VMware Two Years Later: A Microsoftian Transformation

It’s hard to believe, but two years ago I wrote a blog post railing against VMware’s assertion that the operating system was dead.  This was about the same time that the great VMware exodus occurred and VMware replaced Diane Greene with Paul Maritz an ex-Microsoft executive.

What do you do when you are backed into a corner?  You release an upgrade that breaks your install base.  You fire your CEO and begin to lose key personnel.   Hire a Microsoft Executive to become your new CEO because he’ll be out of a job soon.  Pick a fight with the largest software company on earth.  Awake the sleeping giants in IBM, Sun, HP, and more as they want their slice of the pie.  Finally, you bring your most loyal customers to VMworld and proclaim that you are still the king.

Looking back, I failed to understand the transformation that VMware was about to begin.  As a technologist, it’s hard to accept that great technology does not equate to great profits.  VMware’s leadership understood this and set down a path to become the new Microsoft.  I write this with the highest respect and admiration as few software companies in the world have achieved the growth rates, sustainability, profits, and broad market presence as Microsoft.

Today, VMware is a marketing driven technology company.  Look no further than VMworld 2010 as an example of this transformation.  While there were labs and hard-core technology sessions, the message was always on-point and precise, Virtual Roads. Actual Clouds.  While cultivating a legion of developers and partners, VMware repeated that “if you want it cheaper, faster, better” then you’d buy it from them.

While I do not always agree with VMware’s vision of the future, it would be foolish to dismiss their plans and underestimate their marketing efforts.  VMware’s plans fall heavily on “The New Infrastructure”; it looks and feels a lot like the old Microsoft as “The New Infrastructure” is made up of VMware’s lucrative products and powerful partners like EMC, Cisco, Google, and Salesforce.

Give credit where credit is due, Maritz and VMware have done a masterful job in transforming the company while painting an obtainable vision of the future.   In order to make the transformation complete, VMware must cultivate one final group, the application vendors. For once the “old guard” embraces the “new cloud” paradigm, the world will forever change and the provider of this technology is going to be worth billions and billions of dollars.


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