VMware Takes Aim at Microsoft and Shoots for the Cloud

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Jan 20, 2010

It may have happened a week ago, but VMware's announced plans to acquire Zimbra continues to be the biggest news on the virtualization front.

Virtually Speaking: VMware's purchase of Zimbra further solidifies its cloud strategy and puts it in direct competition with Microsoft.

One of the main reasons for the acquisition as VMware CTO, as Steve Herrod noted in his blog, The Console, is that Zimbra expand VMware's vCloud software portfolio.

Thus, in an effort to differentiate itself, VMware has begun moving up the stack. This not only solidifies its cloud strategy, but it also takes the company into new territory, and it deepens its competition with Microsoft. Now it's no longer just a case of VMware ESX vs. Hyper-V, it's also a case of Zimbra vs. Exchange.

This, VMware believes, sets the stage for the future. Down the road, as VMware Chief Operating Officer Tod Nielsen told eWEEK last week "it's going to come down to us and Microsoft."

Nielsen is leaving out another key cloud player and Microsoft competitor -- Google. While Google has a large and growing presence on the cloud and is pitting itself against Microsoft on increasingly more fronts, it does not compete against VMware in the virtual realm.

Should cloud dominate the landscape, as it is being grown to do, VMware, Google and Microsoft are poised to be the key companies of the decade.

If the previous decade is any indication, VMware is not a company to mess with. Nielsen said this acquisition is just the beginning. He noted, "This is a first step of many we will take on a journey to offer a complete set of business services to our customers." Cloud, of course, is the foundation of this architectural shift.

Scott Gode, vice president of Azaleos, a Seattle-based managed services company that specializes in Microsoft products said he believes if VMware is able to integrate Zimbra as "part of a unified and seamless cloud platform, Microsoft might want to sit up and take notice." He went on to say, "This acquisition signals to me for VMware that their gloves are fully off against Microsoft."

Which is all well and good, but is VMware's strategy translating to enterprise's more tactical planning?

Most likely, not yet, but not for technology reasons.

A recent conversation with Gary Thome, chief architect, Infrastructure Software and Blades at HP, revealed that "cultural convergence" is a hot topic for many enterprises. For a true virtualization strategy to be effective, decisions must be made thinking beyond the silo model, which has been prominent for a very long time. To truly reap the benefits of a cloud computing model, enterprises must look at the business management impact as well as at the technology impact. HP has found that organizations need as much direction and advice with the human element as with the technical, and it is coming up with solutions for this.

For enterprises to truly embrace cloud, and the applications it delivers, the human side of the equation cannot be ignored. A host of technology-related issues, from security to lifecycle management to hardware specs must be figured out, but leave employees out of the equation, and a cloud management plan is unlikely to get off the ground.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch and Enterprise IT Planet. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in October 2009.

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