Everybody knows virtualisation isn't just about VMware any more. Many users are past the rush to server virtualisation and now need to increase the benefits of the move.
They need not only to improve efficiency, performance and management, but also to find ways to extend the technology to their desktop, storage and mobile environments. That's a heavy burden. Product choices can be overwhelming, and a starting point difficult to find.
Get on your way with promising products from these 10 companies:
Desktop management: Kidaro, Provision Networks, XDS I/O processing bottlenecks: 3Leaf Systems, InovaWave Unwieldy file storage: Attune Systems Virtual server management: Insystek, Scalent Systems, ToutVirtual Disaster recovery: Marathon Technologies
Founded: July 2005
What does the company offer? Managed Workspace, software for deploying, managing and securing virtual desktops -- especially mobile virtual desktops -- across an enterprise, from a single, policy-based management console.
Why is it worth watching? "Kidaro pushes the right buttons when it comes to desktop virtualisation," says Andi Mann, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates. Managed Workspace is secure and seamless, and provides centrally managed, policy-based control that provides for employee mobility and keeps corporate data secure at the same time, he adds.
How did the company get its start? Founders had in mind the idea of using virtualisation to improve the manageability and security of enterprise desktop computing.
How did the company get its name? It's from the Kidarite kingdom in India, whose founder overthrew the Kushan Empire in the fourth century A.D.
Management: Kevin Brown, CEO, had been an executive with Decru; after that company's acquisition by Network Appliance, he served on NetApp's information governance board.
Funding: $14 million, from Genesis Partners, Opus Capital Ventures and Storm Ventures.
Who's using the product? Smartronix.
Founded: March 2004
What does the company offer? Virtual Access Suite (VAS) hosted desktop and presentation virtualisation infrastructure. Compatible with virtualisation software from Microsoft, SWsoft, Virtual Iron, VMware and XenSource, VAS consolidates virtual application delivery and desktop deployment from those companies' virtual machines, as well as blade PCs and Provision's own terminal servers.
Why is it worth watching? VAS improves management and security while keeping costs in check, users say. "We needed the ability to scale our business without increasing desktop-support costs," says Gary Parkinson, IT director with Isaac Agnew, a UK automobile retailer. "With over 600 network PCs across 17 retail locations, we needed to deploy new applications quickly, securely and efficiently to a standard desktop, regain control of those desktops, and turn them into simple, task-based tools. Provision helped make the deployment and control a much easier experience."
How did the company get its start? Spun off from Emergent OnLine, one of Citrix Systems largest partners.
How did the company get its name? The founders wanted a name that suggests desktop and application provisioning.
Management: Co-founder and CEO Peter Ghostine also founded Emergent OnLine, and had been vice president of international sales and operations for V-One (now AEP Networks).
Funding: $6 million in private funding.
Who's using the product? Aflac, Brightstar, Computer Sciences, Dole Foods, Hitachi, Investools, US Department of Veterans Affairs and Xerox.
Founded: September 2001
What does the company offer? SIMtone Virtual Desktop Utility (VDU), an appliance that delivers Windows desktops to employees as an on-demand, scalable service, across enterprise networks or the Internet. It delivers desktop environments and applications to PCs, thin clients, mobile phones, set-top boxes and PDAs.
Why is it worth watching? Once users get past server virtualisation, they look to desktop virtualisation to reduce support costs for remote users and increase security. XDS focuses on performance and delivers a dial-tone-like service that provides on-demand virtual desktop sessions with an experience similar to a PC or laptop that is reportedly high security and low cost.
How did the company get its start? Mario Dal Canto, the founding investor and current chairman and CEO, brought the original technology team together.
How did the company get its name? While in a cigar bar, co-founder and president Gerry Dube saw a cigar adapter for car cigarette lighters. From that product, called X-tension, he came up with the idea of Xtend Digital Services, which became XDS.
Management: Dal Canto had been CEO at both Cybertel and Impres, a venture firm he started with Bob Sackman, founding Sun chairman.
