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Ofer Shoshan, CEO, Qlusters

Ofer ShoshanManaging tens of thousands of servers is no trivial task and it's not something you want to leave to just any software vendor.

Traditionally big enterprise deployments have gone with big enterprise vendors, but one open source vendor is hoping to take a piece of the pie.

Since 2001, Qlusters has been trying to help enterprises manage their IT environments. Since 2004, its flagship OpenQRM application has been in the market as an open-source systems-management solution for software provisioning, and it now manages virtual environments, as well.

Qlusters is also leading the Open Management Group effort, which is bringing together open source systems management vendors to help build integrated solutions with open source components.

Internetnews.com spoke with Qlusters Founder and CEO Ofer Shoshan about the challenges his company faces and what he's doing to overcome them.

Q: Qlusters has been in business for 6 years now? Have things gone according to plan or have them been some 'surprises' along the way?

When we started it was very tough from a business perspective. The market was practically dead. We started with the concept of helping enterprises migrate form their Sun and mainframe environments to commodity servers running Linux.

There have been several trends in the industry in the last few years, such as utility computing, blade servers and now virtualization. In essence, they are all driving the same concept that we had from day one. That is enabling enterprises to move from traditional enterprise systems to commodity servers and getting the same performance but at a better price.

Initially we had some tools, but we realized in time that the missing piece was the management and provisioning system. That was around 2002, and that's when we started developing OpenQRM.

The buzzwords change but the same need we saw five years ago we see today: I have a lot of servers. I need to monitor and provision them. I need to automate and manage what I'm doing.

In the past two or three quarters we've seen a lot of interest. Companies are buying again. A few years ago the needs were there, but there were no budgets and the atmosphere was still tough. Companies are now spending.

Q: What do you see as the biggest misconception in the marketplace today about what Qlusters does or doesn't do?

People usually underestimate what Qlusters can do. In many places when we finish giving a demo, we get a lot of comments like "I didn't realize you did so much."

We are mistakenly compared to Zenoss or Groundwork or Hyperic, but actually we are not. We integrate with different monitoring systems, so you could use them for monitoring but you'd use us for provisioning for automation for improving reliability of the server farm, etc.

With systems management when you're trying to manage 50 servers it's pretty straightforward. One hundred servers is also do-able; once you get to 500, 1,000 or 10,000, then it becomes a totally different ballgame. If you had to start 500 servers together without clogging the network, making sure it works, it's a different order of magnitude.

There are a lot of monitoring tools, but at the end of the day, monitoring is just a component. Customers that we speak with ask for provisioning, automation, management of virtual partitions. The tool is very broad, and we'll work on our marketing to make sure that people understand it better.

Q: Who is your competition? Is it other open source efforts or is it big vendors like Tivoli and HP OpenView?

Main competitors are products like IBM Tivoli Orchestrator. Veritas also. We still manage to win accounts due to speed and agility of the system. We talk with Fortune 500, and let's say we haven't lost a customer to one of these guys yet.

Q: What have been the barriers to adoption so far, and what are you doing to overcome them?

Well for one, Qlusters is not IBM. We are a relatively young and small company. But going open source was one of the things that elevated many of these concerns. People say, "OK you're small but I see that the project is active, that there are many contributors." Customers have the comfort level that if something happens in the future because the project is open source, they'll still have access to the project.

Naturally our customer target is big companies. Unless you have many servers, OpenQRM is not very useful. The open source approach really helps in solving any concerns companies may have with us being small.