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EMC lashes another to its systems management vision

Learns from Victor Kiam

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You could call it the Victor Kiam strategy. EMC liked systems management company Configuresoft so much it OEMed the products, and now its bought the the whole company.

Configuresoft, founded in 1999, has established itself in a niche for systems configuration and compliance tools. Configuresoft last year inked an OEM agreement with EMC, which picked up and tweaked Configuresoft's Enterprise Configuration Manager (ECM) and Configuration Intelligent Analytics (CIA) tools and offered them as EMC branded products.

In the wake of the acquisition, the products will use their EMC names, Server Configuration Manager and Configuration Analytics Manager. EMC says that it will tuck Configuresoft's operations inside of its Resource Management Software Group.

One of the reasons why EMC is interested in Configuresoft's products - perhaps the main reason - is that companies are struggling to cope with virtual server sprawl, which makes physical server sprawl look like a holiday at the beach. At least with physical servers, you have actual physical limits such as the walls of the data center or the power feed the electric company can deliver to limit growth; but with virtual machines, you can make as many VMs and software stacks as you can imagine and store on your disk arrays.

The Configuresoft tools used to manage access to physical systems, but the company was quick to recognize that all the same rules would have to apply to virtual machines.

It would not be at all surprising to see bits of the Configuresoft tools appear within the vSphere server virtualization stack created by EMC's VMware subsidiary as well as being sold as the Server Configuration Manager and Configuration Analytics Manager by EMC proper.

VMware pitches its products as a self-contained and all-inclusive, but vSphere needs the same configuration management and compliance features. It was probably cheaper to buy Configuresoft than create the code from scratch or extend its OEM agreement to include VMware products. It is a buyer's market out there for big IT vendors that have the cash to scoop up smaller innovators working the niches.

Aside from this possibility, EMC clearly has some aspirations of becoming the fifth systems management vendor, alongside Hewlett-Packard, IBM, BMC Software, and CA. EMC's started building up its systems management portfolio in December 2004 when it acquired System Management Arts, or Smarts for short, which created a tool called InCharge for collecting performance data on devices residing on the corporate network.

It bought nLayers, which created a set of tools for discovering and mapping applications on the network, in June 2006, and followed that up with its acquisition of Voyence, a maker of network configuration software that, as it turns out, is OEMed by HP for a subset of its OpenView product line. IBM and Sun Microsystems also used Voyence tools as part of their systems management toolchest.

In March 2008, EMC snapped up Infra, a maker of web-based tools for automating the management of IT resources and processes.

EMC did not disclose the amount it paid for any of these acquisitions, basically because they were such small fries they didn't affect EMC's numbers one way or another.

Synergy and integration are what IT shops are looking for in their tools these days, and if EMC can weave these products into a cohesive set - as HP OpenView, IBM Tivoli, CA Unicenter, and BMC Patrol are constantly being knitted and reknitted to be as IT hardware and software changes - and it can use the virtualization push from VMware as a lever, EMC could become a player in systems management even if it is not yet a contender for the title.

Expect more acquisitions by EMC of companies you have probably never heard of. ®

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