Funding: An undisclosed amount in one round, from Kodiak Venture Partners and Motorola Ventures.
Who's using the product? SIMtone VDU is in enterprise pilot tests.
Founded: June 2004
What does the company offer? The V-8000 Virtual I/O Server appliance, which virtualises I/O subsystems for large pools of servers, bringing mainframe-class availability and resiliency to x86 commodity systems.
Why is it worth watching? I/O bottlenecks are a key pain point in large, virtualised server environments. "It's definitely a problem to scale up lots of virtual machines on a cluster and not be able to scale up the I/O at the same time. 3Leaf is addressing this," says John Abbott, chief analyst at the 451 Group.
How did the company get its start? 3Leaf was founded to solve such problems as the low reliability and resiliency of I/O spawned by virtualisation.
How did the company get its name? Founder Bob Quinn emailed company supporters for ideas. Clover Systems (playing off the idea of a shamrock and Quinn's Irish heritage) was one name suggested, and it morphed into 3Leaf Systems.
Management: Quinn, who is CEO, also founded and held executive positions with Network Virtual Systems and iMODL.
Funding: $32.5 million in two rounds, from Alloy Ventures, Enterprise Partners, Intel Capital and Storm Ventures.
Who's using the product? Savvis, as well as several financial institutions and a number of Fortune 100 companies.
Founded: March 2006
What does the company offer? DXtreme, optimisation software that aims to improve the performance of virtual machines by reducing disk I/O bottlenecks.
Why is it worth watching? Databases and other applications with heavy I/O requirements are the most difficult to virtualise -- and Microsoft, VMware and others haven't come up yet with a good solution. InovaWave offers one today for companies that need the highest performance in a virtual machine, says Chris Voce, analyst at Forrester Research.
How did the company get its start? Founders set out to ease the mobility of virtual machines but in the process discovered how to increase virtual-machine performance by optimising disk I/O. They launched InovaWave to pursue both technologies.
How did the company get its name? The name represents "waves of innovation."
Management: CEO Chris Ostertag was vice president of worldwide sales and field operations for Credant Technologies. Before that, he led Sun's technical sales force.
Funding: $9.2 million in two rounds, from Matrix Partners and Silverton Partners.
Who's using the product? Borland Software, Canyon Partners, IBM's Rational division, Novell, NovusEdge, Prolify, SDL International, SourceForge and Vignette.
Founded: December 2003
What does the company offer? Maestro File Manager, a file-virtualisation appliance that discovers, analyses, manages and optimises heterogeneous file-storage resources. It handles non-disruptive data migration, server retirement, data consolidation, tiering and global namespace across Windows file servers and network-attached storage.
Why is it worth watching? "Basically, it virtualises the file server to the user," says Zak Khalil, MIS manager at Lessard Group, an architecture firm in Vienna, Va. "It runs with any existing storage. . . . It's very easy to implement, and it works."
How did the company get its start? Attune was founded in response to the explosive growth of unstructured file data and the need to manage such data better.
How did the company get its name? The founders wanted a name that conveyed a sense of control and alignment among unstructured data and storage resources.
Management: CEO Alan Kessler held the same position at Intransa and before that was COO at Palm.
Funding: About $40 million, from Alloy Ventures, GF Private Equity Group, Quicksilver Ventures, Rock Creek Capital, RWI Ventures, Shea Ventures and Shoreline Venture Management.
Who's using the product? Bluesocket, Central Florida YMCA, Granite Telecommunications, Interwoven, Insulet and Lessard Group.
Founded: April 1999
What does the company offer? Virtualise IT, a management software suite that lets users of Microsoft, VMware and XenSource virtualisation products discover and map virtual environments, create virtual machines, track and manage physical and virtual relationships, and automate the life cycle of a large number of virtual servers and desktops.
Why is it worth watching? Few enterprise server environments are virtualised fully, and that means most IT executives are faced with managing virtual and physical servers. Virtual IT lets users manage both from a single console, easing overall administration and cutting costs.
