VMware’s Spin-off Poses a Potential Threat to Microsoft

5th Dec 2012
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The rumors and speculations turned true. VMware and EMC are committing their key assets and resources to form a new virtual organization called the Pivotal Initiative led by Paul Maritz. This will bring the developer, Cloud and Big Data offerings of these two companies under one roof.

For the last few years, VMware has been trying to transform itself into a platform company. To be a strong platform company, they need to own an operating system. But interestingly, VMware doesn’t have an OS but owns a product, which is more of a meta-OS in the form of vSphere. But that is not enough to position them as a strong contender. Realizing this, VMware went after building a strong developer platform through the acquisition of Spring, RabbitMQ, GemFire and SQLFire. Then came Cloud Foundry through which VMware made a strong statement that they are indeed serious about winning the developers.

Branded as vFabric, VMware has acquired all the layers to be qualified as a serious developer platform. At the bottom, there is Spring covering the language, runtime and framework layer. SQLFire, GemFire, tc Server and RabbitMQ form the application and the data services layer. And then on the top is the Cloud Foundry that encapsulates all the ingredients to form the Platform as a Service (PaaS).

On the other hand, EMC has been pushing the Big Data product called Greenplum. They also acquired a SFO based agile software development company called Pivotal Labs that is into Cloud, Social and Mobile. Pivotal Labs can integrate their analytics with Greenplum to offer a unified Big Data processing and analysis product. In April 2012, VMware acquired Cetas, a Palo Alto based Big Data analytics startup. EMC’s Pivotal Labs acquisition and VMware’s Cetas acquisition have the same goal of adding Big Data analytics to their product portfolio. Recently, VMware also announced an initiative called Project Serengeti with an aim of enabling Apache Hadoop to run on Private Cloud.

With the fragmented and overlapping investments, it only makes sense for both the companies to consolidate the efforts. Pivotal Initiative will bring all the developer and Big Data related assets under one roof.

So, how is this a threat to Microsoft? The new spin-off will be run by the veterans of Microsoft, who were involved in driving some key projects including Windows Azure. Paul Maritz led the Platform Strategy and Developer Group at Microsoft. He comes with a strong understanding of the developer needs and precisely knows what it takes to build a platform. The last four years that he spent at VMware gave him a different perspective of the business and he is now a seasoned leader ready to run the new business. Then comes Mark Lucovsky who extensively worked on Windows NT, .NET and the initial set of Microsoft Cloud Services code named Hailstorm. After Microsoft, Mark worked at Google driving the Maps API business and helping the teams monetize it. In his current role at VMware, Mark is the VP, Engineering solely responsible for the architecture of Cloud Foundry. He is currently focused on moving CloudFoundry.com from beta to general availability. Finally, this new entity will have another ex-Microsoft veteran in the form of Amitabh Srivasatava. Amitabh is currently the President for the storage division at EMC. It is expected that Amitabh will spend his first year in EMC storage division to avoid the violation of the non-compete agreement with Microsoft that prevents him from working with a direct competitor. It is also expected that Amitabh will soon mover over to the Cloud business of VMware to contribute to the evolving PaaS strategy. Amitabh quit Microsoft only last year before which he was deeply involved in the Windows Azure business. Amitabh was one among the elite group of Distinguished Engineers at Microsoft. Distinguished Engineer is a coveted title at Microsoft that it is typically awarded to individuals who have the technical brilliance with the ability to significantly impact the product roadmap. In his last stint, Amitabh worked along with Ray Ozzie, Dave Cutler, Yusef Khalidi and other top-notch technologists to give shape to the Microsoft Cloud platform code named Red Dog that is now known as Windows Azure.

[jbox color="yellow"]Read my exclusive interview with Mark Lucovsky on the future of Cloud Foundry[/jbox]

What is common in Paul Maritz, Mark Lucovsky and Amitabh Srivastava? They are the brains behind Microsoft’s successful platform offerings like Windows NT, .NET and Windows Azure. With some of their veterans on the other side, VMware’s Pivotal Initiative is certainly pivotal for the platform and Cloud business of Microsoft.

It is not just a threat to Microsoft but this announcement also sends a strong message to Red Hat, an archrival of VMware, which is in the same game of platform and Cloud.

- Janakiram MSV, Chief Editor, CloudStory.in

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