT) executives to understand is this: with the advent of machine-driven analytics, systems can now look at more data than is humanly possible, in far less time, and provide important insights into application behavior, infrastructure shortcomings and tuning opportunities.
By making systems do more of the complex application behavior analysis, enterprises can save big money in three different ways: 1) the use of infrastructure/application behavior analysis tools results in the need for far fewer systems/appli-cation/database analysts to analyze system behavior – saving enterprises big money in analyst salaries and benefits; 2) less-skilled individuals are needed for troubleshooting and tuning – again saving enterprises big money in terms of salaries (while also helping enterprises address skills gaps); and, 3) infrastructure performance management tools help reduce overprovisioning – adding more equipment than needed to execute workloads (because infrastructure performance management tools help IT managers and administrators build more efficient systems that utilize fewer resources).
In addition to saving big money in salary/equipment costs, enterprises can also solve problems more quickly using real-time analytics that provide analysis on large volumes of monitored data in timeframes that are exponentially faster than human response times. In fact, the financial benefits of avoiding performance slowdowns and business outages can easily outweigh the significant CAPEX and OPEX savings.
We expect that VI’s approach to application/infrastructure integration will remain the same, even after the Xangati acquisition. The company collects data from applications, infrastructure and the network (instrumentation); it then contextualizes applications and infrastructure – showing how each relates. Once contextualization has taken place, application/infrastructure analysis can take place on workload performance, contention issues, etc. Once recommended changes have been made, developers can model, simulate and test the proposed changes. Finally, changes are deployed in production and adapted to workload needs. VI’s storage and testing products use this approach today; Xangati’s network and cloud performance monitoring products will also follow the same path.
It is noteworthy that VI has become profitable this year. Its business is growing; new products are being rolled into its VirtualWisdom platform; and, it is expanding its relationship with third parties such as APM and system vendors in order to find new ways to market. With its combined software and hardware approach we see VI as a unique offering – and with its expansion through acquisition approach, we believe the company will find other software companies that can complement this portfolio. By targeting hot market segments with unique and deep offerings, we see a solid growth path for Virtual Instruments in the future.