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Data center operations score new glasses with VMware buy

Seeing the physical and virtual layers across the data center has been a herculean task that one company has spent the last two years tackling -- and now, it will be part of VMware.

If the destination of a software-defined data center is the top of Mount Everest, VMware may have found its Sh...


VMware plans to acquire Arkin Net Inc., based in Santa Clara, Calif., and integrate its Converged Visibility Platform into the VMware vRealize Suite -- bridging the gap in insight between the virtual and physical infrastructure with a Google-like search feature for troubleshooting, and improving visibility within data center operations and the software-defined data center (SDDC).

Initially, the Arkin platform will be sold as an add-on for NSX, and at some point in the future, it will be part of the vRealize Suite for SDDC operations, according to a VMware spokesperson. Arkin employees will be folded into the business unit responsible for vRealize.

Shamus McGillicuddy, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) in Boulder, Colo., who was briefed about the sale, said the Arkin functionality likely will be available at first for an additional charge, with the potential to enhance vRealize with an infusion of new intellectual property.

Financial details of the purchase were not disclosed, and the deal is expected to close later this month.

"The visibility part is absolutely key," said John Spiegel, global IT communications manager at Columbia Sportswear Co., in Portland, Ore., and an early adopter of VMware NSX.

He did have some visibility into NSX functionality, but less information about the hardware underneath and the interaction between the physical and virtual environments. That's why he turned to Arkin Net, through which he has "visibility across technology domains and across virtual and physical networks," including details about virtual machines, network streams, overlay-to-underlay mappings and firewall rules.

Arkin also added -- at Columbia's request -- search capability and changes around the relationships between firewall rules, security groups, VMs and IP addresses across multiple NSX servers.

Spiegel told SearchDataCenter he expects further innovation from Arkin Net under VMware, with likely few significant changes, though the tool will reach more users under VMware's watch.

I hope this permeates throughout the vSuite. ... I think there will continue to be innovation.
John Spiegelglobal IT communications manager, Columbia Sportswear Co.

"I hope this permeates throughout the vSuite. I think it plays into all of them," he said. "I think there will continue to be innovation."

Arkin may help NSX break out of the enterprise data center and into cloud computing providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, or to remote offices and back offices, he added.

Spiegel said he also hopes Arkin's cloud-first mentality will rub off on VMware. While it can run on premises, the Arkin Visibility Platform is also available as software as a service, something he wants to see more from VMware tools.

Arkin Net also could be expanded to become part of VMware Log Insight, he added.

Some VMware tools are written in Java, and the purchase of Arkin Net will hopefully push those tools in a better direction and toward other languages, Spiegel said.

Preparing for data centers' 'tectonic shift'

Arkin Net was started to go after the "tectonic shift in data centers," including the emergence of converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, software-defined networks and security. Its product was designed to bring together the virtual, physical and API-driven world to provide data center operations pros a way to keep tabs on things as IT silos collapse and the responsibilities blend between IT teams, according to Arkin.

The company has been a VMware partner since early 2015 -- several of its founders are VMware alums -- and counts among its key advisers Dheeraj Pandey, CEO of hyper-converged startup Nutanix Inc.

Arkin Net's tools will likely fit right into vRealize, which has been more focused on compute and storage, and criticized for lacking a good operational view of NSX, McGillicuddy explained. VMware has admitted it was behind in delivering a top-notch operational view of NSX, he said.

"Arkin allows them to leapfrog their own internal efforts," he said.

Another feature for Arkin is the Google-like plain English search query, so IT pros can more easily handle monitoring and require fewer specialists for servers, storage and networking.

VMware likely sees Arkin as a good networking operations tool for the SDDC, and the Google-like search allows it to be used for data center operations across the SDDC, McGillicuddy said.

Visibility across the physical and virtual layer and troubleshooting were the two most significant challenges to manage with NSX, according to an EMA survey of early software-defined networking adopters, and "Arkin addresses both of those," he said.

At the physical layer under NSX, VMware doesn't have a horse in the race, McGillicuddy said. "The physical network vendors will all be players with NSX over time," he said.

There's extra value for a newer tool such as Arkin being able to monitor, understand and adjust to capacity changes in a DevOps environment. Older tools often don't recognize capacity changes because they focus only on the most important parts of the network. A newer tool, such as Arkin, can see the packet flow within a hypervisor and visualize it, McGillicuddy said.

"It shows you all the traffic flow and shows you where there might be a problem."

Since Arkin Net's founders previously worked at VMware, they may have envisioned a sale like this. "It's almost like they left VMware and said, 'We know exactly what VMware needs,'" McGillicuddy said.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

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