In the wake of the announcement that Paul Maritz is giving way to Pat Gelsinger as the CEO of VMware, GigaOM's Barb Darrow posted an article speculating that the move had more to do with finding a way to re-tool VMware for a future where on-premesis virtualization isn't the primary compute platform for companies than it had to do with Maritz wanting to focus on other things.
In the article, Barb writes:
"With businesses moving more computing load outside their own data centers — where VMware is typically a standard — into the cloud — where it may not be — VMware is at a crucial juncture. Businesses are loathe to lock into a single vendor for too much of their work — whether that vendor is Amazon on the public cloud infrastructure side — or VMware. That’s a tricky passage for Gelsinger to navigate."
Tricky, indeed, although those same companies did put all of their stock into VMware for server virtualization. Still, I have to think VMware knew the day would come when being the go-to server virtualization company wouldn't be enough. I think they reached that conclusion when they started paying attention to the desktop. VMware-based VDI came about because it was an easy sell, and a conversation such as this was probably had between VMware and every CIO in the country:
VMware: So, you know how awesome it was when you virtualized all your servers?
CIO: Oh yeah, it's been great!
VMware: Well, what would you say if I told you that you could do the same to your desktops?
CIO: Go on…
VMware: <promises, security, promises, green, promises, cheaper, promises, single image, etc…>
(Really, that could be any desktop virt company, but it started with VMware)
That was a short term solution, though. It allowed VMware to acquire some new technology, strike a few partnerships, and basically leverage all of their server virtualization caché in an effort to tap into a market that consists of a half-billion desktops. Focusing on desktops, though, wasn't the endgame. After all, VMware practically invented the phrase "Post-PC Era." Rather, virtualizing desktops is a means with which they can continue to make money on virtualization even after organizations move their datacenter-hosted services to the cloud.
In the grand scheme of the world, the desktops will be the last thing to leave an organization. The first things to leave the datacenter walls are the low-hanging fruit. Things like email, for instance, or expense accounting. Then comes things like data or CRM applications, but that may be more out of necessity than anything. Users are accelerating that process faster than IT can move (but that's a story for another time). Then comes more complex business apps before finally getting to the desktops. At that point, the datacenter will be an empty bomb-proof shell where people go to hide from tornadoes.
With that in mind, VMware knew that it had to ready itself for the cloud sooner rather than later. If you take a look at the acquisitions and product introductions VMware has made in recent years, you can see they've been thinking about this for some time:
- SpringSource (2009) - Web application development and management
- Zimbra (2010) - Collaboration software, most notable for being the default email and calendaring solution for VMware employees. Not for many other companies, though :) Still, they just announced version 8, and have big plans for version 9 (which might be really cool)
- GemStone (2010) - Application and Service-Oriented Architecture platform that was merged into the SpringSource group
- Cloud Foundry (2011) - Product created by VMware, released as an open source PaaS system for cloud-based application development and deployment.
- VMware Horizon Application Manager (2011) - SaaS solution to manage access to local, web, and SaaS applications, including identity federation, provisioning and deprovisioning
- SlideRocket (2011) - Simply put, SlideRocket is a SaaS app that enables users to collaborate on presentations via a web interface.
- Socialcast (2011) - Essentially a corporate version of twitter or Facebook.
- Octopus (2012) - Product created by VMware that is essentially a corporate controlled version of Dropbox.
- Wanova (2012) - Centralized image management, plus the ability to deploy one image to any piece of hardware, physical or virtual. Also adds layering, or the ability to compartmentalize the user environment from the OS.
- DynamicOps (2012) - Bridges the gap between private and public cloud. Also has a focus on VDI migration.
There are ten companies in that list that all help show the future that VMware is laying out for itself. Note that none of them have anything to do with hypervisors or virtualization, spare maybe the last two. It's safe to say that, for the past there years, VMware has been setting the table to be ready for a world where hypervisors are a commodity and virtualization is implied (if it's necessary at all).
The VMware of the future (starring Pat Gelsinger) will likely have a very different look from the VMware of today, but they will still firmly be in our space. The desktop is evolving along with VMware's vision, from the cubicle to the datacenter (although VDI is moving a bit slower than originally thought), through the post-pc era and into the cloud, becoming more of an abstract concept along the way. And that's just where it looks like VMware wants to be (the cloud), waiting for it, when it's time. The future VMware wants to be a cloud platform for service providers to build upon, but they also want to own some of the applications and services. Plus, what they can't or don't want to own, they'll provide you with the framework to develop.
It's interesting that Citrix appears to be going down the same path, acquiring Cloud.com to provide a framework for building cloud solutions and turning Web Interface into Cloud Gateway–a competitor of VMware Horizon. Both Citrix and VMware realize that while desktops are going to be around for a little while longer, the datacenter and the applications are changing rapidly, and they're setting their sights on reinventing themselves to adapt. They still have to rely on their existing bread and butter to products to get buoy them into the future, though.
Desktops and virtualization are still at the top of our minds in 2012, but make no mistake–the future of end user computing and application delivery, along with application development and business computing, is taking shape in the list above. Not only at VMware, but at other companies, too.