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Virtualization and ITSM: StackSafe interviewed

I chatted up with the folks at StackSafe and we spoke at large about the impact that virtualization is having on business processes. 95% of the server market still needs to be virtualized. So what is keeping the organizations, big or small, from adopting virtualization in their environments? It is the complete overhaul of your total business bulk, that is keeping people on their toes. Change Management is a very crucial part of your business, and with virtualization, a lot changes. And it changes all over the place, vertically and horizontally. A lot is at stake and a lot gets horizontal as VMs start "floating" across hardware seamlessly. Silos are bound to shift and tumble and we have a complete sprawl.

StackSafe is still its "Stealth Mode"but they will be getting out of it soon by end Jan 2008 next month.

I spoke to Joe Pendry, Dir Marketing, Andrew Gross, Chief Scientist (check out their profiles on StackSafe) Here is a summary, in the form of a Q&A, of what we spoke about:

  1. Tell us something about StackSafe?

We are a startup company based in Vienna, Virginia. Our mission is to significantly improve uptime and resiliency to provide software infrastructure testing solutions that enable IT Operations.

To this end, we are preparing to launch StackSafe Test Center in late January 2008 – the first virtualized staging and testing platform for IT Operations.

  1. Virtualization and Change Management, how does it affect the business continuity?

We’ve found that 60% of organizations list changes in the operational environment (patches, new software, security changes, etc.) as the most significant cause of unplanned downtime. More to the point, an astonishing 25% of changes cause problems in production and one in ten changes end up being “rolled back” due to unforeseen impact.

This is bad news for IT Operations teams who are facing an expected increase in the number of requested changes due to business pressures. And all this is potentially made more difficult by the introduction of virtualization into these organizations. To limit downtime (and support business continuity efforts) organizations need to understand what are becoming very complex environments.

  1. How does your product address this problem?

Our product helps IT Operations understand the impact that a change will have before the change is introduced into production. This helps to lower downtime impacts from changes when they are introduced into production. Test Center makes it easy for IT Operations to build a representative virtualized staging environment, introduce changes, run pre-defined and custom tests and analyze how changes will affect production.

These capabilities help improve testing and, in turn, enable IT Operations to reduce downtime. (product link)

  1. What virtualization platform is the product based upon?

We have leveraged open-source virtualization tools for the product and will provide more details about how virtualization is used once we launch.

  1. When do you intend releasing your product?

We’ve wrapped up our Beta testing and we will formally launch the product in late January.

  1. Pricing?

StackSafe Test Center will be sold as a subscription-based product and will be priced at roughly $50,000 per year.

  1. Do you have any "direct" competitors? If so, what is your differentiated strategy?

We’re aware of any company that currently offers a solution like ours, which combines staging and testing specifically for IT operations teams. In the development and QA space, there are differing sets of vendors focused on virtualized lab management solutions as well as automated test bed platforms.

Our most direct competitor is the IT Operations team who decides to try and develop their own virtualized staging and testing environment using available tools. This effort would involve lots of time and money, however.

  1. How is Change Management and the whole ITSM seen by the US companies?

Our research has shown that companies are extremely interested in change and release management. They know that they need to do a better job of testing changes and most are acutely aware of the link between untested changes and downtime. That said, our study “IT Operations Research Report: Change Management Maturity” showed that only 25% of US companies have adopted ITIL versus much larger numbers in Europe.,cntnt01,showentry,0&cntnt01entryid=1&cntnt01returnid=90 (link for report)

  1. Any plans for EMEA?

Our initial focus is on companies in the United States, but we are already hearing from companies in EMEA that have expressed interest in learning about our product after it has been formally launched. We feel that the high degree of ITIL adoption in Europe will make it easier for those companies to understand the benefit of Test Center to their IT Operations teams.


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