The Early Vizioncore days building the company
To describe how a vHero twice in his career has built a successful business does not work in a single blog post. These vHero adventures will be described in three parts. In this first part David and I communicated about the early days of Vizioncore. And as I know David I knew from the beginning it will be a long but fun talk!
I met David on my first business trip outside the Netherlands. I visited VMware TSX event September 5 to 7 in Vienna.
A couple of hundred IT guys in 1 hotel. The market place for VMware complementary tools was small. One of the exhibitors was a Chicago based company called Vizioncore. In the booth David Bieneman talking about a tool called ESXRanger. The company also had some Citrix tools in the portfolio. What attracted me to the booth was the enthusiasm in promoting his products! And of course the tooling that also helped me to be successful in my work. It was David’s first Europe trip and a big step in making the product successful outside the US.
Question to David: Was Vizioncore the first company you launched?
Yes. Vizioncore was launched in the living (and laundry room) of my first home. I started the company with the idea that we would create software to help the Citrix channel. To support my family and the new company, I was also working in consulting implementing full Citrix ‘published desktops.’ We kept seeing the same problems coming up again and again for customers. Consulting also proved to be the best way to ‘be in the fire’ and understand the needs of the channel. We were solving these problems in traditional ways with variable scripting and NT/AD user groups. So it was a short step to go from scripting to creating software to provide the same functionality in a reliable and repeatable way with a GUI front end.
At that time, Jason Mattox, my friend who’d worked with me at a couple past companies, introduced me to a longtime friend of his, David Feathergill, who had just finished up college. We brought him on to work as a developer for Vizioncore. David turned many of the script concepts for desktop shortcut control, driver and printer mapping, cross server NTFS file securing and process monitoring into full-fledged Windows applications. Soon after, Jason Mattox brought his own Citrix consulting business over to Vizioncore, and we all three began to work together. It was a perfect match!
We had a particular banking customer who had a requirement for a comprehensive DR plan to meet federal inspection requirements. They had their mainframe replicated via a SAN, and for the desktops we designed a process using Mirror brakes from the Citrix servers and shipped them daily to the other datacenter and an offsite secure box. But for the Windows servers there was no such easy process. So we had an idea about how to solve this, but I held off bringing it up to the customer because I thought they would think I was crazy with the proposal.
Our idea was to use this technology called VMware virtualization to create image-based backups of an entire VM – OS, Apps, Data. It seemed really obvious to us that if you had all this encapsulated as a software stack, you could back it up as a stack and you could restore it as a stack.
One day I took our customer into the conference room and laid out a plan to use VMware GSX server and copy VMDK files to a remote hosted GSX Server. It worked well. But it was too slow to host the virtual machines. So we moved to ESX server and used the rudimentary command lines and drafted a POC creating an automated, hands- off hot backup and that was the genesis of esxRanger. So, esxRanger backup was initially used by the Test Dev Group at the banking customer, which was a dream for them, as the bank had many control procedures. After a while, the customer adopted a policy of servers being provisioned VMware-first and then physical if there was a performance or other issue that would prevent a server being virtualized.
So that was the core group at the very beginning, me, Jason and Dave and that was our first successful deployment of esxRanger. Those guys were with me then in 2004, and they are still with me today at Liquidware Labs.
David and I had a long talk about virtualization, VMware and the Vizioncore products. During his presentation he not only showed us ESX Ranger but also some Citrix tools.
Questions to David: When you started, how did you know that virtualization would become the next big thing that it ultimately became? And what happened with the Citrix tooling you had in the portfolio?
We didn’t. We were just guys who were interested in the cool stuff that was coming out, and we wanted to see how far we could take it. When you’re that young, you really believe you can do anything, and that naïve confidence worked for us. At the beginning, we had four products and they were mostly designed for Citrix and Terminal Server environments.
These products were designed around desktop shortcuts, drives/printers/com port mappings, securing NTFS files, and recording, blacklisting and adjusting user/application.exe process priority all focused on helping the Citrix partners install better networks by managing users’ desktops with automation. We were starting to compete with some small companies back then. One was AppSense (they didn’t know who we were, and they really were just starting themselves).
Obviously later, we had esxRanger CLI which performed hot backups for VMware ESX Servers. I was at the very first VMworld in a very small room where a lady name Diane Greene was giving a presentation on how VMware was going to have an ecosystem of software ISV’s. There were maybe 20 people in that room. At the end of the presentation, I walked over to Diane and said, ‘Hi, I’m David Bieneman from Vizioncore and we’ve created an application called esxRanger CLI.’ She said, ‘What does it do?’ I said,’It backs up virtual machines.’ Diane said, ‘Can’t we use existing backup products to do that?’ I responded that we provided a hot backup while the machine is on. Okay … now that surprised and intrigued her, and from then on, we got the love from VMware. I have always believed that Diane Greene was a big, albeit indirect, supporter of Vizioncore. We always had a very good relationship with VMware and were a very early VMware Community Source Partner, which was reserved for those 3rd party software providers that VMware saw as helping to grow their business.
Over time, esxRanger, which became later became vRanger, just took off and dominated our sales and development cycle. The solution had no competition, so it was easy to sell in that regard. What was hard was that we had to make the market for the product – even VMware was not pushing virtualization for DR when we started. They were focused on server consolidation. We actually coined the term, ‘Virtualized for DR’ and went on a mission to enable channel resellers globally to virtualize for DR instead of just consolidation, thus enabling thousands of resellers to get into the virtualization game.
Eventually, we dropped our other products and focused on vRanger. vRanger led to vReplicator. And we expanded our product line with vMigrator and vCharter, an early VMware monitoring solution.
Diane Green co-founder and former CEO VMware
So the early Vizioncore days where a thrill-seeking ride for David. I had the pleasure to meet him several times during this ride. Talking about these days is a “trip down to memory lane” as David mentioned.
Stay tuned for part 2 of the David Bieneman vHero adventures!