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About VMware's New President

So, Diane Greene is out and former Microsoft executive Paul Martiz is in at VMware. It's a lot to digest in one morning. But one of the advantages of being at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference is that I'm sitting in the same press room as Mary Jo Foley, author of the best Microsoft blog in cyberspace and veteran Microsoft watcher. Given her deep knowledge of Microsoft, and the fact that she's interviewed Maritz multiple times (though not recently), I simply had to pick her brain about Maritz.

She believes Maritz was picked to replace Greene specifically because of his Microsoft background. "He really knows Microsoft, and Microsoft is coming hard at VMware in the virtualization space," Foley says. "Who better than somebody who knows how Microsoft thinks?"

Foley, of course, is referring to the recent release of Hyper-V, Microsoft's first enterprise-worthy hypervisor, and the coming release later this year of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008. Microsoft is giving away Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008, a move squarely aimed at the premium price of VMware's offering, ESX (the standalone version coming later this year, Hyper-V Server, will sell for the nearly-free price of $28). In addition, VMM 2008 can manage not only physical machines in addition to virtual ones (something VMware can't do), it can even manage ESX. Yeah, you could say Microsoft has both barrels aimed at VMware.

Here's a bit about Martiz's years with Microsoft, from the VMware press release announcing the change:

"Paul Maritz retired from Microsoft in 2000, after 14 years there. During this period Paul managed the development and marketing of many of the company's major products, including such major releases as Windows 95, Windows NT, Database, Tools and Applications."

That's why replacing Greene with Maritz makes so much sense (although the wisdom of replacing Greene at all is certainly open for debate). When VMware first bought Maritz's last company, Pi Corporation, last February, Foley thought that it was a move to go head-to-head more with Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, who's pushing Microsoft's cloud computing strategy (Pi competed in the same cloud arena). Now, Foley says, "It looks like a Maritz v. Muglia faceoff," referencing Bob Muglia, Microsoft's Senior Vice President of the Server and Tools Business (STB). As part of his duties, Muglia sets and manages Microsoft's virtualization strategy. "Muglia thinks more like Microsoft" than Ozzie does, Foley says, meaning that Maritz may have a more clear read on where Microsoft may be going with virtualization.

Maritz's main claim to fame for non-Microsoft watchers is as the executive who allegedly made the claim that Microsoft wanted to "cut off Netscape's air supply" during the browser wars. The statement, which Maritz denies making, was the most famous line to come out of the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust trial in the late 1990s.

Such a statement hints at an an aggressive, no-holds-barred executive, but that image is belied by Maritz's general demeanor, according to Foley. "He's very serious and soft-spoken," she says. "He's got a great pedigree, and is respected in the industry," including by those who worked for him, Foley explains.

Does that translate into him being an effective leader of VMware, though? On that question, Foley is less clear. "He seemed like more of a technologist than a salesman. Is that what you want for a CEO?" she wonders.

Getting back to Greene, it's "sad," Foley comments, to see one of the few female CEOs of a major software company get the boot. "But I don't think she was let go because she was a woman," Foley adds.

If Greene had to go, in parent company EMC's view, Foley thinks it chose a solid replacement. "I think it's a pretty good choice ... I think they're in good hands with Maritz."

Note that at the time of this writing, VMware had not responded to our requests for comment on the replacement of Greene.

Posted by Keith Ward on 07/08/2008 at 12:48 PM


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