I’ve written before about infrastructure management vendor Abiquo – they’re a company trying hard to build awareness in a space that is insanely busy – from the large companies like VMware and their enterprise pulling power, to more lauded small players like enStratus. As part of this push to become laser focused on actually executing, Abiquoe recently appointed Jim Darragh to the position of CEO. Darragh has a great track record, having been CEO at Zeus Technology (acquired by Riverbed). I checked in with Darragh to see how his first few weeks at the company have gone. Darragh and I talked about the competitive landscape, and the value proposition that platform-agnostic management tools like Abiquo can provide. Darragh was talking a good message, he’s focusing Abiquo on delivering benefits through to end users, this reflects perhaps a new found focus on a message that resonates with business units, as well as ticking the boxes of corporate IT. I put this to Darragh and asked whether we were seeing a thrust that saw Abiquo try and talk a story about bridging the gaps between IT and the business, he was pretty confident that IT acceptance of Abiquo was a given and that adoption by business units would automatically flow from that. I’m not convinced this is the case, my experience with companies working on one side of the IT/business divide is that it’s very hard to truly bridge the gap and keep both sides happy.
Darragh and I also talked about the very competitive marketplace Abiquo is in. I wondered whether, over the mid term, we are going to see significant consolidation (as we have already done with the VMware acquisition of DynamicOps). Darragh believes (or at least says publicly) that while infrastructure is undoubtedly becoming commoditized, organizations simply don’t want to use the same stuff as their competitors – Darragh’s point seemed to be that there is competitive differentiation to be gained at the management layer. I’m not convinced of that – organizations want a management layer that works, beyond that the different tools are somewhat homogeneous in the eyes of the customer.
As I wrote previously, Darragh is hyper focused on building out customer numbers for Abiquo. Currently the company is adding around 5-10 customers per quarter but Darragh wants to increase this cadence – he’s been talking with global SIs and regional MSPs alongside actual enterprise customers. I’ve spoken with other management vendors about who they’re competing with at the negotiation stage of a sale – I’m not seeing much evidence that Abiquo is in the hunt on these deals – that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Abiquo seems to have been focusing more heavily on the MSP market and hence has, until now, left enterprise customers to some of the other vendors – it will be interesting to see how a renewed focus on enterprise works out – and how they go in a competitive situation alongside the more well known players.
There is no doubt that what Abiquo and other similar vendors do has value – a survey that the company just performed found that 46% of cloud services are manually provisioned by an IT administrator, with no automation. The survey had some interesting data about cloud uptake, and the automation of that cloud. Despite 75% of respondents reporting that their company offered private, public or hybrid cloud services to customers, just 15% of these provide a ‘self-service’ interface that enables end user control. The other finding of the survey related to the time to deployment of cloud – the most common SLA for provisioning a customer request is ‘within three days’, for 37% of customers. Just 15% of respondents commit to providing virtual cloud services to customers within three hours, although a further 25% are able to spin-up services within 24 hours. The actual numbers here are of secondary importance to the very fact that deploying cloud within an enterprise is slow – and that automation and end-user self-service are valid product areas – 45% of respondents are not using orchestration of any kind, 32% are using VMware management tools, but only 5% are using built-for-purpose orchestration and management software. Darragh points out this failing saying:
The vision for cloud is meant to be simple, flexible and immediate – unfortunately, in reality this appears to be the exception rather than the rule. It seems that whilst cloud has certainly progressed from a technology and an infrastructure perspective, how it’s delivered to users and customers is still a decade behind. For cloud to reach its potential, the next step for IT decision makers is to get their arms around the complexity of the stack and plug it all into one interface that connects everything in the back end, with a straightforward interface for the user. For a cloud deployment to be successful the end user should be able to deploy services in minutes. If that is not designed or built into the cloud then the value is diminished significantly. There shouldn’t be any need for manual intervention by the IT department. IT can retain control and governance without having to manually provision new services.
Finally we talked briefly about the latest version of the software released by Abiquo – Enterprise Edition 2.2 shows a renewed focus on storage via an exposed iSCSi plugin architecture that allow customers to create their own storage volumes. Other changes rolled out in this version include;
- Controlled infrastructure – Abiquo’s delegated administration capabilities can include one or more physical datacenters. This allows for controlled delegation of the physical infrastructure. It can include one or more AbiquoEnterprises allowing for the improved delegation of user or customer administration
- Support for KVM 6 – The Abiquo platform supports the virtualization infrastructure KVM 6 allowing customers to take advantage of improved KVM features relating to IP throttling and security.
- Customisable design – The design of the Abiquo platform is customisable through its Branding Web Application which can create new branding themes for service providers or enterprises offering white label services. The application allows for a new branding theme to be created in minutes
- Improved ESX integration
- Improved reporting and billing
The ability to white label the product in particular talks to a value prop for MSP customers. This and the company’s European presence (Darragh is UK based) offer up some interesting opportunities for the company.