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Q&A: Interview with SolarWinds, Talking Updated Virtualization Manager and Expansion into VDI Market

SolarWinds, a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, jumped into the virtualization market with eyes wide open.  And they've been providing a highly valuable and intuitive server virtualization management software ever since.  They've recently upgraded Virtualization Manager; but with an interesting twist, SolarWinds has added support for additional coverage and visibility by expanding into Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI.

To find out more about what the company is doing in the virtualization market, I spoke with Mike Thompson, Principal - Virtualization and Storage Product Marketing at SolarWinds.

VMblog:  Let's jump right in.  Now that we've kicked off the New Year, tell us more about some of the key problems that customers are trying to solve in virtualization.

Mike Thompson: Our customers repeatedly tell us that storage I/O, performance, capacity planning and management, and VM sprawl control are critical to managing their virtual environments. In particular, storage I/O and the ability to really get insight into operations that span their virtual and storage environments continues to be a pain point that customers come to us to solve.

It also turns out that it is not just getting the raw information that is a key pain point, it is how fast and easy it is to get the data. While a lot of the hypervisor tools have the raw data, it takes too much time and effort to dig through the data with just those tools.  Without an automated dashboard and the ability to drill down on problems quickly, it is just a matter of time until some kind of unpleasant surprise hits.  We talk to a lot of admins immediately after some disaster strikes.

VMblog:  SolarWinds recently released a new version of Virtualization Manager 5.1.  What's new in this update?

Thompson: Yes, we released Virtualization Manager 5.1 in December.  The two biggest changes with this release are support for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure or VDI and new socket-based pricing. With VDI we have added a Desktop Dashboard that provides a view of the virtual desktop monitoring metrics.  That way it makes it easy to see where problems are occurring and to drill down and correlate them to the backend resources hosting the virtual desktops.

The "per-socket" pricing also really helps support high density VM environments like those typically associated with VDI. Our previous "per-VM" pricing ran counter to our customers' goals of increasing VM density and also made it hard for them to compare prices with our competition. Even though we believe that we provide one of the most powerful and easy to use products in the market, we are also one of the most affordable. By moving to a "per-socket" price, we make it easier for potential customers to see that.

VMblog:  You guys have been really focused on server virtualization management, and have tied that into your storage management really well.  What's happened within the VDI market to make you guys expand Virtualization Manager in that direction at this time?

Thompson: We have had a significant number of our customers starting to move down the VDI path.  Many of them are doing some form of pilot but expanding fairly rapidly into larger environments.  They are looking for the same kind of management capabilities they have for their virtual servers with their virtual desktops.  This is especially important as the desktop workloads and resource requirements tend to be more volatile than the server workload, and they want to be able to see problems developing before they affect their end-users.

VMblog:  And regarding VDI adoption, what are you hearing from your customers about some of the problems they are most concerned with as they go in this direction as well?

Thompson: Key problems are performance management to prevent a degradation of the end-user experience, and capacity planning and management to ensure proper sizing and resource allocation.  In particular, I/O performance and capacity problems are particularly important - things like storage I/O and latency, as well as network I/O.  The deep insight we can provide into the storage environment continues to be a differentiator for us.

VMblog:  VMware seems to have similar capabilities to SolarWinds Virtualization Manager for virtualization and VDI monitoring, so how do you compete or differentiate? 

Thompson: VMware's management product seems focused on large enterprise customers with big, expensive bundles, lots of products and add-ons to purchase, and a pretty high price.  SolarWinds keeps it simple and easy - one product for virtual server and virtual desktop monitoring: low price, easy to buy, install, and use.  That appeals to our SMB and mid-sized customers, but lots of the big guys like the simplicity too.

VMblog:  I've noticed that SolarWinds has been expanding the scope of its products substantially over the last few years.  How does Virtualization Manager fit into the overall SolarWinds portfolio of products?

Thompson: We are trying to solve the key problems end-users have and we've made a lot of progress expanding our product set to do that.  While we continue to build on our traditional strength in network management, via both acquisitions and organic development, we have really built a strong systems management capability.  In particular, our Server & Application Monitor product has been gaining traction with the SolarWinds approach of powerful, easy, and affordable in a market with lots of legacy products and not much innovation.  We see a lot of opportunity to pull in deep virtualization insight with Virtualization Manager to really complete the end to end picture with the application and physical server hardware monitoring that our Server & Application Monitor provides.  The ability to include storage in that picture really provides a comprehensive view of their environment.

VMblog:  If readers don't know already, what's the best way for them to get started with SolarWinds virtualization management products?

Thompson: They can visit the SolarWinds website on virtualization management or VMware capacity planning to find lots of resources and easy ways to learn about our products and see if they're a good fit. We offer fully functional free trials, product white papers and case studies, datasheets, live demos and webcasts, FAQs, and a number of highly popular free tools like VM Monitor and VM Console.

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Once again, I'd like to thank Mike Thompson from SolarWinds for taking time out to speak with me.

Published Thursday, February 14, 2013 6:51 AM by David Marshall
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