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Virtualisation Field Day 6 Preview: Cirba

Virtualisation Field Day 6 is happening in Silicon Valley, California from 18th-20th November and I’m very lucky to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post:I’m heading to Virtualisation Field Day 6.

I briefly met Cirba at VMworld Europe and they presented briefly at Tech Field Day Extra at VMworld US this year. Cirba is a privately owned company and has been operating since 1999.

Define demand. Optimize supply. Automate.Cirba is a Canadian company with a product which is all about optimising workload placement. You use it to analyse your environment and it will tell you where you have overprovisioned resources and extra capacity or where you have underprovisioned resources and your VMs aren’t getting what they need. Knowing this allows you to right size your environment and save money by cleverly mixing workloads and also deciding where best your workloads should run or be provisioned.

They use a good analogy of using Tetris to try and fit all the resource pieces together but this is rather a more multi-dimensional game. You need to fit CPU/RAM/Network and storage pieces together where they don’t necessarily all have the same shape and size. You also need to overlay your business policies on top of this which makes for some interesting number crunching.

Scale

This is a product which is meant to be used with a large environments by enterprises and service providers. You really need multiple clusters and locations so Cirba can advise you that its best to move your end of month reporting application to a cluster or, if technically possible, to another location with for example higher storage performance. It does this proactively so having gathered last month’s performance info it knows in advance that the reporting application is going to need the faster storage and can then talk to your orchestration engine (say vRealize Automation) to move the application in advance. This proactive analysis and optional remediation hand-off is what they pride themselves on compared to other tools that can only move VMs once a problem is identified. It will be interesting to see how a Service Provider can use this in a multi-tenant environment to manage capacity and how this differs from enterprises.

VMTurbo also does workload optimisation and placement, Cirba believes it’s algorithms are superior, would be interesting to hear how.

You obviously need a good underlying infrastructure with good automation so you actually have the ability to move workloads across clusters and can stand up environments in multiple places. Cirba, I would think needs very frictionless infrastructure.

The comparison is inevitably made with DRS. DRS only works within a single cluster and so can only decide on which host to power on a VM without any idea of what resources it will use once powered on and only moves VMs after performance changes which is limited to CPU/Memory.

Cirba also has a reservation system linked to its capacity planner so you can in advance tell Cirba you are expecting to deploy a new drug testing application for example and Cirba will reserve this future capacity and show you where best it would be to host this and whether you have existing resources or need to buy some more capacity.

Cirba can manage vSphere, Hyper-V and KVM environments.

Policy

There is a policy engine that sits on top of all this as you likely have business constraints as to where your VMs need to run. No point splitting the database from the application server to give them both better resource utilisation if the new latency is going to be an issue. You may need certain VMs to run in a particular location due to compliance reasons or bringing them closer to your users. I’m certainly interested in seeing more about the policy engine as I’m not sure how much is automatically generated vs. manual input.

Cloud Placement

I do believe this placement problem is going to become more and more of a concern and is likely something large companies are not considering. This will become more relevant as we head to a multi-cloud world. What will become interesting and useful is having a costing model that can take cloud prices into account. This new sales app, would it be better for me to host on AWS, internally on my infrastructure in Bangalore or with my 3rd party provider in Dubai? What if I needed to double the resources it needs for my holiday web traffic, would it then be better to move the front end to Azure with the back end still in Bangalore but still keep the analytics in Dubai? You obviously have to have very advanced deployment capabilities to be able to transport and spin up workloads transparently to the clouds they sit on but isn’t this the reason to use PaaS with something like Cloud Foundry and stop managing VMs?

Where to from here?

Cirba seems a company that perhaps hasn’t found its feet yet, a number of changes from where they started can be successfully adapting to the market or also rather seen as making another stab to find something that works. What makes Cirba think this current track is the right one? Large enterprises and service providers have the scale to often write their own orchestration/planning tools, is Cirba so much better and cost comparative at scale? Is this only for environments with scale? Super large enterprises may have big money to spend if the ROI works out but just large/medium sized customers can often make up the sales volume and don’t demand the same discounts. Is Cirba looking to have a smaller version? Can it solve some of the cloud questions enterprises have? Are they looking at providing a SaaS offerings as the metrics gathered from multiple customers could be very interesting and lucrative for them.

I wonder what the future is for Cirba, it’s been going for a while and has taken on just over $38m in funding over the past 9 years so investors must be wanting an exit, acquisition target?

Looking forward to hearing what they have to say and seeing practical examples of how they help customers. I also suggest Cirba has a clear, simple and short opening story articulating what they do. If people hear the story and still compare the product to DRS then the message isn’t getting out.

Gestalt IT is paying for travel, accommodation and things to eat to attend Virtualisation Field Day but aren’t paying a penny for me to write anything good or bad about anyone.

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