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What happened in the cheap seats at VMworld

Over in the far corner of the expo at VMworld were a few gems you might have overlooked -- HotLink, PerfCap, SolidFire and Real-Status.

LAS VEGAS -- As another VMware show draws to a close, I thought I'd shed some light on the vendors in the cheap seats, the far corner of the expo most attendees probably didn't get a chance to check out. There were a few companies including HotLink, PerfCap, SolidFire and Real-Status that are worth watching.

HotLink, just out of stealth mode, promises to make mixed virtual environments easier to manage. Its SuperVISOR product lets users manage VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and Red Hat KVM hypervisors through VMware vCenter. Its patent-pending Transformation Engine abstracts the underlying hypervisors and workloads from the management layer that treats mixed virtual environments as unified and native objects inside the existing VMware infrastructure. No additional management console required. Pretty cool, eh? That's one way to get around the vRAM tax VMware created with its lovely new licensing structure.

These days we're inundated with free monitoring tools, but they often cause more headaches down the road when it's time to scale. PerfCap, which Reuters used to monitor 40,000 systems and Deutsche Bank used to manage thousands of systems, has proven its chops on scale and features. It's a capacity management tool (among other things) on steroids. Don't be put off by the website; PerfCap is a small company, but the product has huge potential.

The new crop of flash-based storage systems is small, fast and highly scalable, and SolidFire's SF3010 Storage Node appears to be no exception. Its "Element" OS software includes thin provisioning, deduplication and compression features as well as a REST-based API (application programming interface) to integrate with other management systems. All nodes are aggregated so capacity and performance scale as each node is added to the system. Storage clusters are built by combining multiple SF3010 iSCSI nodes over a 10 GB Ethernet grid. And any node can replicate across a cluster in the event of Solid State Disk (SSD) failures.

SolidFire SF3010 scales to 100 nodes, 1 petabyte of capacity, and it can host more than 100,000 tenant volumes within a single cluster. If you're a service provider or a large company looking to build an Infrastructure as a Service cloud, these boxes use a smaller amount of rack space for the amount of IOPS and seem way easier to manage than traditional enterprise storage systems. The burnout rate with flash drives is still a lingering question, but the failover features in this product might compensate for that. Flashy stuff!

Last, but not least, Real-Status' HyperGlance tool was by far the coolest thing I saw at VMworld. It visualizes performance and security data on a 3D model showing the dependencies between your IT apps and infrastructure. If you saw Paul Maritz's opening keynote, it looks like the crazy Tron 3D stylized video. It could be all yours, if you have the cash lying around in your budget for a fancy visualization tool.

 Hmmm …. Maybe next year?

Check out our full VMworld 2011 conference coverage.

Jo Maitland is the Senior Executive Editor of Contact her at

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