VMware is having a pretty good year, if a company can be judged by the fear it strikes into its opponents. At the very least, VMware can boast that it drove Microsoft to take out a full-page ad in USA Today on the eve of VMworld begging customers not to sign contracts with VMware.
It could be that Microsoft understands VMware's vision better than anyone. That's because WMware is working furiously to become indispensible to clouds and data centers just as, decades ago, Microsoft seized the desktop PC.
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The ambitions of VMware go way beyond virtualization. At VMworld this week, VMware CEO Paul Maritz said in the event's keynote speech that "we long since ceased to be a hypervisor company. ... We make our money from data center automation." Many of this week's show announcements have been aimed at making the data center run more smoothly and with less intervention, with monitoring apps and ways to move data from public to private clouds.
Perhaps one of the biggest announcements is VMware's more dignified version of Steve Ballmer's infamous "Developers! Developers! Developers!" moment. The VMware Cloud Application Platform is an expanded version of the app development platform VMware acquired with SpringSource, and it aims to allow developers to more easily build applications for a variety of cloud environments. While it's a Java platform at the moment, SpringSource head Rod Johnson promises that it will soon support PHP, Ruby, and even .Net languages. VMware clearly hopes that developers will get nice and cozy building within VMware-managed clouds.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is grousing that its operating system offerings are still a crucial part of any virtualized environment. True enough, you still need an OS to run applications, and Windows on the desktop isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But in a VMware data center, Windows is just another guest OS and Linux, quite obviously, is the guest of choice.
Of course, Microsoft has its own cloud offering, which it promoted in that USA Today ad. The ad encouraged customers to use Microsoft's Azure platform to avoid VMware's vendor lock-in -- and if it sounds topsy-turvy to hear Microsoft's name on the other side of a "vendor lock-in" argument, well, that tells you just how this fight is going.