The Cranky Admin

VMware Buys Cloud Analytics Company

The acquisition of Wavefront could have a large ripple effect.

VMware has announced the acquisition of Wavefront, a cross-cloud analytics company. Wavefront has been praised for both its extensive API and its speed when compared to leading competitors. You can be excused if you've never heard of Wavefront; though they had a few decent wins, they were still very much a startup.

Perhaps the best known of Wavefront's competitors is Splunk. Systems administrators the world over rely on Splunk to perform analysis on log files from virtually every piece of equipment, operating system and application under their management. Splunk churns on that data and spits out reports, alerts and complicated analyses.

Where Wavefront comes in is that they designed their platform for a scale that that simply wasn't a reality the last time Spunk rebuilt the core analytics engine of its product. Call it hyperscale analytics, if you will.

This isn't to take anything away from Splunk -- as the more mature product it can boast innumerable features that Wavefront as yet cannot -- but it gives us an inkling as to why VMware thought buying Wavefront was a good idea.

Cloudy Ambitions
VMware failed at building its own cloud. It ultimately had to sell its struggling vCloud Air platform to OVH. It has instead relied on partnerships with the large public cloud providers, most recently with Amazon. VMware also has an extensive network of service providers offering VMware-as-a-service.

VMware's new approach to winning in the cloud is diversity. Give businesses choice about where they can run their workloads, but convince them to keep running those workloads on top of VMware. In order to add value to this play, VMware needs analytics that can not only cope with on-premises solutions, multiple cloud providers and regional service providers, but analytics that can operate at planetary scale.

Wavefront also brings to VMware the ability to integrate SaaS monitoring, extending its vRealize monitoring suite with tools that can make VMware's monitoring solutions the only monitoring solutions an enterprise will need. Monitoring and analytics are growth markets today, and this is a play that makes eminent sense.

But VMware's analytics ambitions go beyond simply providing vRealize Log Insight for the hybrid cloud.

VMware Is Watching You
Like Microsoft, VMware is leaning heavily into its Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). It is collecting ever-increasing amounts of data from deployments big and small, and crunching the numbers in order to learn things.

VMware wants to know not only what people are doing, what features are being used and so forth; it wants to know how people are configuring their environments. How many people are deviating from whitepapered "best practices," in what ways, and why?

What third-party solutions are customers using? If the high rollers all use a given storage feature, it makes sense to build that directly into VSAN. If there are a lot of errors associated with a given partner product, maybe VMware can intercede, either to work with the partner to fix that error, or build something that outright replaces it.

This might sound a little creepy at first. Depending on the exact details of what VMware hoovers up and how it intends to use it, it probably is creepy. It's also "simply the way things are done" in IT these days. You can thank Microsoft for normalizing this sort of data collection at scale.

With Great Power…
Now that VMware has this kind of data and the ability to crunch it, they have decisions to make about how they'll use it. VMware could, as discussed earlier, use these capabilities to cannibalize its own partner ecosystem. It wouldn't be the first tech vendor to eat its young, and it's a quick way to cheap growth for the next few quarters.

Alternately, VMware could turn into a hybrid datacenter data collection and analysis powerhouse, offering the results of its intellectual largesse back to its partner community and enabling them to build better products to meet demand. With the Wavefront acquisition, VMware has the tools to choose between being a platform upon which a thriving ecosystem backed by empirical data is built; or, if they become a "must-have" vertically-integrated powerhouse, offing an answer to every datacenter need.

Microsoft has tried, often unsuccessfully, to toe the line between the two. It has alienated its partner and developer ecosystems more than once because of it. By dint of being the infrastructure on which today's largest businesses are absolutely reliant -- on-premises and increasingly in the cloud -- VMware is in a position to collect and analyze data that even Microsoft could only dream of.

Clearly, customers are going to benefit from the Wavefront acquisition in the form of expanded, cross-cloud analytics capabilities. What remains to be seen is how -- or if -- VMware's partners will also win.

About the Author

Trevor Pott is a full-time nerd from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He splits his time between systems administration, technology writing, and consulting. As a consultant he helps Silicon Valley startups better understand systems administrators and how to sell to them.

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