Is VMware the New Microsoft?

There's only one Microsoft. Or is there? Talk to enough third parties, analysts and customers, and you'll soon believe that VMware should be headquartered in Redmond instead of Palo Alto.

There's only one Microsoft.

Or is there? Talk to enough third parties, analysts and customers, and you'll soon believe that VMware should be headquartered in Redmond instead of Palo Alto.

VMware is a platform company, just like Microsoft.

VMware manages applications and offers a bridge between the apps and hardware, just like Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows Server.

Third parties write to platforms, and VMware now has hundreds of smart companies crafting add-ons.

And VMware has market share that would make Steve Ballmer or Eric Schmidt (Diane) Greene with envy.

"With great power comes great responsibility." (Thank you for the quote, Spiderman.) VMware now has a near monopoly, a whole industry to nourish, and customers to please.

So far it's been easy -- as smooth as George W. Bush's first few months. Now VMware is entering the tough phase. Competitors are starting to take potshots, computer gurus are asking tough technical questions and third parties are wondering which way to go. Here are the questions the market is asking:

  • Is VMware an open development platform?
  • Does VMware compete with its own third parties?
  • Are VMware tools too expensive?
  • Does VMware do enough to support standards?
  • Does VMware do enough to work with Microsoft?
  • Will open source alternatives ultimately take over?

VMware must now figure out how it will carry itself. How will it handle quasi-monopoly power? What will the company's model be?

It also has to act like an OS company. VMware has to deal with hackers and viruses (did you know one virus or attack can bring down hundreds of virtual machines?).

It has to think about management, licensing and upgrade paths. And it has to define how open the APIs need to be. If VMware builds add-on tools with inside info, is that fair to third parties?

Big companies tend to have big personalities, usually defined by their leaders. Look at Virgin (Richard Branson), Oracle (Larry Ellison) and Apple (Steve Jobs). What's VMware's style, culture and personality?

Perhaps the biggest question is: How will VMware react when Citrix's XenServer, Microsoft's Hyper-V and Sun's xVM all gain significant share and split the market? Adapting to this new world will take smarts, business savvy and values. Fortunately, from what I can see, VMware has an abundance of all three.

What's your impression of VMware? And what would you do as CEO? Send your thoughts to dbarney@1105media.com.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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