I recently had the privilege to talk with Forrest Browning, Co-Founder of StacksWare. He is part of an 8-person San Francisco startup that set out to create a software solution that provides real-time application inventorying and metering. As Stanford students in 2014 they were required to do a senior project, which led them to work with VMware's Sanjay Poonen. Sanjay helped them get their start and through work with internal VMware engineers and customer interviews they created in early 2015 StacksWare. The current focus is on VDI, but the software will also inventory and report on server based applications. One could think about StacksWare as a vCenter for Apps where correlations can be made between User, VM, and Host.
With best of breed investors, Greylock and Lightspeed, along with advisement from the famous Jerry Chen, this team has a great story and potential.
I decided to test it out and see what use cases could come to mind. The very first thing I noticed was how easy it was to setup. All that is needed is their Ubuntu OVA where they have a docker image running. The OVA provides the mechanism to stream inventory related data to a secure SaaS portal. It’s also interesting to take note that since StacksWare is using Docker, all updates and/or upgrades happen seamlessly without user interaction, a nice plus!
After powering on the Ubuntu VM, the StacksWare team will provide you an account where you associate your SaaS portal with the Ubuntu VM. Upon login for the first time, a connection must be made to vCenter and Active Directory. The next step is to decide which application collection method to use. The beauty of this is that you can decide whether to use agentless or have a managed agent installed automatically by StacksWare.
It will take a couple minutes to start seeing data show up in the StacksWare dashboard but once the initial load of inventory data has completed, all subsequent changes will show up almost instantaneously. For example, I noticed that when I migrated a workload to another host or when I installed a new application, the StacksWare inventory was almost immediately updated on the SaaS portal.
Once my lab inventory data became available, I noticed how simple everything was to understand when browsing the UI. This, in my opinion, is one of the most difficult things to achieve when developing a new solution. When you are able to mask complexity for ease of use and understanding this provides an extreme low time to value. Forrest stated this was one their first goals when developing StacksWare.
When looking at use cases for StacksWare, a few come to mind when looking at such a product.
• Assist helpdesk regarding application issues
• Save on application licensing
• Monitor mission-critical applications
• Perform internal security audits
I will focus on a couple of these use cases, where I immediately saw some of the obvious benefits in my own lab environment.
1) Notice how many instances of an application in this case “Java” are in use, along with the different Java versions. This example is showing my vCenter virtual machine where I had multiple versions of Java running with different users/accounts.
2) Determine what and how many applications are currently in use. Which applications are the most popular? How many different versions of the same software are installed? Which ones are the most popular? Do I have the correct number of licenses for the software? These are all questions that can be answered via the application asset dashboard along with corresponding executable mappings to the applications.
3) Easy visibility into when or where a virtual machine has been migrated from/to a host. If you want to have a dashboard of all historical Virtual Machine migrations this provides a nice glance of the vCenter migration data.
4) Audit application usage per user, even if using non-persistent VDI. For example, they claim to have the only tool on the market that can track what a user did in a non-persistent environment. Whether a user logouts or the virtual machine is recomposed, StacksWare captures application usage irrespective of the VM. I see this valuable to helpdesk, since they can can track user actions when a desktop or application crashes and hopefully diagnose symptoms that contributed.
In this example, I can see which services and users have used or are using Java.
5) StacksWare implemented a novel way to provide help to their customers. They partnered and implemented Intercom into their StacksWare dashboard where instant communication can be provided to their customers.
There are also helpful UI capabilities that allow for filtering or exporting the data for analysis. All in all, it’s a great start for quick and easy visibility into your virtualized applications. I can see how many could save resources on application licenses and application sprawl by having insight into usage patterns and/or application demands.
Forrest tells me they will be at VMworld as a Silver sponsor this year, so make sure and add StacksWare to your list of places to visit this year!
In the meantime, you can visit https://stacksware.com to sign up for a free demo and give it a try for yourself.