Virtualization management startup tackles VM sprawl

Cassatt Corp. jostles for position in crowded virtual management market, raising the question: Where should virtual machine management come from?

Cassatt Corp. has jumped into the virtualization market with a new software package designed to manage virtual machine images. San Jose, Calif-based Cassatt is led by BEA founder CEO Bill Coleman, and started out as a spinoff of supercomputing company Cray, called Unlimited Scale Inc.

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Cassatt's product, called Cassatt Collage Cross-Virtualization Manager or XVM, is designed to manage the virtual workloads of VMware, Xen and Microsoft. The product's selling point is the ability to manage across the various VM platforms. Support for VMware ESX and VMware Server is now generally available. Support for Xen will be available in June 2006. Support for Microsoft Virtual Server is planned for the second half of 2006.

Donna Scott, an analyst at Gartner said companies like Cassatt are ahead of the curve and others are coming out of the woodwork, anticipating the demand for these types of tools.

Gordon Haff, an analyst with Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata agreed that management was going to become an important issue in server virtualization. "Virtualization makes it harder, not easier to manage servers. You have more images when you start carving up machines."

But where should that management come from? Haff said it's a major unresolved issue. Established companies like VMWare offer VM management tools like VMotion, as do the traditional IT management firms like BMC, CA, IBM and others. It's still unclear exactly where companies like Cassatt fit in, or how long they will last.

"The biggest challenge for these startups is figuring out where to insert themselves in the management stack," Haff said. "The all or nothing approach doesn't work."

Haff pointed to XenSource's first commercial offering as an example of virtual machine management failure. The company fronted by developers of the Xen hypervisor tried to launch a virtualization management product called XenOptimizer last year, but quickly found out that data centers weren't comfortable letting a startup run their operations.

But that's not to say startups don't have a good shot at making the lineup, especially with the major systems vendors asleep at the wheel when it comes to virtualization.

"Enterprise management really has not been the leader in this evolution of the data center," Haff said. "We've been seeing a bottom-up approach to management."

Then there's the eventual operating system-level virtualization from Windows and Linux, although experts say this is quite far off -- and even further still is the need to manage across multiple platforms since shops will likely pick a single flavor of virtualization to kick the tires.

In the meantime the new Cassatt Collage XVM is designed to provide automated software deployment, automated responses to failures of both physical and virtual servers and automated scaling of applications by creating additional virtual servers on physical machines that have available CPU and memory capacity.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, Site Editor

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