How did the company get its start? The founders saw a need to help desktop and server administrators better manage their environments in a secure, scalable manner.
How did the company get its name? The company started as a privately owned consulting service, Information System Technologies. "Insystek" is a take on the old name.
Management: Alex Turner, CEO, has spent 18 years in the IT industry.
Funding: Private, in the low millions.
Who's using the product? Virtualise IT products are expected to be available this month.
Founded: January 2003
What does the company offer? Scalent makes server-repurposing software. Its Virtual Operating Environment (V/OE) provides data centre infrastructure virtualisation (aka physical machine, network and storage movement), easing disaster recovery, test automation and on-demand computing requirements. It works with the AIX, Linux, Solaris, Windows, VMware ESX and Xen operating systems.
Why is it worth watching? When servers -- even virtual machines -- move, their connectivity needs to move with them, and that's something most virtual-server vendors don't address. V/OE addresses the physical side, remotely turning on machines and making sure they have the right network address, storage access and operating system or hypervisor booting.
How did the company get its start? The founders noticed the problems caused by manually shifting machines, cables, and network- and storage-access architectures whenever testing, disaster recovery or other changes are made.
How did the company get its name? Scalability is the challenge the company set out to solve, hence the name Scalent.
Management: Benjamin Linder, CEO, was previously with Openwave Systems and Oracle.
Funding: $37 million in three rounds, from Credit Suisse, Hummer-Winblad, JK&B Capital and Pequot Ventures.
Who's using the product? Ameriquest, Blackboard, Carilion Health System and Wachovia.
Founded: January 2005
What does the company offer? The Virtual IQ suite, for managing heterogeneous virtual-computing infrastructures.
Why is it worth watching? As virtualised servers proliferate, they become increasingly difficult to manage. "Where the complications happen are with management, the staff impact and the process changes that take place," says Stephen Elliot, an IDC director. "There's definitely an addressable need that [ToutVirtual] is trying to fill."
How did the company get its start? ToutVirtual's founders, who worked together at eCritical, CACI International and Sniffer Technologies (now Network General), recognised the need for a virtualisation automation and management tool that could work in any IT environment.
How did the company get its name? Named to suggest "everything" virtual, from "tout," the French word for "everything;" founders also liked that "tout" has applicable meanings in English and French, the two languages of worldwide diplomacy.
Management: President Jess Marinez shares the helm with Vipul Pabari, CTO, and Bakul Mehta, chief strategy officer.
Funding: Privately held, but seeking additional funding.
Who's using the product? Aetna, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Canon, Century One, Ernest & Young, HP, Intel, Starbucks and UBS.
Founded: January 1993
What does the company offer? EverRun high-availability/fault-tolerance software, which integrates with XenSource's XenEnterprise software and runs on a two-node network of Windows machines. It keeps the machines in lock step so that if a component or software fails on one, the other keeps running, eliminating downtime.
Why is it worth watching? "Going forward, we see high availability and disaster recovery for business resiliency as key reasons why organisations will deploy virtualisation software," says John Humphreys, an IDC programme director. "There is huge market appeal for technology . . . that addresses both planned and unplanned downtime in virtual environments."
How did the company get its start? The founders, who had developed Digital Equipment's VAX FT fault-tolerant systems, created technology that lets multiple Wintel servers operate as a single fault-tolerant system. In 2003, the company implemented its technology in software.
How did the company get its name? "Marathon" was chosen because it conveys the idea of running with endurance and resiliency.
Management: CEO Gary Phillips has more than 20 years of experience in senior management for high-technology firms, including Avaki (now Sybase), Bowstreet (now IBM), BroadVision, BBN Technologies, NCR and Wang Laboratories.
Funding: $26 million in four rounds, from Atlas Venture, Longworth Capital, Presidio STX and Sierra Ventures.
Who's using the product? MAN Nutzfahrzeuge Group and Wellcome Trust, as well as pharmaceutical manufacturers and television networks.