Boundary’s Brandon Whichard talks trends in IT monitoring

Posted by on September 25th, 2013


Brandon Whichard

Brandon Whichard

Brandon Whichard is Director of Product Management at Boundary. He’s worked in the IT management sector for more than 15 years, at leading companies including SolarWinds, Zenoss, CA and BMC. (@bwhichard).

Boundary: How has the IT monitoring market evolved in the past several years?

BW: For a long time, it has been the Big 4 (BMC, HP, IBM and CA), just trying to sell products to their large install base. They succeeded largely by buying companies and bundling the acquired products with their own software at a high price. Insiders call this re-rolling an Enterprise License Agreement (ELA) and it happens all the time. Then companies like ManageEngine, Zenoss and SolarWinds came into being to attack the price points of traditional monitoring software. Five years ago that was really the trend: selling software that did 80 percent of what the Big 4 did but at a fraction of the cost. SolarWinds is now a $2B company that succeeded by selling monitoring tools at a cutthroat price into large corporate IT environments.

Then the next trend is the cloud.  The new tier of providers including ManageEngine and SolarWinds are finding they are now being flanked by this newest wave of startups: Boundary and New Relic and others that were created with the cloud in mind.  In the beginning the cloud was mostly hype and it ended up falling into the dreaded “trough of disillusionment.” But things have changed and now very large companies are truly moving to the cloud, not just experimenting. They are quickly discovering that there are real problems in the cloud and they need new solutions. That has affected the Big 4 in this space and most notably BMC was forced to take itself private. Low-end solutions like Zenoss and Nagios simply weren’t built with the cloud in mind and it remains to be seen if they make the transition.

Boundary: What about the role of open source monitoring tools?

BW: People still want to be able to contribute to software development through open source projects. There will always be a need to integrate these tools into the environment. The shift is that open source tools are becoming just another data source, not an analysis tool. IT operations people want the open source data but they need to funnel the data from all sources into a commercial application for a consolidated view of operations and to perform real-time analysis. The trend is the same with home-grown tools. You’re best off working with a SaaS provider like Boundary that can take data from everywhere and help you use it effectively.

Boundary: Is it hard to develop an IT management system that can understand the environments of these massive cloud providers like Amazon?

BW: Traditional monitoring environments are pretty straightforward. You put a piece of software on your server and combine those metrics with your network statistics. But that world is swiftly changing. When you’re working in the cloud, and running your servers on AWS or somewhere else, you have less visibility and much less control of the environment. Yet there’s a way to monitor your application without needing to monitor the low-level infrastructure of the cloud provider. In the case of Boundary, our service works from the presumption that we only need to care about who is talking to the server and are these conversations happening in a timely manner according to your required service levels. We are unique in this approach and that means we don’t need to see everything that’s happening on Amazon, only what matters to your business.

Boundary: So what’s in the future for the monitoring and management market? Will there be consolidation soon of all these newer companies?

BW: Yes, but it won’t be the Big 4 buying them. It’s possible that one of the large cloud providers will target them or even a Web-based company like LinkedIn or Netflix. Those companies are contributing to a lot of open source monitoring projects and they depend on Internet scale to run their business. I can even envision a large scale site like Twitter buying one of these startups to use internally on its own infrastructure as a competitive differentiator. There’s going to be a whole new category of companies looking at this latest wave of cloud monitoring startups as smart investments.


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