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Virtual Instruments: Avoiding "The Abyss", trouncing Brocade and not hiding behind SDN

Bob Brown | April 16, 2013
Virtual Instruments, the nearly 5-year-old infrastructure performance management software and hardware maker, is one of those companies that might never become a household name no matter how successful it becomes. In fact, many at first mistake the company for being in the music business.

Virtual Instruments gets especially feisty towards Brocade, which has suggested that third-party tools such as those from VI might not be needed thanks to its new Fibre Channel SAN switch management software. Thompson says the two companies were once friendly and he even bounced around the idea of having Brocade invest in Virtual Instruments early on, but that the relationship has soured over time. He argues that Brocade might be able to do what Virtual Instruments can do for Brocade switches, but not for servers and arrays. "They'll be able to do one component of what we do, but not the totality of it. As customers become more cognizant of that, they'll challenge and question...Brocade's sanity." Circling back to Brocade later in our conversation, Thompson smiled and said: "We're going to trounce them."

As for Cisco, Thompson says he gets along well with the switch/router giant's CEO John Chambers, but hasn't yet been able to convince Cisco that there's value in working closely with Virtual Instruments. "They clearly would like to own more of the component parts around their infrastructure...they're focused on the server," Thompson says. "Interestingly enough, they are part of VCE [along with EMC, VMware, Intel] and we are VCE-certified, so VCE recognizes that our platform has value into that converged stack. So we'll meet [Cisco] in the marketplace, customers will drive demand for our technology and ultimate, if we're as successful as I think we can be, they'll eventually capitulate."

Meanwhile, other companies such as VMware are customers of Virtual Instruments' VirtualWisdom technology, but also could compete. "Everyone who plays in the infrastructure and data center space are going to be a competitor around [market] messaging. If you look at what VMware says today there's not a problem in the data center that they're not going to solve...but customers have problems they need to solve today and they're not going to wait for time immemorial. I give VMware enormous credit for what they've done, but they're not quite where we're at in infrastructure management."

SDN: A moment of silence

The most dramatic pause by Thompson during our discussion took place when I raised the question of "Why no mention of software-defined networking (SDN) in your literature?"

When Thompson did speak, he said VI would rather not "cloak itself in the new jargon" and keep its focus on cloud enabling customers' organizations. "I just saw an ad from VMware about the software-defined data center...well data centers have been running software forever! All software runs on hardware...forever!"

Thompson does see a need for rapid provisioning of network resources to create more agility for enterprises (the sort of capabilities associated with SDN) and says this would benefit Virtual Instruments by introducing another layer of abstraction. "The more layers of abstraction and more complexity you put in the infrastructure, we're happy about that."


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