VKernel Charges Into Virtual Chargeback

Startup looks to Russia for software skills and gets ready to ride the virtual wave

March 7, 2008

4 Min Read
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Software startup VKernel claims to have devised a way for users to manage their increasingly complex virtual server and storage environments.

The Portsmouth, N.H.-based vendor is developing a set of software solutions which it says will ease many of the capacity management challenges associated with virtualization.

"As organizations virtualize their data center, the old chargeback model where they charge users per box doesn't work anymore," explains Alex Bakman, the VKernel CEO and founder. "Organizations realize that they have to move to more of a resource consumption model for things like CPU, memory, and storage."

Last year VKernel took the wraps off its Chargeback virtual appliance, which it is now touting as a way for users to work out exactly how much CPU and storage is swallowed by VMs.

The software, which uses a SuSE Linux kernel, runs as a VM within VMware's ESX server product, and essentially "meters" how much compute power and storage are used by other VMs."Its kind of like an electrical meter on a house", says Bakman, explaining that the virtual appliance uses VMware's Virtual Center to draw information from CPUs and storage.

The exec told Byte and Switch that his firm has racked up a "handful" of customers since emerging from stealth last October. These include Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., and manufacturing firms Simplex and Safelite Auto Glass.

Complexity has already been identified as a key challenge by users looking to virtualize their infrastructures, although VKernel is not the only vendor playing in this space.

Startup Vizioncore offers its VCharter software as a monitoring tool for ESX Server, although this is a Windows, rather than Linux-based solution.

By choosing the SuSE Linux kernel Bakman claims the ability to fit within an extremely small VM. "Linux is very configurable, you can basically remove what you don't need," he says, explaining that the VKernel virtual appliance takes up about 256 Mbytes.The vendor unveiled its second product offering this week, announcing the beta version of its Capacity Bottleneck Analyzer (CBA). Like the Chargeback offering, CBA is also a Linux-based virtual appliance running as a VM within ESX server.

"It instantly builds a prioritized list of current capacity bottlenecks that exist on VMware ESX Server," says Bakman, such as running out of storage.

More and more attention is being focused on the issue of capacity management.

Last month, for example, Novell announced plans to acquire virtualization management specialist PlateSpin for an undisclosed fee, hinting that larger vendors are eyeing this problem.

"It's a very hot issue for large production virtual machine environments," says IDC analyst Stephen Elliot, but warns that users are extremely cost-conscious about this type of technology. "There's a certain level of price sensitivity with these accounts -- they don't want to spend a lot."VKernel's Chargeback virtual appliance is priced at $299 per CPU. The production version of VKernel's CBA offering will be available at the end of this month, priced at $199 per CPU.

More virtual appliances will be launched later this year, according to Bakman. "Other areas that we will target include VM sprawl, planning and modeling for capacity management, and search [capabilities] across VMs. That's probably as much detail as I want to go into."

The CEO, who founded VKernel just over a year ago, is also deciding how to spend the $4.6 million Series A funding round the company closed last month.

"We will expand software development and sales and marketing and bring more people on board," he says, adding that he expects the firm's 25-strong workforce to grow to around 60 within the next 12 months.

The Russian-born Bakman explained that the firm is unlikely to open any new offices in addition to its Portsmouth HQ and its software development base in Moscow, Russia, at least for the coming year. "We're building a channel sales organization," he explains, adding that VKernel is "100 percent channel-oriented."The Moscow site will remain key to VKernel's strategy, according to Bakman. "I started experimenting with offshore development in the year 2000, and I realized that Russia offered a lot of very great engineering talent."

"The education system is excellent in math, science, and engineering," he adds. "A lot of that talent was involved in military work, but as that has gone down, there's a lot of talent in the commercial space."

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  • IDC

  • Novell Inc. (Nasdaq: NOVL)

  • PlateSpin

  • SuSE Inc.

  • Vizioncore Inc.

  • V-Kernel Corp.

  • VMware Inc.

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