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Summary:

In the past 10 years VMware has executed a remarkable strategy to topple enterprise software incumbents and emerge as an ecosystem kingpin. Time and again, it seems as though VMware is beating Microsoft at its own game. But a look deeper reveals that is no surprise.

Paul Maritz of VMware

Paul Maritz of VMwareIn the past 10 years VMware has executed a remarkable strategy to topple enterprise software incumbents and emerge as an ecosystem kingpin. More recently, the company has plunged head first into cloud computing from infrastructure to applications. Time and again, it seems as though VMware is beating Microsoft at its own game. But a look deeper reveals that is no surprise.

VMware began with a concept to run multiple operating systems independently on a single physical machine through the use of virtual machines and hypervisors. Simple enough. But the implications are powerful as critical decisions once made at the operating system level quickly became less relevant. Companies such as Microsoft no longer need to be factored in up front for new data center architectures. This is how VMware put the first chink in Microsoft’s armor; operating system choices now take a back seat to hypervisor strategies.

VMware’s promise was visible early enough to EMC that it acquired the company in 2003. But it took until July 2008 for it to inject the company with leadership from Paul Maritz, a 14-year Microsoft veteran who joined EMC in February 2008. That is the same time EMC acquired Pi, a cloud computing company Maritz founded.

Martiz’s resume covers all bases of software infrastructure: platforms, operating systems, development tools, database products, productivity suites, and email. He also brought in two VMware co-presidents from Microsoft giving the executive suite a combined 47 years of Microsoft experience. So the VMware roadmap since then became easy to read. Start with a base infrastructure that can unseat the operating system, woo developers to create a robust ecosystem, and deliver value added applications up the software stack that reach directly to end users.

Pursuing the influential developer community, in 2009 VMware acquired SpringSource in a move to bolster their strength around the Spring Java development framework, and what was noted as a move towards an integrated platform-as-a-service offerings.

Building a collaboration portfolio, in 2010, VMware acquired Zimbra setting off another chapter in the cloud collaboration wars.

Most recently VMware launched Cloud Foundry, a platform-as-a-service that supports development in Java, Ruby on Rails, Node.js and other frameworks, further cementing its role as a market maker for new infrastructure approaches.

Along the way, VMware built a formidable enterprise ecosystem around virtual machine management and the fact that customers want VMware to tell them which other products they should choose to make virtual machine deployment easier. Think Windows Compatibility List 2.0.

With VMware holding the keys to the hypervisor layer and management, then the platform layer, and even the cloud applications layer with email from Zimbra, and presentations from Slide Rocket, why do I need Windows?

This story is far from finished. VMware has less than twenty percent of Microsoft’s market cap today. But if I were tracking the growth, and more importantly, enterprise influence, VMware appears to be making the right moves.

Want to learn more about the big moves in enterprise and cloud infrastructure? Check out the GigaOM Structure Conference June 22 and 23 in San Francisco.

Gary Orenstein is the host of The Cloud Computing Show.

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  1. Stuart Miniman Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Gary,
    The Post-PC world is going to take a long time to get here, but I agree that VMware’s former Microsoft folks are helping to lead the charge. At EMC World, Maritz said that VMware will start delivering on Project Horizon (allowing IT to provision applications to users rather than devices via SaaS) next week. See VMware’s site for MVP (Mobile Virtualization Platform):http://www.vmware.com/products/mobile/overview.html

    1. Stu, Nice. yet another “right-for-the-times” concept…focus on end user and not on device-of-the-day

  2. Lucian Armasu Sunday, May 15, 2011

    VMWare should also help accelerate the move from x86 to ARM architectures for servers when the ARM chips for servers arrive. VMWare will provide a bridge for the x86 apps to work on ARM until all software vendors port their applications to the ARM architecture.

    1. Lucian, Agree. Whether ARM takes off quickly in the data center is a juicy topic. But VMware appears in a strong position to capitalize on the migration.

  3. The problem that VMWare has is that their strengths in private cloud (aka virtualized private datacenters) don’t easily translate to public cloud. VMWare is reliant on partners offering hosted services using VMWare software. Amazon, Microsoft, Google and a few others are building out massive datacenter infrastructures to offer public cloud directly to customers. VMWare doesn’t have the capital to do that. As businesses transition to public cloud – it will happen and sooner than most think – VMWare will be hard-pressed to compete.

    1. Right. And how many companies are lining up to adopt Azure or Google services, again? And name one Fortune 1000 conventional enterprise customer that Amazon has. Hell, even VMware’s marquee customers are still two versions behind on their flagship product…..

    2. My view on this is that you are forgetting the fact that there are hundreds and thousands of SP`s out three scrambling to redefine their business models in the cloud age. Those SP`s have customers (a lot of customers) and what VMware is trying to provide them is both a platform and services to kick-start their cloud offerings. It seems obvious that IaaS will be rapidly commoditized but PaaS is where the value-add offerings come in. Google, Amazon, MS and VMware are all working toward this PaaS/SaaS layer and all of these vendors will be chasing the developer to build apps on their platforms. VMware are “independent” and have gone the only route that was left open: the open (as in any SP can use) platform. I think this makes a whole lot of sense and offers VMware big opportunity to win a solid share in the PaaS market.

    3. For commodity application hosting, Xen based public clouds indeed rule because they can afford to develop and deploy their own management tools, but Private clouds aren’t small, and there are plenty of providers scaling up on vCloud Director. As a VMware partner their pricing is extremely reasonable for building public clouds, and the management, tools they have are years ahead of Hyper-V and XEN.

      Simple things like transparent page sharing (Dedupe of memory) allow VMware’s hypervisor to have much higher density of running VM’s and from my Lab’s benchmarks scale up as well as down very effectively.

      -Disclaimer, I work for a Microsoft/Citrix/VMware partner, and spend a fair amount of my time building private clouds.

  4. This reads like a press release from EMC. Clearly there are no downsides to the VMware business… buy!

  5. Navicus Winning Monday, May 16, 2011

    IF VM is not hardware agnostic, then this is not really a big change for MS. I am not an expert on these things, but wouldn’t that limit the ability to future proof the infrastucture for cloud systems?

    Navicus delivers best-in-suite Employment Screening and Talent Management Software solutions to thousands of companies.

  6. This seems like an article from VMW press. But, please look at some facts-
    1. VMW doesnt have a robust PaaS offering- we don’t know if Open PaaS will succeed or what role SPs will play in that. Also, it is still in beta and already crashed twice.
    2. How many customers use Slide Rocket? 20,000
    3. How much market share Zimbra has? less than 5%
    4. How many applications in datacenter run on MS Windows Server? Majority.

    Though VMW has been making progress, it is still years behind making any dent in a world that runs without an OS

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