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Managing the Virtual Infrastructure Is Crucial: VKernel CEO

SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal conducts an Exclusive Q&A with Alex Bakman, Founder & CEO of VKernel

"Properly managing the virtual infrastructure will have a huge impact on pushing more virtualization projects forward," declares Alex Bakman, Founder & CEO of VKernel, in this Exclusive Q&A with SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal.

"Organizations need visibility into how resources are being utilized not only for current planning, but also for what is next," Bakman adds. Here is the interview in full...

Virtualization Journal: Starting at 35,000 ft...where is VKernel positioned in the virtualization universe?

Alex Bakman: VKernel is positioned as a hypervisor agnostic provider of innovative virtualization management products. VKernel is the only company that can help customers predict future capacity and performance problems and how to avoid them.

Virtualization Journal: And why is performance and systems management such an important issue for Enterprise IT professionals? What are the typical pain points?

AB: Organizations are deploying mission-critical applications in virtualized data centers. Performance problems and outages can impact the business and result in lost business, loss of customers, etc. This is why it is essential that mission critical applications are monitored and problems are prevented.

Virtualization Journal: Can you give a quick concrete example of the specific business benefit of knowing in this kind of detail how your virtualized network is being used?

AB: Specific business benefit would include:

  • better utilization of existing hardware and delaying additional hardware purchases of SANs and hosts, which are expensive
  • assuring great performance and user satisfaction by identifying and removing performance bottlenecks, and with predictive monitoring preventing future problems
  • proving viability of virtualization as a platform for enterprise mission critical applications

Virtualization Journal: Are you suggesting that, without access to this kind of insight, that companies might risk wasting their investment in virtualization, and missing out on the cost savings?

AB: Exactly. Without this kind of visibility organizations will:

  • Spend more on virtualization hardware than necessary, a very expensive proposition
  • Run the danger of the virtualization platform being labeled as "not ready for primetime" if performance problems develop

Virtualization Journal: Backing up just a bit, what's the conceptual difference between a virtual appliance and a virtual machine?

AB: Virtual Appliance is a virtual machine. The difference is the design philosophy. A well designed Virtual Appliance is small, has minimum OS, and is designed to solve a particular problem. It is truly optimized for virtual environments.

Virtualization Journal: And can a VKernel virtual appliance run under VMware, Citrix, VirtualBox, whatever? Or is it only VMware compatible?

AB: At this time, we support VMware.  We are currently developing solutions that support Microsoft Hyper-V.

Virtualization Journal: How, as succinctly as possible, would you sum up what VKernel is trying to help its customers accomplish?

AB: VKernel is committed to helping our customers:

  • Save money by utilizing existing hardware and resources better
  • Increase VM density - safely adding more VMs per host
  • Delay hardware purchases - getting more out of organizations' existing virtualization investments
  • Predict and avoid performance problems - know about potential issues ahead of time

Virtualization Journal: So in these recession-sensitive times, business benefits are both real and tangible, from virtualization - when properly managed?

AB: Absolutely...  Management tools (the right ones) enable you to do more with less.

What we saw in 2008 was a proliferation of management solutions introduced throughout the year from both vendors large and small. Both VMware and Microsoft also started talking about the importance of managing the virtual infrastructure in the second half of the year. Why, because properly managing the virtual infrastructure will have a huge impact on pushing more virtualization projects forward. Organizations need visibility into how resources are being utilized not only for current planning, but also for what is next.

Virtualization Journal: VMware just reported a 25% earnings increase for its Q4. What message do you think that sends to Enterprise IT managers and indeed to their CEOs?

AB: It is no longer just for test and development anymore. Mass adoption for production environments is now underway. And, even in these economic times, organizations are looking at virtualization to cut costs.

Virtualization Journal: How about Microsoft? What impact do you see their virtualization offerings eventually having in the market?

AB: They are already popular in the SMB Market. Over time Microsoft will get bigger clients as Hyper-V matures and meets their needs. Microsoft will become a threat to VMware long term. In the short term, they will own the SMB market.

Virtualization Journal: Aside from testing, where else does VKernel see most potential growth for virtualization technologies?

AB: Clearly, the biggest immediate growth potential is for running production server applications. The next frontier is desktop virtualization and cloud computing, which has the potential to really change traditional computing. And, of course, create significantly more opportunities for management solutions.

Virtualization Journal: As you know, SYS-CON as an organization is laser-focused not only on virtualization but also on cloud computing: how does VKernel define itself in relation to the new world of the cloud?

AB: Virtualization is the enabler technology for cloud computing. Cloud computing has the same set of systems management challenges: Capacity and Performance Management, Chargeback, Inventory, etc...VKernel tools are directly applicable to manage and optimize cloud computing applications.

Virtualization Journal: You are venture-funded. Tell us a little about your backers.

AB: We are backed by Polaris Venture Partners (Boston) and Hummer Winblad Venture Partners (San Francisco). Both are top notch firms that have backed many successful companies in this space.

Virtualization Journal: One of your directors, from one of those same backers, is Mitchell Kertzman. He was nominated by SYS-CON as being the most prescient man in the industry - does that surprise you?

AB: Not at all surprised. Mitchell has a keen sense of what organizations will need in the brave new world. He's a great advisor to VKernel and provides solid guidance for what we need to do and how to do it. I'd like to offer my congratulations to Mitchell for this honor.

ABOUT ALEX BAKMAN: Alex Bakman will be speaking at the 5th International Virtualization & Expo in New York (March 30-April 1, 2009). He is the founder and CEO of VKernel, a provider of easy-to-use and quick-to-deploy virtual appliances for managing virtual server environments. A recognized expert in systems management, server virtualization, IT security, and configuration management, Bakman was prior to VKernel the founder and CEO of Ecora Software and remains the company’s chairman of the board. He is a frequent speaker at many industry events and conference, and a published author in various technology and business publications. His experience as director of IT for a Fortune 500 insurance company adds “real world” perspective to his understanding of the challenges facing today's IT executives.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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