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Quest Software hangs toolmaker VKernel on its utility belt

On a quest for virtualization domination

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In what has to be the shortest press release in the history of IT, Quest Software announced that it had acquired VKernel, which peddles a capacity management, optimization, and chargeback system for VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.

Quest says that VKernel – based in Boston, Massachusetts – would be operated as an independent subsidiary. An S3 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission outlined an equity incentive plan for VKernel to retain key employees and to attract new ones.

Such acquisitions are nothing new for Quest. The company started out in 1987 peddling high availability tools for HP proprietary minicomputers, expanded a decade later into Oracle database tuning tools, and soon thereafter went public – and the acquisitions started and haven't stopped. Having built up a portfolio of systems-management tools, Quest has snapped up a slew of companies that do identity management and control freakery of one sort or another on virtual infrastructure.

Quest has been on a virtualization acquisition tear in recent years, starting with Provision Networks for its virtual desktop monitoring tools in 2007, and ChangeBase only last month for its tools for babysitting application virtualization and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).

In 2008, Quest bought Vizioncore, which oddly enough had created its VM monitor by licensing a Quest tool called vFoglight; Quest bought Foglight back in 2000 because it needed something to do physical system monitoring and extended it to the virtual world.

Vizioncore's vRanger tool did physical-to-virtual (P2V) and virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversions as well as de-duplication and backing up of virtual machines. At the time of the Vizioncore acquisition, that company had racked up 7,000 customers worldwide, making it an attractive target.

Last year, Quest snapped up Surgient, which had created a baby cloud for storing software demos that has morphed into a quality-assurance tool for virtualized server environments. The Surgient product was originally only available as a hosted product, but was made available as a free-standing resource and capacity-management system that companies can deploy inside their firewalls.

Exactly how VKernel's vOperations Suite will – or won't – be mashed up with all of these other products was not divulged. Neither were the financial terms of the VKernel acquisition.

What is clear is that Quest has the cash to make small tactical and strategic acquisitions to its heart's content, so long as others don't beat it to the punch. In the nine months ended in September, Quest sold $222.7m in software licenses and brought in $327.7m in support and services revenues, and despite the fact that sales are off 10 per cent so far this year, net income has almost doubled to $61.5m.

Quest had $446.8m in cash and short-term investments as 2010 came to a close, and has burned that down to $230.9m by doing acquisitions this year and significantly boosting its sales, marketing, research, and development efforts to get into the virtualization arena to take on VMware, Microsoft, Red Hat, and others either directly or indirectly. ®

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