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Interview with ToutVirtual

In recent years, the server virtualization space has had a huge amount of traction with enterprise customers. Companies like VMware (acquired, and now running as a unit of EMC) have shown that enterprise customers are very eager to consolidate the number of servers their IT teams need to manage and operate. Those customers have been rapidly adopting server virtualization technology, which allows them to run multiple system images on a single hardware server, instead of managing multiple, underutilized PC systems. I recently ran across ToutVirtual, a company that is attacking this space with management software designed for managing those virtual servers, and spoke with Jess Marinez, President of ToutVirtual, Vipul Pabari, CTO of the firm, and Bakul Mehta, Chief Strategy Officer to learn more about how their product fits into the space.

Ben Kuo: What is ToutVirtual, and what does your software do?

JM: All of us have had a relationship for the last eight or nine years, primarily because Vipul and I were involved in a business, eCritical, which handled web infrastructure. From the end user perspective, we would extend out application management and provide and end to end view of infrastructure. We put together pieces of software to provide complete offerings for viewing applications and applications resources from an end user perspective. This software was rolled off into Quest software, where it is now used for their application management software. That was done in 2003. We established ToutVirtual in January of 2005, and all of us are the founders of the firm.

VP: Virtualization is the next paradigm in the enterprise. Virtualization requires new management tools to manage the infrastructure. With eCritical, for example, we had built this solution to see what the end user experience is when accessing the web over the internet. The management there was met by the more traditional management vendors. However, with virtualization, this is a new problem, and new technology, which requires a new solution. Virtualization brings new management challenges, as we found when we recently decided to talk to large VMware customers. We spoke to VMware customers because VMware is the leader today, to understand what tools they use and how those tools fall short of meeting the requirements of virtualization. We used that input to develop our solutions and establish a customer council. The large customers own large management tools, plus tools provided by VMware. We found what was lacking and started building solutions. We have four different products in the pipeline which we're building to specifically address those challenges.

BK: How is the software different from VMware's VirtualCenter product, or other the many other third party virtualization management packages out there?

VP: VMware provides management tools because they have to. It's like Cisco providing CiscoWorks. They provide configuration and change management solutions, to help manage their infrastructure. Large companies that use VMware have to provide some tools. Our whole objective is that we're like OpenView we work with any virtualization platform.We are trying to build a cross platform solutions for virtualization. We are trying to bring a single tool for IT to use to manage multiple virtual platforms.

BK: So is your software just for the VMware market, or do you also manage Microsoft's virtual server product, or projects such as Xensource?

VP: Yes, we do support other products. VMware the leader, and all of our solutions first and foremost support VMware. However, we also support Microsoft Virtual Server and Xen, and will support other virtual platforms as they come out, for example Intel and AMD as they put virtualization capability into their chips. We'll leverage those down the road. We are providing heterogeneous solutions. However, because customers have deployed VMware, we are providing solutions there first.

BK: Do you have customers yet for your product?

VP: Yes, we have beta customers. We started off by establishing a customer council to get input for our solutions, and we're working with them as we roll out our products.

JM: We have, combined, something like 60 years in the industry. We have relationships with large customers, some financial institutions, in the health area, and manufacturing. They are using VMware and using virtualization, and give us guidance.

BK: What's your beta product available right now?

VP: We just announced a beta product, ShieldIQ, which primarily is targeted at hosted virtual platforms. We provide visibility and control of that environment, which is basically lacking. We've had great traction. People all over the world have been coming to download our solution.

BM: What we have as a strategy is that we are focusing on four aspects of virtual infrastructure. Management, global visibility, provisioning with our provisioning product, and optimization and routing with our routing product, and protection through our ShieldIQ product. These four products create our VirtualIQ product suite. The standard edition is free, and we also have a client/server version in beta. Slowly, in the next few months we will have a solution that is able to completely monitor, measure, and manage your virtual infrastructure.

BK: What's the reason behind your free product?

VP: What we are saying is that the virtual management paradigm is shifting from just monitoring. Openview, even VirtualCenter, only provides visibility on what is up or down. We're seeing that in a virtual environment it's a lot more dynamic. There are too many moving pieces. You can't just monitor something and send out a trap so that a manager of managers can correlate an event. With the environment that virtualization creates, if one application misbehaves, it can affect other virtual machines. What we think is that monitoring is good, what what is needed in IT management is more of an automated, closed-loop system. So, we are providing visibility for free, to understand this complex virtual environment. We will charge with the client and server version for automated control.

BK: How are you funded?

JM: At the moment we're self funded. This is a pattern we've used for the three other times previous we've started companies. We've been successful in moving our companies to larger organization, and have taken that money and rolled it into this. We do recognize that to scale this faster we may take some money to finance some growth.

BK: How do you compare to other products in this market?

VP: There are other solutions in the market, however other only provide a silo and point offerings in this space. We are trying to provide a complete offering to manage your virtual infrastructure. Instead of building from other vendors, we are trying to provide the total solution. People have separate companies doing just one of the things we do in our product. However, in a virtual environment these products all have to work together in a faster and more efficient way, which is what we're trying to accomplish.

BK: How can you handle all those areas?

VP: The areas are separate silos from a physical world perspective. Virtualization provides a whole abstraction layer. Those companies will have to support virtualization down the road, and will have to change. Virtualization, with Intel and AMD, changes the whole paradigm of how you manage infrastructure. There is a paradigm shift in managing it, and we believe we are on the forefront.

BK: Thanks for the interview!


 

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