Quest on a Quest: A Q&A with Quest Software's CTO Carl Eberling

Bruce Hoard interviews the Quest CTO to find out how the acquisitions of ChangeBase and VKernel will impact customers.

Virtualization Review Editor-in-Chief Bruce Hoard recently interviewed Quest Software CTO Carl Eberling about the acquisitions of ChangeBase and VKernel, and how the addition of these two companies will impact Quest customers. Eberling is a real player at Quest, where along with the executive leadership team, he helps drive the firm's overall strategy, both internally and through acquisitions.

Virtualization Review: What are the solutions offered by ChangeBase that led to the Quest acquisition of this company?

Carl Eberling: About a year ago, we laid out a strategy relative to what we had going on with vWorkspace in server-based desktop computing, where we've got VDI, Terminal Services, and the ability to manage VoIP as well. That in and of itself didn't cover enough of the evolving user and client management challenges that are hitting IT, so we started looking at how we could apply some of our monitoring and performance management technologies. We were also interested in including some of our security and identity access management pieces, and one of the things that we saw that was a bit of an opportunity for us related to desktop migration. That is, when people typically have to go from one operating system to another, it tends to be a major event within IT. There are a whole lot of great solutions out there that can help customers make that transition in a cost-effective way. We felt like Quest had a rich history in the migration business -- look at what we do with our e-mail migration, what we do with AD and SharePoint -- so we set about looking at this issue of desktop migration, and I came across a great company called ChangeBase.

Were Quest customers pressing you to acquire or develop the capabilities offered by ChangeBase?

Eberling: They weren't pressuring us, but we were finding that frequently during an upgrade event a customer would sit back and say, "Is there a different way for me to do desktop computing for the enterprise?" And so it seemed like it a good opportunity for us to get involved with the conversation sooner rather than later. We also thought we could apply some of our other assessment technologies that we've got with VDI, so not only can we figure out how best to get you upgraded to Windows 7, but now we can also look at all your applications and how you're using them, and give you some recommendations on what could be on Terminal Services, what could be app virtualization, and what could actually be going nicely into VDI. It was more looking at the workflow that occurs within IT that led us to feel we would be better suited to get involved.

Do you see your customers gravitating to a desktop virtualization approach that leans more toward Terminal Services and remote desktop services, as opposed to a VDI model based on datacenter connectivity?

Ebering: Yes, you know, people talk about VDI, but they implement Terminal Services. You get much greater density. For the purposes of what they're trying to solve in terms of making sure end users can get to their applications, get their job done and get the best control, they tend to gravitate more to that with the desktop experience. I would say VDI is growing in the sense that maybe it's become 10 percent or 15 percent of the mix.

Quest CTO Carl Eberling

We didn't start making a hypervisor, wake up a couple years later, and say yes we also want to be a systems manager. From the beginning we said it's how technology is applied and how it's put to use for the end user that's really important. --Quest CTO Carl Eberling

How will the acquisition of ChangeBase impact your customers?

Eberling: A couple of ways. One, we believe it brings to the discussion a technology and set of capabilities that I find an alarming number of customers don't even know exist. Even during our due diligence prior to buying ChangeBase we found that over half of the customers we talked to had no awareness that this kind of tooling was available to them. There were only two players in this game, and both of them spent a fair amount of time talking more to the application packaging experts, and talking to big outsourcing shops, rather than getting the message out to the enterprise.

Who were those two players?

Eberling: ChangeBase and App-DNA.

So you consider App-DNA to be direct competition now?

Eberling: In a way. What App-DNA does is very different. They're big on the reporting aspect, but they don't necessarily help much with the actual fixing of the problems once you find them. There is certainly the opportunity to catch up over time, but right now, sure, they are a competitor.

Turning to Quest's acquisition of VKernel, what attracted you to them, and how will that acquisition impact your customers?

Eberling: With VKernel, we had recently rolled out some new capabilities for capacity management. When we looked at VKernel, we felt like it could accelerate what we'd already planned even further. We were pretty excited about it, because we had been looking at them for some time, and that' the quick summary.

Again, how customer-driven was that?

Eberling: That was less customer-driven than it was strategy-driven. About a year and a half ago, we laid out a strategy where we were looking at not only the capabilities that exist in a comprehensive performance management solution, but also ways we could officially deliver both point solutions as well as enterprise platforms.

How do Quest and VKernel benefit by selling vFoglight and other products -- say relating to capacity management -- to vSphere customers?

Eberling: We knew there was going to be multiple hypervisors. We're starting to see it now pretty aggressively across customers, especially since the last pricing change on the VMware side. We're finding more Hyper-V in the dev and test environments -- maybe not production yet -- but certainly more of a mix in the datacenter, and what Quest with vFoglight and VKernel offers is the ability to manage and capacity-plan across hypervisor environments, and we're also adding additional support for hypervisors like (Citrix) Xen and KVM as well.

Do you think Quest is competitive enough against VMware to draw new virtualization users away from them and to you?

Eberling: Yes, absolutely. I think it's all about our focus. When it comes to systems management, we have a rich history of success over 20 years. I love to ask people if after they provision their environments, do they just turn them over to their end users, or are they layering in applications and building something that is a utility for end users? When you look back at our history, you can see that we didn't start making a hypervisor, wake up a couple years later, and say yes we also want to be a systems manager. From the beginning we said it's how technology is applied and how it's put to use for the end user that's really important.

You guys claim to be the leader in virtualization management. How do you define virtualization management?

Eberling: We use third-party validation mostly. IDC has put out stuff in the past couple of years that said we are number three in virtualization management -- we're the first ISV, but that they list us right behind VMware and Microsoft in this space, so that's how we claim our title as leader in systems management. In addition, we put a lot credence in the feedback we get from our customers.

What are the most important lessons that Quest has learned about acquiring companies? You've got some pretty substantial experience.

Eberling: We're typically looking for great technology and great technologists. Also, when we do an acquisition these days, we move assertively to integrate them into the portfolio with the rest of Quest. In the past, we had this mindset that we would buy them, let them stand alone and leave it that way as long as we could because we didn't want to mess up their momentum. Everybody likes to talk about momentum in this business. If we move quickly to integrate them, we deliver a better product to the end user, which is most important, but also, it gives clarity to the internal organization regarding the purpose and expectations of the acquisition.

My guess is you're referring to Surgient. On one hand you want to say this is a Quest company, they're a really good company and they had good products. You gave them some time, didn't you?

Ebering: We did. We also did with Vizioncore. The challenge at times is not giving them too much time.

VKernel is in standalone mode, right?

Eberling: Just until the end of the year. This is an acquisition we just did three or four weeks ago right smack dab in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Going forward, what specific goals must Quest meet to thrive as a company?

Eberling: We've got several initiatives that span our solutions. Last year we embarked on an effort to really educate both our companies, and even our employees in some cases, about the general solution area that Quest participates in. We've got this rich portfolio of a hundred and some products, and nobody could ever know them all. People generally relate to a smaller set of solution areas, so we settled on six solution areas, which is great. Now, as we go into 2012 we're looking at things like identity management and access management along with end-user workspace. These are things that certainly can be entire platforms, but they also can be point solutions if the user is wondering, how do I get that one application or point solution in place to solve the problem I have today, and then how do I also leverage that to build for a better tomorrow?

About the Author

Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.

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