Configuresoft Nicely Fills an EMC Gap

GlenodonnellEMC continues to tease the market with its management software ambitions, taking another step this week to build on its portfolio. On May 27, EMC announced its intent to acquire Configuresoft, a vendor of server configuration and change management (CCM) software. Forrester views this as a positive development for both companies but we eagerly await more.

While EMC must still make additional developmental moves to graduate into the “anchor” class of management vendors, its M&A activity has proven it is a formidable player in configuration and change management across a number of technology domains. Obviously, EMC has strength in storage, but it has also become a key vendor in the network domain with its Smarts (2005) and Voyence (2007) acquisitions, and its purchase of nLayers (2006) gives it some of the best visibility into the application domain. Servers have been a notable gap even though some good “skunk works” monitoring technology was developed within its Smarts team. Server CCM was one big domain missing from the portfolio.

This acquisition does not come as much of a surprise. The two vendors inked an OEM agreement in 2008 that resulted in EMC’s Server Configuration Manager and Configuration Analytics Manager, a re-branding of Configuresoft’s technologies. By following through with full acquisition, the bond becomes stronger and any vendor risk is much lower. The near-term actual fulfillment of the technology itself should be little changed, however. Over the next several months, EMC must continue to consolidate its many parts into a cohesive CCM strategy and integrated product family. The current tools are each very strong, but the collective suite is still fragmented.

One hopeful step in the direction of consolidation is the CMDB that EMC gained with its Infra (2008) acquisition. Many questions remain about how this CMDB strategy will play out, but EMC has the right parts to assemble into what is potentially one of the strongest CCM families in the industry. Early indications suggest the EMC people charged with this evolution are on the right philosophical track toward building a properly federated configuration management system (CMS). We implore EMC’s leadership to give them the power to execute on fulfilling this vision. This includes the freedom to build federation to third party tools, an absolute necessity to lead in the CMS market.

This consolidated CCM is notable, as the configuration and change management processes collectively form the basic core of every function performed in IT. If you do not master these, all other processes will suffer. Conversely, excellent configuration information is a catalyst toward IT excellence that must be fortified with strong analytics and change controls.

Configuresoft includes some very impressive policy analysis capabilities, a much-needed but often overlooked use case for the configuration information delivered by such products. This is one of the more promising outcomes of combining the Configuresoft, Voyence, and internally developed EMC configuration policy analysis products. It also presents a challenge to EMC, as each of these brings good but disjointed features that need to be reconciled. Will the final policy analysis engine be Configuresoft’s, Voyence’s, or something completely different, maybe a hybrid of all of these? This is a big question that does note necessarily have an easy answer.

Finally, the biggest question of them all is how EMC will parlay this CCM power into a broader, integrated management strategy. We believe the technology acquired with Smarts is a powerful asset that has not been leveraged to its potential within the EMC family. EMC missed a grand opportunity to extend more aggressively into the server and application domains for monitoring and root cause analysis (RCA). It is not too late to revisit this direction. Demand is still extremely high for application RCA. We know such RCA is far from easy, but EMC has many of the right parts to compete well if it gives this market the right attention.

To achieve this, EMC must develop or acquire performance management capabilities in the various domains, including applications. This has been a glaring hole in the EMC portfolio for years and its competitors (especially CA) have been capitalizing on this weakness. It must also present a forceful IT process automation (ITPA) capability to assemble the many CCM pieces involved. Configuresoft and Voyence are great components to this story and Infra has some decent ITPA elements, but it needs better ITPA linkages and flow automation along the lines of Opalis and the run book automation technologies acquired and developed by BMC, CA, and HP.

Forrester applauds the Configuresoft acquisition, as well as the others made by EMC’s resource management software group (RMSG). It is clear that EMC is building a truly powerful CCM story. We hope the company will get more aggressive at building atop this strong foundation. 2009 is proving to be an opportune time for M&A and EMC has some of the better potential to be a major player in IT management software. It must now prove to a skeptical market that it can execute with enough vigor to overtake the competition.

By Glenn O'Donnell

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Comments

re: Configuresoft Nicely Fills an EMC Gap

I agree with your comments that EMC has the opportunity to become the 5th "anchor" player in infratructure management. Anchor is a great metaphor, as long as we don't mean boat anchor.While single-vendor sourcing and component integration reduces deployment and support risks, I’m not sure if smashing all these pieces together gets at the root of the problem. As long we continue to rely on the WAN and associated devices to "manage over the network the very network we are trying to manage", we'll still have to pay for expensive break/fix contracts and SLAs that are almost impossible to deliver against, especially when we are honest about MTTR and the definition of service. Even if Cisco devices eventually become "self-healing", complex networks are still heterogeneous and will be for a very long time, making distributed architectures expensive and risky to administer.Instead, if we start our design with the edge of the network and work our way back in, we end up solving the hardest problems first and cascading the technical benefits of that design to the rest of the network. We are seeing this benefit play out in hybrid networks (MPLS, VSAT, SCADA), like those in Energy, Telecom, Retail and Banking.Companies like Cisco are acknowledging this management software trend through open partnering strategies – which has the potential to leapfrog the monolithic, vertically-integrated "anchors" that are designed to monitor and report, but require devices and networks to be working in order to manage or fix them.We'll always need anchors to park our tankers, but it's the tugboats that do the hard work before the anchor drops. Let’s see if EMC decides to chase the same strategy as the Big 4 anchors, or take advantage of their position as newcomer to attack the problem more intelligently.