IT Management tools need to communicate with the networked devices they manage.
There are two main schools of thought on how best to achieve this. Shall we place a piece of code (an agent) on each device to collect information and manage that device or shall we use the network itself (Agent-less)?
Read this article from a couple of years ago to discover the pros and cons of each see – Agents vs. Agent-less.
Now consider agents or agent-less in a world of virtual devices.
Consider a virtual environment with 20 virtual machines, each with an agent installed, and all installed on one physical server. Asking all 20 agents installed across these 20 virtual devices to perform the same routine administration task (scan machine, install patch, download update etc.) at the same time can put significant overhead on the resources of that one physical server.
According to research published by V-Index.com organizations typically build six virtual machines per physical host. This consolidation ratio is set to increase over time putting extra pressure on the physical device.
Installed agents are not typically aware of the virtual stack around them, as far as an agent is concerned it is just doing its job, blissfully unaware of whether it is on a physical or virtual host. This is why IT Asset Management tools were so quick to adapt to auditing virtual environments – their agents didn’t know any better.
In the antivirus world VMware have joined forces with Trend Micro to deliver ‘agent-less’ antivirus which “Frees resources by offloading antivirus / anti-malware processing”. See Agentless Antivirus for VMware, VMware vShield Endpoint and an online presentation, which explains the offering in more detail.
Now a new start up is offering similar logic for IT Asset Management and other Infrastructure Management tasks. They promise the power of agents without using agents; virtual agents.
Q. What is it exactly that you do?
Intigua virtualizes agent-based management services, such as asset management, monitoring, configuration management, backup, and others to eliminate the pain, risk and cost of deploying agents across the datacenter.
With Intigua companies no longer need to deploy agents on each and every machine in their data centers. Intigua enables agents to execute their tasks virtually on all the machines in your data center– without actually being installed on them. This reduces the number of agents system administrators need to manage from thousands to single digits, thereby significantly reducing management overhead and simplifying change management across the organization.
Similar to VMware vShield agent-less offering for antivirus, Intigua can transform any agent-based infrastructure management product into an agent-less service through virtualization – without having to compromise on functionality, performance and security
Q. What was the inspiration behind the technology?
Agents are hard to manage, and when you have hundreds or even thousands of machines, each with half a dozen or so agents on them, the time and resources needed to properly manage them throughout their lifecycle makes this a near impossible task. And in today’s virtual world it simply doesn’t make sense to deploy the same agents again and again on each virtual machine when many machines share the same hypervisor. This large number of agents also means a lot of downtime for machines and end-users (due to the need for rebooting machines), which is clearly not a good thing for the business.
Furthermore, today’s agent-based systems management products were designed before the breakthrough of virtualization technology and therefore these tools do not have visibility into the virtualization stack. This means they are operating with a very limited view of their environment. This lack of visibility directly impacts performance (i.e. facilitates agent storms), functionality, compliance and security of the entire data center.
Q. One of the classic weaknesses of an agent-less technology like is the lack of long-term usage information – how do you overcome this?
Great question. It’s important to stress that even though there are no agents installed on the end points, Intigua still delivers all the functionality and performance of agent based products – there’s no tradeoff.
How do we do this? Intigua’s unique ‘virtualization aware’ technology provides introspective visibility into the entire virtual stack (through the Hypervisor). So Intigua can see exactly what’s going in terms of performance and resource consumption, and can perform any agent action needed virtually, as if there were an agent on the machine.
In fact, our ‘virtualization aware’ technology provides a far more holistic view of the virtual environment than any other solution can provide today. It can see what’s going on in the entire environment, not just on each individual machine. With this 360 degree view Intigua can manage the entire virtual environment far more effectively, efficiently and accurately than ever before.
Q. What platforms and operating systems does your solution cover?
We are hypervisor agnostic and support both Windows and Linux. In additional we support physical environments including Solaris and HP AIX which was requested by some large financial institutions that we work with.
Q. So, do you offer a new set of Systems Management Tools?
No, we are not replacing any of the existing systems management tools. Our raison d’être is to significantly reduce the operational overhead and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of managing the infrastructure, while improving performance, uptime, security and compliance. Ultimately, by making infrastructure management a far simpler yet more effective process, we believe that Intigua will also help vendors by shortening their own sales, development and support cycles.
Q. Could you tell me about the team behind Intigua?
The management team is comprised of Tomer Levy, David Lieberman and I. Tomer is the VP of Product Development. He spent almost a decade at CheckPoint developing enterprise security products. David is responsible for product positioning and strategic alliances. David has spent more than 10 in the virtualization space. He was with Softricity, an Application Virtualization company which was acquired by Microsoft, and he spent another 5 years at Microsoft leading the efforts to integrate Softricity’s Application Virtualization technology into Microsoft’s partner network. I have worked for several startups (a couple of them were acquired by Polycom and NeuStar), McKinsey & Co., and most recently at the leading VC firm, Cedar Fund.
Intigua is backed by Cedar Fund and a group of private investors from the Enterprise IT Infrastructure industry.
Q. Where are you in terms of development?
We are currently in beta and we plan launch the GA version at the beginning of 2012.
About Martin Thompson
Martin is also author of the book "Practical ITAM - The essential guide for IT Asset Managers", a book that describes how to get started and make a difference in the field of IT Asset Management.
On a voluntary basis Martin is a contributor to ISO WG21 which develops the ITAM International Standard ISO/IEC 19770.
Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.