Well, since everyone else is talking about it, I might as well throw down my thoughts.
Very smart, calculated move! I love the fact that they have a very focused, defined beachhead as they dip their toe into the deep end of the data center (aka servers). Cisco for the last few years has danced around many other aspects of the data center with VoIP, Video and other network dependent applications or services. This data center in a box strategy, while not a new concept, has some new technologies and approaches that will attract the top 2% of huge data centers to kick off proof-of-concepts over the next year. They will enjoy kicking the tires and more importantly Cisco will learn more while building credibility. It will also open up more conversations that traditionally Cisco wasn’t included in, so depending on how they execute and industry reaction we may see Cisco make more strategic moves in this direction.
Also, even with all the buzz and worries about Cisco versus HP, IBM, Dell, SUN, etc, etc….for the most part this won’t be happening for years. I understand HP’s very vocal responses since it’s also a great opportunity to use Cisco’s “getting into the blade server” message to say “why not consider us as an alternative to network routers/switches (they are #2 these days on the LAN switch front…a very distant #2).”
So basically for the next year or 18 months Cisco will be busy delivering on this vision…working with 20-30 key high-end data center customers in proof of concept mode hoping to fine tune this offering to a point where one or two of those big guys take the plunge and make a significant purchase.
Specific to Data Center Automation, this is a HUGE win for BMC! I look forward to reading more on what precisely this offering includes and how it works. The experience and access BMC will gain through a traditional networking giant (not their traditional area of expertise or success) will help them tremedously. I remember years ago when working on integrations and joint efforts with BMC and when we mentioned “what do you have for networking” they would simply draw an ambiguous cloud….not anymore since Cisco will show them the nuances to “the cloud.”
So that’s my .02. Based on what you’ve heard what impact do you think this will make to the data center..good…bad..indifferent?
I decided it was time to review and make an update to the IT Process Automation, Process Orchestration, Run Book Automation, Data Center Automation, IT Process Integration, or whatever name each vendor, customer or analysts choose to call it. Since my last update to the Data Center Automation Blueprint (DCAB) there have been some industry changes with some vendors going a different direction, other being acquired, etc.
A quick review of this space from the DCAB is first up.
Description – Cross-silo automation for mundane manual or high occurrence tasks. The capabilities are focused around helping individual technology domains (e.g., network, windows, unix, database, etc) communicate and collaborate to automate tasks that before required numerous people and passing around a trouble ticket.
Top 5 Capabilities
1) Drag/Drop graphical interface for designing process workflows
2) Common, normalized Data Model of common/primary attributes
3) Library of pre-defined, re-usable actions/triggers/processes for usage out-of-the-box (bigger the better – even a community that shares is a plus)
4) Policy/Desired-state engine driving things
5). Sandbox, simulator to help test workflows without impacting actual resources/instances within the production enterprise.
BMC (formerly RealOps)
CA (formerly Optinuity)
HP (formerly Opsware, formerly iConclude)
IBM (formerly Micromuse Impact)
LANDesk (Process Manager product)
NetIQ (Aegis product)
So since the last update, what has been going on in the space….
It’s interesting to see Stratavia tweaking their company positioning as the “independent” choice. Makes sense considering we’ve had a wave of consolidation with the big 4 ensuring they have coverage for this functional area, and also other well known (larger) management vendors (LANDesk & NetIQ) adding capabilities.
Optinuity was acquired by CA in October and naturally that changed some things for Opalis which had a previous OEM relationship with CA. Opalis in turn also trumpets the “independent” choice and has gone further into talking about how this doesn’t serve the customers since those vendors are using those acquisitions to bring their own products together and not looking at it from a heterogenous standpoint of I have 5 products from 3 vendors and I need them all to work together smoothly. One last area that I need to do some more exploring around is something I felt a year ago would eventually happen and the lines would start blurring between Business Process Management (BPM) solutions and IT Process Orchestration. The are starting to compare/contract with BPM and also talk more Business Intelligence (BI) messaging. It’s nice to see a vendor lay out in plain site some recommended evaluation criteria for all customers and even competitors to see…great way to set the bar.
Those are a couple key things i’m seeing at a glance…what else is going on out there. Who else is in the space these days, what is their key differentiator versus the players listed above. Drop you comments in below if you a vendor or a customer using one of these vendors or another one I don’t have listed. I’ll make updates to the DCAB if it’s appropriate.
Well AlterPoint has found a home. The last of the early/original NCCM (Network Configuration & Change Management) vendors, focused on Enterprise, has been acquired. Others have come along in the later days, but AlterPoint, Rendition and Voyence (formerly PowerUp Networks) are now all part of another organization. Rendition is part of HP Software via the Opsware acquisition, Voyence is part of EMC, and Emprisa is part of BMC. IBM & CA decided they had a close enough solution through their Micromuse & Aprisma acquisitions respectively. An adventure for these companies that started back in 2001ish now sees all of them part of a more holistic solutions.
In the end for my favorite of the bunch, AlterPoint (yes, i’m biased), the end wasn’t what the team along the way had in mind. It’s great to see a home for the software that can continue to take care of some of our great customers including household names like Citigroup, Microsoft, E-Trade, Yahoo, Hertz and many others. The acquisition to me personally brought closure but also reminded me of the great team and journey that I personally had the experience to be part of. I spent about 4 years at AlterPoint and worked with some really great people that were amazing at what they do. A number of those strong players these days are over at another great company in Austin that many people reading this blog may know called Solarwinds. Others found themselves helping other network and systems management companies in Austin and beyond. It was a great ride (at times) and in retrospect I miss those days and those experiences and hope again some day to get to work with one or more of them. Alright, enough of that sentimental, memories type stuff.
NCCM was a great play that in my retrospective perspective was like what Firefox has done versus Microsoft. It provided a real challenge to an established vendor that had fallen asleep at the wheel. What do I mean by this? Cisco and it’s CiscoWorks product line, since they own pretty much all the networking hardware market, was the incumbant. The software was really struggling to solve the problems of it’s customers and simply wasn’t a priority to them. Along came the NCCM vendors and soon enough that all changed. Cisco after a few years of seeing NCCM success and hearing it from their customers, really started putting significant efforts back into their software products that competed against the NCCM vendors…they even embraced one of them and did an OEM deal with Rendition after evaluating all of us. They learned from that and in the end they are the ones who stand most victorious from my perspective. I think either directly or indirectly or however you want to look at it they learned more about the value of management software and it’s affect on hardware and sales in general. From that I’m sure we will see in the upcoming month some loosely associated results when the announce their “California” Blade Server and explain more about their relationship with BMC (a.k.a. BladeLogic, RealOps, Emprisa). This is destined to help spark and shake up the Data Center Automation market and even more the Data Center itself. This is going to be interesting!
So one last hats off to the NCCM vendors, a final salute to AlterPoint and to all those who put in their blood, sweat and tears helping build NCCM.
some news coverage links around the AlterPoint acquisition: