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June 7, 2012updated 22 Aug 2016 12:25pm

Q&A: Quest Software – what’s the fuss about?

IT management player Quest Software might be about to be bought by Dell, though as we went to press it was reported talks had stalled. Quest already has a $2bn bid from Insight Venture Partners on the table but is reportedly looking for better offers. Last week Jason Stamper sat down with Quest's Kevin Norlin, VP and GM EMEA, to get a feel for what a possible suitor might be getting for their money.

By Jason Stamper

Kevin Norlin Quest
Quest Software’s Kevin Norlin

Clearly you are not going to be able to talk about the acquisition at this early stage. But how is business generally, given the economy?

We’re enjoying this market. This segment is seeing considerable expansion. Customers are recognizing that they have gaps, and that they need to address them. The intensity is going up. Our business has almost doubled in the past 18 months, we’re doing exceptionally well and growing faster than the market. 2009 was tough but 2010 was better and 2011 was very solid.

More and more businesses are looking for transparency across their business processes and are having to work hard to realize value from their web and mobile investments. We see that shoring up engagements and also engagements are getting larger. There are clearly a lot of vendors who have been tackling systems management for some time but while we see that their business is still there, we’re seeing much faster growth in the application performance management [APM] space.

Do you find yourselves selling to techies, CIOs, business managers or owners?

It’s interesting that in the online retail space in particular, we see a lot of pull from the business owners. They very clearly see the value in gaining more visibility over application performance, and that’s definitely playing out in terms of opportunities. They want to know what the end user is seeing and to be able to fix issues very quickly.

Do you use active or passive monitoring agents on devices, or do you analyse performance through simulations?

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We take a couple of tacks. We have both passive and active agents, we also emulate the user experience. Baseline performance, if you like, is agent-based. Then we use more active techniques to span the network and see exactly what someone was doing when they went on, for example, the BA website. What was performance actually like for that user?

Do agents on devices impact performance – that would seem a bit of an own-goal?

We don’t have to put agents on the device. We can monitor what’s going on without the burden of being at the exact point where the transaction is happening. But we are still able to focus in on exactly what was happening – what a user was doing – on a particular website that may have led to them experiencing performance problems.

You said yourself there are quite a few companies in the systems management space already – IBM, HP, BMC, CA, Microsoft and so on. You still believe you offer something that they don’t have?

We’re not trying to beat anyone in IT management like IBM, CA. We are focusing on application performance management and we think we have some pretty good IP there.

Do you see the bring your own device [BYOD] trend having any impact on the performance management market?

Absolutely. The Quest CIO is always talking about the importance of eating our own food.

Or drinking your own champagne.

[Laughs] Sure. For example we can monitor Mac adoption; the way we gather data means we can say what experience staff or customers are having if they are coming in on an iPad. Changes like BYOD bring insecurity and ultimately, risk. Mobile devices, phones and so on. One question organisations like BA want to answer is, is their investment in supporting mobile devices for things like checking in online, worth the investment? It is the right way forward? We can help them answer that question.

You’ve made a number of acquisitions – BlueFolder, ChangeBASE, BakBone and so on – are they likely to continue or is that hard to know at this stage?

When we make acquisitions we always look at where they will fit with our existing portfolio – how do they make the lives of our users easier. But we may well slow down a little bit and make sure those we have done [nine in total since summer 2010] settle in nicely and that all these companies really take hold; we need to work out the cross-pollination and make sure externally that it makes sense to the customer. Having said that we are always on the lookout for exciting acquisitions, it’s just one part of how we grow the company.

In terms of marketing I notice some companies like Precise Software use transaction performance management, others like OpTier talk about transaction-driven application performance management; what do you use?

We like just ‘IT management’. We serve so many unique markets; we started working with Oracle databases, making them more productive, then got into the Microsoft space where we still derive over one third of our revenue. But we also do ID and access management, security, corporate governance, compliance and oversight. Finally there is the performance monitoring and end user experience part we talked about. It’s like we have a pot pourri of products that we bring together. But what they all have in common is that we ensure they are easy to evaluate, test and deploy.

Of those, where is the most growth potential?

In fairness the database market growth has slowed and in the Windows space there is strong growth but it’s not as hot as the identity and access management and performance monitoring pieces.

Firms like Splunk, DataFlux, LogRhythm and LogLogic say that harvesting and analyzing machine data, or log files, is the next frontier in business intelligence. Would you go along with that?

Absolutely, but I would say some of that is defacto – it’s relatively easy to do. It’s doing smart things with all that data that’s harder to do. I wondered at one point why we didn’t go out and buy Splunk [pre their IPO] but they can’t tell you what experience a user had on a website, so we think we are complementary to what they do.

See also Application performance tops CIO priorities list.

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