VMware's buy of SpringSource has yet to pay off

Two years and $420 million later, it's unclear whether the Spring Framework hit the expected value, but it can still gain traction

When EMC VMware acquired SpringSource a little over two years ago, I worried that the hype surrounding the deal greatly overshadowed the real opportunities that SpringSource brought to VMware. I stand by that worry today. Although SpringSource technology now underpins VMware products like vFabric and Cloud Foundry, neither has helped move VMware's revenue needle in a noticeable fashion.

VMware CEO Paul Martiz confirmed this during VMware's Q2 2011 earnings call:

... as well as we continue to invest in the Spring Framework and the combination of the Spring Framework with Cloud Foundry. But I think it would be fair to say we're still plowing the ground there. And we expect those investments to pay off well over the longer term, but we're still in the development phases of the market.

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Considering the typical five-year payback periods used to evaluate acquisitions, all I can think is that VMware faces a busy three years in which to justify the nearly $420 million valuation it paid for SpringSource. That said, with SpringSource technology, VMware is in a significantly better position to grow beyond a hypervisor vendor and to become a platform vendor on a par with the likes of IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.

The question is not SpringSource's potential but whether VMware can do something significant with it.

From a marketing pespective, VMware is certainly trying. This week, it announced deals with Canonical, Dell, and EnStratus to significantly expand distribution channels for Cloud Foundry technology. Of these, the Canonical deal is the most interesting, as Cloud Foundry could benefit from Ubuntu's leading share of Linux cloud and virtualization deployments. VMware certaily sees that potential, as stated on its website:

With more than 20 million active desktop users and a strong IaaS server OS popularity, it represents an important milestone for the open source distribution of Cloud Foundry, and is just the beginning of an ongoing collaboration with Canonical. Having the VMC client pre-installed and ready on millions of developer desktops makes a Cloud Foundry app deployment just a few commands away for anyone using Ubuntu.

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