RealTime IT News

Storage Players Play for Utility Computing

Analysis: VERITAS Software elbowed its way into further contention in the utility computing space when the storage company moved to acquire application virtualization concern Ejascent for $59 million this week.

Analysts say the purchase could help it compete with larger utility computing rivals IBM , HP and EMC .

Although the space has taken raps from research firms' such as IDC, which recently dismissed the sector as "futility computing," because it doesn't believe customers will invest heavily this year, companies such as VERITAS and EMC are wasting no time snapping up utility computing technologies.

VERITAS began its march into the increasingly competitive space over a year ago. In December 2002, it bid to buy application performance management player Precise Software Solutions and server provisioning outfit Jareva Technologies for a combined $599 million in stock and cash.

The Mountain View, Calif. company, which made its name and money as a major storage software provider, has since absorbed the companies' technologies.

Enterprise Storage Group Analyst William Hurley said VERITAS "struck gold" with the $59 million asking price for Ejasent, which he says boasts two mature products that are ideal for utility computing.

Ejasent's core product UpScale allows IT employees to move an application from one server to another without disrupting or terminating the application. UpScale takes a snapshot of an application, preserves its settings and data and transfers it to a different server in near real time.

Ejasent also sells usage-based metering and billing software, called MicroMeasure. The product measures physical and logical data center assets, including servers, storage and application transactions by specific users and departments.

VERITAS plans to integrate MicroMeasure software into the VERITAS application service level management product, CommandCentral Service.

VERITAS Senior Director of Product Marketing Bob Maness said UpScale makes it possible for IT workers to reduce the time and resources required for upgrades and application maintenance, while reducing application downtime for users. MicroMeasure, he said, provides the billing structure expected of utility computing environments.

Such on-the-fly capabilities are a hallmark of utility computing strategies, which provide customers with computing resources on-demand. Such services are often heavily automated and aim to help cost-conscious companies save money on both infrastructure and personnel.

Still, those are just some of the approaches to utility computing among vendors. IBM and HP, for example, choose to manage the data center itself and all of its corresponding infrastructure.

Others, such as EMC, are offering information lifecycle management (ILM), or managing data from its inception until its disposal. EMC also made its own move to offer utility computing services when it acquired server virtualization provider VMware in December.

Now, EMC's storage rival VERITAS has responded by purchasing its latest virtualization play, Ejasent.

"It makes perfect sense for VERITAS, as the major lone hardware/software management vendor to go after something like this," Sageza Research Director Charles King told internetnews.com. "Utility computing or virtual computing has been getting a lot of ink over the years and its seems as though the market is catching up to it. Vendors are mature enough."

Ejasent certainly fits the bill, Maness told internetnews.com. The system introduces an abstraction layer between applications and the server and operating system, enabling the movement of applications across different processing resources within a data center, including servers and storage.

Maness said he realizes industry experts might view the Ejasent bid as a knee-jerk response to the EMC/VMware agreement -- both offer virtualization technologies that shuttle applications between servers and storage --but dismissed this.

First, he said his company has looked at Ejasent for almost two years. Second, he said VERITAS had looked at VMware and other companies before settling on Ejasent, which he said approaches virtualization different than VMware.

"The way VMware works is it provides multiple instances of an operating system, so application migration takes place in the middle of the OS and performance degradation is fairly high," Maness said. "Ejasent runs stop the OS through an API and encapsulates that application so you don't get the performance overhead of VMware."

Maness said Ejasent's technology was easily a better fit for what VERITAS is trying to accomplish in offering application-oriented utility computing. But there is another reason why VERITAS did not pursue VMware, Maness said.

UpScale will be available initially on Sun Microsystem's Solaris operating system, with a Linux version planned for release in early 2005. This a shift in the EMC/VMware strategy, which Maness and analysts King and Hurley think could bump heads with Microsoft's pending Virtual Server.

VMware provides only virtualization for Intel servers and Windows runs broadly on Intel platforms. EMC and Microsoft are amiable storage partners, but both of them will be offering Intel-based virtualization, which would make them competitors.

Maness, whose company makes its products compatible with Microsoft's Windows platform, was certainly a factor why VERITAS would not consider VMware. VERITAS desires to carve out utility computing in the Linux space.

But for now, VERITAS should be happy with UpScale's Solaris focus as a lure for those thirsting for utility computing.

Hurley said VERITAS' i3 application performance management and OpForce server provisioning technologies, as well as its own CommandCentral Service have provided the company with traction as it builds a complete utility computing infrastructure. Should VERITAS desire to make UpScale work with Windows, Hurley said the company could probably make such an adjustment in short order.

Maness said VERITAS will likely not stop seeking acquisitions any time soon, noting that a major task and direction the company has is integration of its total assets into a coherent, one-stop utility computing environment.

"We don't want to offer point products," Maness said. "Our goal down the line is to look at providing application-centric value to business processes."