Take Five With Tom Fenton
TAKE 5: Impressions of VMware
As Mel Brooks once declared -- and as more than one VMware employee has since crowed -- "It's good to be king." No doubt about it, the crown on the company's head still rests easy, despite the modest inroads its competitors have made against it and the occasional blogger broadside. In the course of writing my cover story on VMware for this issue, I got the feeling that I was dealing with a buttoned-down company that knows where it's headed. I also developed the following impressions:
Paul Maritz. It's possible that VMware would have formulated such a strong business plan for the cloud and desktop virtualization if Diane Greene had held on to the maximum leader role. But we know for certain that Maritz has taken a company that could've easily gone into a midlife funk and infused it with the energy and direction it needs to not only remain relevant, but to carve out a powerful leadership position in both private and public cloud technologies. Now all he has to do is convince customers to make the leap from server virtualization to datacenter-based private clouds, and once again VMware will be tough to drag down from behind.
Citrix. VMware needs to get real about Citrix as competition in the desktop-virtualization space. The fact is, a lot of well-respected, very informed people are saying that by itself, XenDesktop has developed a strong technology argument with its use of FlexCast technology and the High-Definition User Experience (HDX) protocol that at least matches anything VMware can bring to the table with VMware View and PC-over-IP (PCoIP). When XenDesktop is paired with longtime application-virtualization leader XenApp, Citrix has a one-two punch that outshines anything VMware View and ThinApp have to offer. I also like the Citrix approach better: When Mark Templeton and Simon Crosby talk about VMware, they're surprisingly deferential and complimentary -- but you know they're spoiling for a fight behind closed doors.
A Certain Sense of Entitlement. VMware has the feel of a big, successful company that has fought its way to the top and intends to stay there, no matter what it takes -- and who can blame it for that? From an ecosystem partner point of view, I have the impression that this isn't a company that's always easy to work with -- or one that leaves a lot of room for its business partners to live off the fat of the land. I've also found that VMware tends to get defensive if you start challenging it with unpleasant questions. In addition, if you want to include the company in a competitive performance test, you may or may not be able to meet its prerequisites. Plus, Paul Maritz refused to grant me an interview. Can you believe it?
It's Realistic. Sometimes you gotta fold 'em, and there's good reason to believe that VMware did just that with the introduction of View 4.5 (even as it was briefing editors and analysts on the product) after the company read the in-depth profile of VMware View 4.0.1 conducted by Gartner Inc. Research Director Chris Wolf. The profile, entitled "Server-Hosted Virtual Desktop Profile: VMware View 4.0.1," took a tough but fair look at the pending product and found it lacking several key features, most notably Role-Based Access Controls. According to Wolf, VMware didn't like what it saw, but it didn't raise a stink. Of course, there was nothing for the company to legitimately protest in this airtight document.
It's Good. There's a lot of churning going on right now in the cloud market, but you can bet the farm that when the smoke clears and the market leaders are fleshed out, VMware will be on top once again. The company just has too much going for it: executive leadership, hands-on experience, technology depth and a huge customer base all ensure that the future is bright.
I want to know what you think. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce Hoard is the new editor of Virtualization Review. Prior to taking this post, he was founding editor of Network World and spent 20 years as a freelance writer and editor in the IT industry.