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What Your Cloud Will Look Like: Final Thoughts from VMworld 2011

I realize VMworld 2011 ended over a week ago and everyone is by now probably looking ahead to the next big thing. But before we leave VMworld 2011 behind in the annals of history, I wanted to take one final look at how VMware went about promoting cloud ownership. Because rather than telling users they should own “VMware’s cloud” or “NetApp’s Cloud” or “EMC’s Cloud” or even some cloud service provider’s cloud, it touted “Own Your Cloud.”

VMworld 2011 Your Cloud.JPGThis is a different spin than what I expected going into VMworld. Having been an end-user for most of my normal life prior to delving into the analyst realm, the only thing I found most vendors interested in doing is making my environment look like an extension of their environment and me feeling good about it as I do so. 

VMware’s CEO Maritz almost admitted as much during his keynote that this is what was going to happen if applications become too addicted to VMware. He stated, “The danger that lurks is as vendors tune their applications for VMware, they become locked in and VMware thereby creates a new mainframe environment.

As I have mentioned before, lock-in is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it would probably in some respects make the whole world of computing much easier since everyone would have a common platform from which to develop and run applications – aka Microsoft.

So in this regards VMware is no different than Microsoft. VMware is clearly interested in having as many of the world’s applications as possible use vSphere as they are virtualized and move into the cloud. This was evident by Maritz citing an IDC statistic that over 50% of the world’s applications are already virtualized. Further, VMware is introducing more initiatives to expand that percentage.

But VMware also needs to play it smart. It knows it is in a market leadership position and rapidly becoming, if not already is, the dominant player in server virtualization. So the danger that  VMware runs is unintentionally creating a counter culture that hates VMware just because VMware is the dominant player in server virtualization.

This is arguably what happened with IBM and its mainframe platform which led to the advent of open systems computing (UNIX, Windows, etc.) It then happened again to Microsoft and its Windows platform which arguably contributed first to the rise of Linux and then eventually to VMware’s emergence.

So the problem that VMware faces is this. How does it become the next dominant platform on which businesses lock in on while not creating this counter culture that eventually gives rise to a company that is dedicated to replacing VMware?

In this regards, VMware having Maritz at its helm is serving it in good stead as he is playing it both smart and shrewd. Rather than getting arrogant over VMware’s recent and ongoing success, it appears he has learned from the lessons he gleaned while working at Microsoft. Rather than allowing a counter culture to emerge which VMware has no part of or insight into, VMware is embracing and facilitating it.

Perhaps the best evidence of this is its Cloud Foundry initiative. While it is still in beta, Cloud Foundry supports multiple frameworks, multiple cloud providers and multiple application services all on a cloud scale platform. But maybe most importantly from VMware’s perspective, it is a service project initiated by VMware so VMware is aware of innovations occurring outside of VMware and can take advantage of them so it ultimately benefits VMware in the long run.

VMware may be touting “Own Your Cloud” but at the end of the day the cloud it really wants end-users, businesses and organizations to own is VMware’s cloud. The trick for VMware is trying to make “Your Cloud” look remarkably like VMware’s cloud without having them resent the choice either now or in the future which gives rise to a counter culture.

This helps to explain why VMware is putting initiatives like Cloud Foundry in place. It gives the illusion that everyone has the freedom to choose whatever cloud they want and then take it in any direction they wish. So when they choose VMware’s cloud without harboring any resentment about it either now or in the future, they get the cloud they want and want to own while VMware gets what it really wants – end-users who feel like VMware’s cloud is their own.


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