SpringSource’s Rod Johnson tells us today that his company just bought Hyperic. The press release is a bit more specific, announcing that SpringSource acquired “substantially all of the assets of Hyperic”, which sounds different from acquiring the company itself. Maybe not for SpringSource customers, but possibly for current Hyperic customers (and investors). Acquiring the assets of an open source company may sound like a bit of an oxymoron (though I understand it’s not just about the source code), but Hyperic is what’s called an “open core” company, which means not all the code is open source (see Tarus’ take on it). But the main difference between this and forking might be that you are getting the key employees; who are nice enough with their investors do to it in an orderly way.
Anyway, this is not a business or HR blog, it’s about the technology. And on that front, this looks like an interesting way for SpringSource to expand their monitoring from just the application down into some parts of the infrastructure, at least to some extent. SpringSource’s AMS (Application Management Suite) was already based on Hyperic, so the integration headaches should be minimal. And Hyperic has been doing some Cloud monitoring work too (see this podcast if you want to learn more about it), which if nothing else is PR gold these days (I am not saying it’s just that, but it is that for sure).
As a side note, it is ironic that Hyperic (which started inside Covalent until Javier Soltero spun it off and became its CEO) is now reunited with its mothership (SpringSource acquired Covalent last year).
I am a big proponent of management capabilities in application infrastructure. I applauded Rod Johnson for writing something along the same line last year and I am pleased to see him really push this approach with this acquisition.
Here are the questions that come to my mind when I read about this deal (keep in mind that this is competition from my perspective, so feel free to “question my questions” as you read):
I was going to ask whether this acquisition means that Hyperic users who don’t care for Spring are going to see diminishing value as the product becomes more tied to Spring. But if you look at what Hyperic gives you on the resources it manages, it’s mainly a list of metrics and a few control operations. These will still be there because they’ll be needed for the Spring-centric view anyway. It would be more of a question if Hyperic had advanced discovery features (e.g. examine all the config files of the managed resources and extract infrastructure topology from them). I would wonder if these would still be maintained/improved for non-Spring middleware. But again, not an issue here since I don’t think there is much of this in Hyperic today. And since presumably SpringSource made the acquisition in part to cover more resources types in their management offering (Rod talks about DB and VM management in his post), the list of supported infrastructure elements (OS, DB, VM, network…) will presumably grow rather than shrink. What may be trimmed down eventually is the list of application runtimes currently supported. If you’re a Hyperic/Coldfusion user you should probably attend the upcoming webcast to hear about the plans.
Still on the topic of Hyperic’s monitoring-only capabilities, it means that if Rod Johnson really wants to provide everything for Java developers to put “applications into production without the mediation of operations”, as he says, then he should keep his checkbook open (as a side note, if a developer puts “applications into production” then s/he doesn’t bypass operations but rather becomes operations; you may not think of yourself as one, but if you’re the one who gets called when the application crashes then you are in “operations”). SpringSource is still a long way from offering the complete picture. Here are my guesses for the management features on Rod’s grocery list:
- configuration management -many potential acquisition candidates
- in depth database management (going beyond the “you want metrics? we’ve got metrics!” approach to DB management) – fewer candidates
As far as in-house developement, I would expect this acquisition to first yield some auto-discovery of application (and infrastructure) topology in a Spring environment. Then they’ll have to decide if they want to double-down on Cloud support and build/buy more automation features or rather focus on application-centric management and join the fray of BTM / transaction tracing. Doing both at the same time would be very ambitious. This Register article seems to imply the former (Cloud) but my guess is that SpringSource will make the smart choice of focusing on the latter (application-centric management). I see in the Register that, “Peter Cooper-Ellis, SpringSource’s senior vice president of engineering and product management called management of the cloud and virtualized datacenters a strategic driver for the deal”. But this sounds more like telling a buzzword-hungry reporter what he wants to hear rather than actual strategy to me. We’ll see. I hope this acquisition and its follow-through will help move the industry in the right direction of application-centric management, something that will take more than one company.
[UPDATED 2009/5/7: A nice article on the acquisition by Charles Humble at InfoQ. Though I have to take issue with the assertion that “many aspects of monitoring that are essential in a data centre, such as OS and network monitoring, are irrelevant in the context of the cloud”.]