Startup tackles app management in virtual environments

A team of systems management industry veterans this week launched a company and introduced technology that BlueStripe Software says gives IT managers the tools they need to track and optimize application performance in virtual environments.

BlueStripe Software, founded in June 2007, came out of stealth mode this week with the introduction of its flagship product FactFinder. The software — this version designed specifically for VMware virtual server environments — will be on display at VMworld 2008, which is expected to draw some 14,000 attendees.

According to the start-up, FactFinder helps companies struggling to optimize application performance in a less static environment, such as those featuring both physical and virtual servers.

“Companies would like to have the flexibility to move transactional applications over to dynamic virtual servers, but the loss of visibility into where that application resides and moves really makes that tough,” says Vic Nyman, BlueStripe COO and former CEO of configuration management vendor Relicore, which Symantec acquired in 2006.

Nyman also held positions with IBM Tivoli software and Wily Technology, the application management vendor CA acquired in 2006.

“The loss of visibility is breaking the current management tools, and we’ve developed a technology that can manage the application wherever it goes, even if part of the application is on virtual systems, part on physical servers and even if part is tied to mainframes,” Nyman says.

Upon installation FactFinder performs an automatic discovery of the application and its components. It then details all connections and dependencies of the application, benchmarking normal behavior to enable the software to detect when performance anomalies occur. Equipped with this knowledge, FactFinder can follow an application throughout a multi-tiered environment and enable effective performance monitoring and troubleshooting when problems do occur.

“Areas where the tools are still evolving range across the spectrum, but particularly important will be continuing work in areas such as root-cause analysis (RCA), capacity and performance planning, chargeback and automation in general,” says Cameron Haight, research vice president at Gartner. “RCA is important because of the growing number of interdependencies — many of which are fluid or mobile because of the underlying virtualization technology, making the construction of potential fault paths more problematic.”

Initially designed as a support tool targeted at application administrators, the software downloads to a desktop or a laptop for portable use. FactFinder also requires customers install its “service observer” component, a small service that runs in the operating systems of a few servers in the environment.

The service observer, which Nyman likens to a DLL (dynamic link library), passively collects data by watching the application request layers and gathering data to send to the console residing on an application administrator’s laptop.

This service sends a summary of statistics on the operating systems by using WMI when necessary and ESX Server by connecting to VMware VirtualCenter management APIs. This data helps the application administrator get a picture of application performance and track its movement to more easily detect potential bottlenecks and failures.

“It’s about managing the application wherever it goes,” Nyman says.

BlueStripe Software initially self-funded its operations, but in December 2007 the management newcomer garnered US$5 million in Series A funding from Trinity Ventures. Chris Neal, formerly of Wily, Oracle and NetDynamics (acquired by Sun in 1998), is CEO.

The management team located BlueStripe in Research Triangle Park, N.C. — which provides a clue to the origin of the upstart’s name. According to Nyman, two executives graduated from Duke University and two others from rival University of North Carolina, inspiring the BlueStripe name and logo, which features the two college shades in “The Battle of the Blues.”

“We have a great and intense sports rivalry existing in one company. It makes for an interesting social narrative here,” Nyman says.

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