VMware dominates server virtualization, but CA Technologies -- among other providers -- hasn't conceded the virtual data center management market. The company has publicized an agreement to acquire Hyperformix Inc., which makes automated capacity management products for physical, virtual and cloud environments -- an area in which VMware has made substantial investments with products such as Capacity Planner and those from its recent Integrien acquisition.
While CA does battle with VMware for capacity planning and performance monitoring, the company also has to win back the hearts and minds of enterprise customers. Despite sweeping changes that have taken place at the company since 2006, some enterprises say it will take more time before they'll trust CA for critical IT management tools.
"Nobody wants to come out and say it directly, but it's clear the game has changed pretty dramatically," said Glenn O'Donnell, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.
Predictive capacity planning
Austin, Texas-based Hyperformix offers several products including Hyperformix Capacity Manager, Hyperformix Data Manager and Hyperformix Performance Optimizer. According to the company's website, Capacity Manager offers "predictive modeling of resource utilization, response time and workloads for the virtualized environments of HP-UX, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris and VMware platforms." Data Manager is a database for the collection of capacity and performance data. Performance Optimizer "provid[es] in-depth prescriptions for optimized configurations and ongoing performance operations."
Roger Pilc, the general manager of CA's virtualization and automation business, said the company chose Hyperformix because its software can perform predictive capacity planning as well as ongoing reporting on physical, virtual and public cloud infrastructures. The company claims some 230 customers, and a presentation on its website names Avon, BP, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, JPMorgan Chase, PepsiCo, AIG, Wells Fargo, ING and McKesson health care among its references.
Pilc said Hyperformix's software can perform automated, multi-variable correlations between the statistics it gathers on data center infrastructure, capacity and performance. Some of these reports can be generated automatically out of the box, said Hyperformix president and CEO Peter Klante, but users can also create customized metrics. Pilc added that Hyperformix includes support for platforms like Cisco Systems Inc.'s Unified Computing System, which isn't widely supported by data center management products.
CA and Hyperformix already have joint customers, and CA's upper management organization is already based in Austin. CA will bring both people and intellectual property in with the Hyperformix acquisition, Pilc said. The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, and financial details have not been disclosed.
All eyes on automated data center monitoring
CA's acquisition comes three weeks after VMware Inc. acquired performance monitoring partner Integrien. CA officials cited Hyperformix's focus on capacity management as distinct and complementary to Integrien's performance monitoring offerings, but both companies have a similar algorithmic and automated approach to analyzing data. VMware officials also say that Integrien's product can perform correlation analysis on any set of time-series data, and that they plan to use Integrien's IP to create products beyond what the small startup had offered. Hyperformix's Performance Optimizer also has some obvious overlap with Integrien's existing products.
According to Bernd Herzog, performance and capacity management analyst for The Virtualization Practice, vendors have responded to enterprise users' increasing need for better control and visibility into virtual environments. Companies have taken an approach that automates data gathering, correlation and analysis to accommodate fast-changing cloud environments. "When VMware acquired Integrien, [it] put a stake in the ground that said that real time self learning analytics will be necessary when managing the assuring the performance of dynamic private and public clouds," Herzog said.
Some observers see this as yet another "stake in the ground" from CA, despite the company's reluctance to directly challenge VMware. Forrester's O'Donnell also expects CA to build up Hyperformix's IP beyond capacity planning. Vendors are now racing to solve the infrastructure-monitoring problem, he said, and find "technology that lends itself well to something we're lacking in IT, which is engineering discipline in how we go about making decisions."
If CA builds it, will enterprises come?
CA has been trying to turn over a new leaf and gain market share in data center management software following a rocky period in which several of its upper-level executives were ousted and then prosecuted for financial transgressions from 2004 to 2006.
With last year's acquisition of Cassatt and the $100 million purchase of cloud management software player 3Tera in February, CA has been focused on the virtual data center and cloud management. The Hyperformix merger has been framed as part of a strategy to get customers past "VM stall" and into the private cloud.
Particularly over the past year, the impression of CA has changed among industry watchers. But for IT pros in the trenches, old memories of a company that built a reputation for poor customer service and, at times, cutthroat business practices, die hard.
"I try to avoid everything CA does like the plague," said a large VMware customer. "Over the years they've built up a reputation for horrible customer service. Their name is dirt in a lot of places."
"Everybody loved to hate CA, and for good reason -- they deserved it," said O'Donnell. The company has made a turnaround since, but O'Donnell said part of the lingering perception may be because the company "missed the mark" with rebranding efforts that changed it from Computer Associates to CA Inc. and finally CA Technologies. "I always thought they should get rid of the CA name because it carries too much baggage."
Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.