New CEO Thompson Sets Course for Storage Startup Virtual Instruments

 
 
By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-07-30
 
 
 

Three months after taking over leadership of storage optimization startup Virtual Instruments, CEO John Thompson-for 9 years CEO of Symantec-has mapped out the path his company is going to be taking for the next few years.

As virtualization continues to become more prominent in IT production systems, Thompson also knows he's charting a passage through some very competitive waters.

Most of the major IT systems providers already have some kind of virtualized-storage capacity monitoring feature, and a flock of newbies like VI are also coming into the battle-many with impressive products.

VI, a spinoff of Finisar, makes SAN (storage area network) and virtual infrastructure optimization software called SANInsight and VirtualWisdom. These products provide deep monitoring and analysis of how virtualized IT infrastructures and SANs affect business-critical application performance.

VI recently rolled out Version 2 of VirtualWisdom. Key new capabilities include a widget-based dashboard for custom views; user-defined correlations for "what if" modeling; ProbeVM for VMware optimization; enhanced stability, performance and scalability; and license management.

The company's middleware for Fibre Channel SANs is designed to reduce application response time, increase availability and improve resource utilization.

Despite being only two years old, VI has an impressive list of clients that includes Kaiser Permanente, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Lloyd's Banking, Verizon, U.S. Cellular, eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Qualcomm, to name a few.

"I am convinced there will be a [new market] category that will be spawned from virtualization," Thompson told eWEEK. "Primarily because many of the companies that are pushing the envelope on virtualization were doing so because they had a new method [with which] to do capacity planning. Whereas, in the past, they would capacity-plan to buy the server and buy the storage array. Now all of a sudden they can do capacity planning overnight."

This will spawn some new problems for virtualized systems, Thompson said, involving performance management, availability management and optimization of the infrastructure.

"That's where our company comes into play," Thompson said. "We started [out of Finisar] with a strong focus on the SAN, to make sure it is performing well. The reality is that in a virtual environment, the blind spot for almost every systems management vendor-including the management technologies of VMware-is what's happening in the I/O arena."

Instrumentation becoming more important

Most companies do not have the right instrumentation to give them adequate insight into storage data movement, Thompson said. Bottlenecks are common, especially at the disk array level.

"Therein lies the opportunity for Virtual Instruments. We provide the instrumentation to give you much, much better visibility, such that you can optimize performance, availability, capacity-and improve the economics of running that virtual infrastructure," Thompson said.

Thompson on May 6 replaced Mark Urdahl, who was VI's founding CEO in 2008. Urdahl, a major stockholder, stayed on as a member of the company's board of directors.

Thompson joined Virtual Instruments as an investor and board member in 2009. During his tenure as CEO of Symantec, revenues grew from $600 million to more than $6 billion per year. Prior to that time, Thompson spent 25 years at IBM in a number of senior sales and marketing management positions. He was serving as general manager of IBM Americas when he moved to Symantec in 1998.

Thompson is known for more than being a company executive. Immediately after announcing his retirement as Symantec's CEO in November 2008, he became widely regarded as a leading candidate to be President Obama's first secretary of labor, a job that ultimately went to then-Rep. Hilda Solis.

In September 2002, President George W. Bush appointed Thompson to the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations regarding the security of the critical infrastructure of the United States.

In addition, Thompson has served as the chair of the Silicon Valley Blue Ribbon Task Force on Aviation Security and Technology to identify and evaluate technology-driven solutions to improve the security and efficiency of national and local aviation.

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