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August 27, 2009

Virtual Instruments brings wisdom to vSAN monitoring

FC spin-off develops virtual infrastructure controller

By CBR Staff Writer

A little over a year after being spun off from Fibre Channel supplier Finisar Corp, software house Virtual Instruments has developed a new line in what it is calling virtual infrastructure optimisation applications.

Starting out with a product called NetWisdom, that is used to monitor and analyse SAN environments within enterprise data centres, the start-up has introduced VirtualWisdom a tool that does the same for SANs and storage subsystems in virtualised operating environments.

The company is led by Mark Urdahl, a former IBM executive who co-founded the Fibre Channel Systems Initiative.

The 50-strong business claims to have hit revenues of around $10 million in its first year and has started to expand into Europe with offices in the UK and Germany.

Len Rosenthal, VP of marketing at the Scotts Valley, California-based company said that the new product is comparable to tools produced by the likes of NetQoS or Netscout but that importantly, unlike these, which are used for application and network performance management across the physical infrastructure, VirtualWisdom is dedicated to the systems monitoring of virtualised infrastructure and storage subsystems.

“Fibre Channel is a channel not a network, so unlike IP there is no routing protocols, no transmission or recall specifications, no packets that can be inspected, which means it is not easy to monitor,” Rosenthal explained. 

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“In Fibre Channel everything is in frames, so finding a problem in a switch or storage array port can be like finding a needle in a haystack. With virtualisation of the SAN, visibility only gets worse,” he said.

That lack of visibility in the storage network can lead to over-provisioning, an inability to optimise systems and difficulties in diagnosing problems, Rosenthal said.

VirtualWisdom is designed to provide the all important I/O visibility.

The company describes VirtualWisdom as providing broad and real-time instrumentation and measurement capabilities that enable IT shops to optimise the performance and availability of their virtualised IT infrastructure. 

“It adds SAN I/O intelligence to VMware environments, enabling administrators to better balance the deployment of virtual machines based on real-time measurements of I/O performance. Deployment results in significantly higher virtual infrastructure utilisation and significantly lower capital and operational costs associated with an IT organization’s systems and storage infrastructure.”

Hooked up to Fibre Channel ports, the system monitors ‘out of band’ and in real-time and uses a passive device to extract frames. The frame headers are examined by a system called ProbeFCX and the data fed to a portal server where traffic information is aggregated and correlated. 

A dashboard GUI is provided so that systems administrators can monitor the virtualised network, and produce reports. 

Data produced by VirtualWisdom can also be fed into existing system management framework tools from the likes of IBM Tivoli, HP, VMware or EMC.

The cost of the software will run anywhere between £50,000 and £1 million, Rosenthal said, and is being targeted at transaction heavy Global 2000 enterprises.

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