Sun buys Q-Layer

Today, Sun announced the acquisition of Q-Layer, a Belgium-based start-up of about two dozen people. Q-Layer is a virtualization orchestration vendor, with a focus that seems similar to 3Tera. For a similar acquisition parallel, look at Dune Technologies, acquired by VMware in late 2007.

When people say “orchestrate virtual resources”, usually what they mean is, “make software handle the messy background details of the infrastructure, automatically, while allowing me to navigate through a point-and-click GUI to provision and manage my virtualized data center resources”. In other words, they’ve got a GUI that can be exposed to users, who can create, configure, manage, and destroy virtual servers (and related equipment) at whim.

Like 3Tera, Q-Layer targets the hosting market — notably, Q-Layer’s founders include folks from Dedigate, a small European managed hosting provider that was acquired by Terremark back in 2005. Unlike 3Tera, which has focused on Linux, Q-Layer has made the effort to support Sun technologies, like Solaris Containers. However, Q-Layer has virtually no market traction; it seems to have signed some small, country-specific managed hosting providers in Europe, who are offering a VMware-based Q-Layer solution. (3Tera’s notable hosting customers include Layered Technologies and 1-800-HOSTING, but despite relatively few hosting partners, it has done a good job of creating market awareness.)

Hosters who want to offer virtual data center hosting (“VDC hosting”) — blocks of capacity that customers can carve up into servers at whim — can buy an off-the-shelf orchestration solution, or, if they’re brave and sufficiently skilled, they can write their own (as Terremark has). It’s not a big market yet, but orchestration also has value for large enterprises deploying big virtualization environments and who would like to delegate the management down through the organization.

Sun’s various cloud ambitions are being expanded with this acquisition. Sun expects to derive near-term benefits from incorporating Q-Layer’s technologies into its product plans this year.

On a lighter note, last week, I had dinner with an old friend I haven’t seen for some years. She’s a former Sun employee, and we were reminescing about Sun’s heyday — I was Sun’s second-largest customer back in those days (ironically, only Enron bought more stuff from them). She joked that her Sun stock options had been priced so egregiously high that Sun would have had to invent teleportation for her to ever see a return on them. Then she stopped and said, “Of course, even if Sun did invent teleportation, they would still somehow have failed to make money from it. They’d probably have given it away for free to spite Microsoft.”

And there’s the rub: Sun is doing many interesting and cool things with technology, but seems to have a persistent problem actually generating meaningful revenue from those ideas. So the Q-Layer acquisition is reasonably logical and I know where I can expect it to fit into Sun’s product line, but I’m still feeling a bit like the plan is:

1. Buy company.
2. …
3. Profit!

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Posted on January 7, 2009, in Industry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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