Friday, 20 March 2015 18:40

Virtual Instruments provides real-time infrastructure monitoring

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Virtual Instruments' infrastructure monitoring system leads to savings of $2 a year for every $1 spent on it, according to its CEO.

Virtual Instruments CEO John Thompson (pictured) was in Australia this week for a series of roundtable events and to meet with current and prospective customers. iTWire caught up with him before he left.

Virtual Instruments addresses the monitoring issues associated with modern infrastructures with a combination of hardware and software. By collecting and analysing information, the software can assess utilisation and help customers drive better performance.

But where traditional monitoring software merely looks in the 'rear-view mirror' and then extrapolates the patterns, Virtual Instruments' approach adds a hardware element consisting of a set of probes that monitor the Fibre Channel switch fabric, servers and storage arrays to obtain real-time information about the systems.

Data from multiple sources is combined to determine utilisation and to predict where problems may occur.

"It's our own version of big data," said Thompson, who is also Microsoft's chairman.

"The marketplace is swimming in data today" and organisations need to handle it efficiently and obtain meaningful analyses.

One of the attractions of Virtual Instruments' approach is the return on investment that it yields. For almost all customers "there's a minimum 2:1 return" within a year, he said.

He gave the example of a large etail transaction processor that was experiencing three or four storage-related outages a year. But after installing Virtual Instruments' product in late 2010 that has fallen to zero. The estimated cost of downtime at that company is between US$2000 and US$2500 a second, which quickly adds up.

Having mitigated the risk of outages, the company went on to investigate the configuration of its systems and discovered that it had installed more switch ports and more tier one storage than it required. It redesigned its infrastructure and now "they buy differently [e.g., more lower-performance storage] and perform better," Thompson said.

More generally, such under-utilisations led many organisations to consider technologies such as virtualisation and thin provisioning, but that issue applies across IT infrastructure. "These assets are woefully, woefully under-utilised," he said.

Installing the software element is "a relatively painless and easy process," but when it comes to the probes, "that takes a little more time." Furthermore, probe installation is a disruptive process that requires some downtime.

Customers may schedule the probe installation in convenient windows of opportunity, but if they are experiencing problems they will find a time to do it.

One customer did the installation across an entire data centre in one weekend "and achieved huge benefits immediately," Thompson said.

Most customers that purchase the complete Virtual Instruments system go on to be repeat buyers as they want to be able to monitor any new equipment that they install.

Important markets for the company are financial services, insurance, healthcare, telecommunications, e-government and etailing. Virtual Instruments has around 30 customers in Asia Pacific, including two in Australia.

"We are very pleased with our progress in the Asia Pacific marketplace," Thompson told iTWire.

The company's strategy was to follow its US and European customers into the region, and then expand that base into local organisations.

"We're starting to get some real traction in Australia," he said.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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