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Surgient revs fake server headache pill

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The server virtualization hypervisor space is seeing a flattening in revenues, as industry juggernaut VMware admitted last week. But the myriad niche companies that are selling tools to manage virtual and physical servers are benefiting from the continuing sprawl.

One such company is the Austin, Texas-based Surgient, which today rolls out the 6.1 release of its Virtual Automation Platform. Surgient got its start selling a hosted platform that software developers could use to deploy demos of their products and quickly customize them for prospective clients as well as providing training for customers before they actually had their own installation of application software running.

The Surgient tool evolved into a quality assurance and testing tool for virtual server environments as VMware and others took off, and in 2007, Surgient made the smart decision to allow firms to buy its tool rather than restrict them to using the hosted version. Since then, the Surgient tool has grown up into a self-service kiosk of sorts for physical and virtual servers that takes away a lot of the headaches of - and for some, perhaps the paychecks of - system administrators who have to set up, test, and deploy iron (physical or virtual makes little different) to run applications.

Business is apparently good at Surgient these days. According to Nicole McGarry, product marketing manager at Surgient,the privately-held company had more than 60 per cent revenue growth in 2008, in spite of the economic downturn. (Surgient did not say how much revenues it has generated, but Tim Lucas, the company's president and chief executive officer, told the Austin Business Journal last July that the company had a chance to double sales to around $20m in 2008, and that would suggest it hit around $16m to make the 60 per cent number work).

And part of the reason why Surgient is growing so fast, according to McGarry, is that too many people still have their hands in how a server gets deployed and no one ever seems to get the right information to the admins from the get-go.

"No matter what the process is that companies use, the people who are involved don't provide enough information, so everyone ends up going in circles," she explains. And that leads to long lead times before a server and its code can be deployed and then a backlog of requests that builds up. Which makes the system administrators look incompetent or worse. (We all know it isn't their fault, of course...) "A lot of people need to touch servers before they get released, and with IT being the gatekeeper to the infrastructure, they are really struggling."

The heart of the Surgient platform is a dynamic resource and capacity management tool that aggregates pools of virtual and physical servers that creates a giant calendar (just like the one you might use to schedule your meetings at work) for workloads running on particular virtual servers. The Surgient tool can provision VMs that run atop VMware's various ESX Server releases. The new Surgient 6.1 platform announced today adds support for VMware's ESXi 3.5 embedded hypervisor. The 6.0 release from last fall supported the current ESX Server 3.5 hypervisor.

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