VMware’s platform play could use a cloud connection

After an acquisition spree that began with SpringSource almost two years ago, VMware (s vmw) unveiled the fruits of its labor on Tuesday with an application platform dubbed vFabric 5. As an integrated collection of those purchased components, vFabric 5 is a robust offering, but it’s a bit surprising to see how distinct VMware’s on-premise platform strategy is from its cloud-based strategy.

Unlike its vCloud portfolio that seeks to unify the experience of managing both on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure, VMware’s options for deploying and running applications are almost entirely separate experiences.

Cloud Foundry

In the public cloud, VMware is pushing its Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service, which is an open-source offering designed to make it easier for developers to launch web applications on cloud computing resources. Developers can access the code for free via Github, or pay VMware for its hosted version. Cloud Foundry supports a variety of development languages and frameworks, including Java (s orcl), Spring, Ruby on Rails and Node.js. Whatever the case, though, it’s a far different experience than using vFabric on premise.


vFabric 5 is an on-premise product designed to run atop VMware’s vSphere hypervisor and virtualization-management software. It consists of the following core components VMware was busy buying recently:

  • Spring tc Server
  • Spring Insight Operations
  • GemFire distributed database
  • RabbitMQ messaging protocol, Hyperic monitoring software
  • Enterprise-grade Apache web server.

vFabric 5 is a Java application platform, although Dave McJannet, VMware’s director of product marketing for vFabric, explained to me during a recent phone call that it’s optimized for applications developed using the Spring framework.

At this point, the cloudiest aspect of vFabric 5 is its licensing model. As McJannet explained, it’s based on the number virtual machines licensed and utilizes an average-usage-based approach. Users can run as many or as few VMs as they need at any given time provided that the average number of VMs in use during the year doesn’t exceed the number of licenses originally purchased. This model does allow a fair amount of flexibility in that lets customers determine a pool of resources and use them as they wish, but it’s not exactly the same type of pay-per-use flexibility one associates with the public cloud.

Why they’ll merge

What’s interesting at this point is how vFabric and Cloud Foundry are so disconnected, especially considering how closely VMware has aligned its vCloud management software with its vCloud service provider program at the Infrastructure-as-a-Service level. Of course, VMware’s IaaS strategy took many years to shape up, so perhaps closer platform-layer alignment is on they way between vFabric, Cloud Foundry, and even its Spring-centric PaaS partnerships with Salesforce.com (s crm) and Google (s goog). McJannet did note that some vFabric components are available within Cloud Foundry, but the components are about the only connection between the two offerings.

As DotCloud Founder and CEO Solomon Hykes explained to me last month, PaaS, with its focus on automation, is all about upsetting the legacy application-platform market presently dominated by Oracle (s orcl) and IBM (s ibm) with their Java-centric WebLogic and WebSphere offerings. One would expect that VMware — a PaaS provider itself — has plans to PaaSify vFabric at some point. It might be a while , though, because, as VMware’s Mathew Lodge acknowledged to me in February, although VMware does foresee its platform business growing as big as its legacy infrastructure business, it could take several years or more.

I suspect VMware CEO Paul Maritz will offer some insights into his company’s expanding platform and overall cloud computing strategies when he sits down for a fireside chat with Om Malik at next week’s Structure 2011 conference in San Francisco. VMware’s cloud CTO and chief architect Derek Collision will also be on hand to discuss the future of PaaS.