Brian's article on VMware's Project Horizon got turned over quite a bit in the comments. Some people, Brian included, think it's awesome. Others just yawn. For me, right now in September 2010, I think that Horizon is more of a necessity than some whiz-bang technology that's supposed to knock your socks off. If you're going to be in the business of application delivery (not just desktops), you have to be able to manage and provide access to those applications. Now, if VMware is right about the vision that was presented at VMworld, I think Horizon will be huge.
VMware is about apps, just not Windows apps. This was made pretty clear during the opening keynote. There was so much focus on any app, any device, anywhere that I half expected the Moody Blues to start playing while Mark Templeton charged the stage WWF wrestler-style. Providing end users access to applications is important, for sure, but that message is only new coming from VMware, not the rest of the industry.
What's different about VMware's approach is that Windows Apps are barely in the picture. The slide below, shown during the opening keynote at VMworld, depicts a Windows app and simply describes it as an "Existing App," as opposed to New Enterprise Applications and SaaS Applications. These two types of applications make up what VMware CEO Paul Maritz called the "New Stack", and deal not only with how applications are deployed, but where they come from to begin with. VMware's put a lot of work into apps in the last few years, acquiring SpringSource and Zimbra (not to mention the work they've put into Origami/Horizon). It was summed up in this slide, after which Maritz said, "One thing history teaches us is that when you have a wholesale shift of stacks, there are winners and there are losers.":
It's right about this time that I tweeted "Maritz isn't just saying Windows APPs are dead. I think he's hinting that WINDOWS is dead!" to which I received a few replies about how Windows is everywhere and it will never go away. I want to go on record saying that I agree that Windows won't go away soon (or quietly), but applications are changing, like it or not. The fact that you can use them without Windows doesn't mean Windows is dead or dying, it just means that it's not the only app platform out there anymore. I didn't throw out my Windows computer because I got an iPad. There's things I can do better on Windows than I can on the iPad. Same for Mac vs. Windows (Hell, I run Parallels AND Fusion. Call me crazy). So fear not, Windows people! As long as there are Windows apps, there will be Windows!
After a few sleepless nights trying to figure out how the vision laid out at VMworld fits with our world of desktop virtualization and application delivery (not to mention why the hell we still don't have a client hypervisor product from them), I finally settled on an explanation: It's ahead of its time.
How much ahead remains to be seen, but I don't see a mass migration to this Hybrid Cloud, New Application Platform, New Infrastructure (I think all that means is shoving a VMware layer under your existing systems) in the next year or two. However, if you look two, three, or four years down the road, after the technology has congealed a bit and the market decides which way it wants to go, I think VMware will be in position to say "we've been doing this for years, and we can get you there."
Is it a gamble? I think so. If the enterprises resist and push that time frame out to 5-7 years, that could be tough on VMware financially. They could find themselves sitting on top of a really kickass solution with nobody to sell it to. Still, they payoff is potentially enormous. If the timing is right, and if Windows really does turn into the XP mode of the future, VMware is in a really good spot with the app framework, infrastructure, and products to make it all happen.