Monday, January 4, 2010

VMWare, Zimbra and the Virtualized Software Stack

VMWare appears to be positioning itself to provide the virtualized or cloud-based alternative to Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. This is a very interesting approach, and it will be interesting to see it play out over time. With Oracle and IBM taking a more systems-centric approach, meaning they are both providing the storage, computing and software stacks in the form of a system, this leaves Oracle’s traditional hardware partners out in the cold (HP, Dell, EMC, Netapp, etc.) along with budding potential partner Cisco. VMWare may envision themselves providing the Linux-based alternative to Microsoft in this game of strategic positioning. VMWare’s strategic advantage is that their entire stack is virtualization- and cloud-friendly. That would make sense given Maritz's Microsoft experience.

This diagram compares the various stacks from VMWare's perspective (e.g. they are all on top of VMWare instead of their own respective virtualization offerings). It compares Microsoft (orange), Oracle (red), VMWare (green) and IBM (wait or

If that is the case, there are some open holes and some questions.
1. Does VMWare need their own flavor of Linux (a la Novell’s Suse)?

2. What database does VMWare include? There are open source alternatives such as MySQL, Postgres and the recently wounded Ingres. The problem is that these all employ a shared-nothing architecture which doesn’t fit the virtualization model. They could look at some of the NoSQL alternatives, but NoSQL = NoEnterprise and the enterprise is where VMWare makes their money. (shameless plug) They could look at using ScaleDB’s shared-disk storage engine for MySQL, which is virtualization friendly.

3. Does VMWare go after higher-level applications like Zoho, SugarCRM, etc.?

4. Does VMWare partner with SAP to provide the applications layer and would that work in a virtualized stack? Certainly the proximity of their Menlo Park campi is convenient.

The opportunity for VMWare to partner with HP, Dell, Cisco, and obviously EMC but probably not Netapp, seems very compelling. Combine this with a built-in cloud play for these potential partners and it makes a lot of sense. Oracle is enamored with Sun and their systems strategy. They are walking away from HP and Dell. It would be interesting to see VMWare walk into those companies with the grand partnering strategy and a complete cloud stack ready to go. It would then increase the stakes for Oracle’s systems play, because it would cut-off their fallback position.

It is always interesting to watch the industry giants try to out flank each other.


  1. Of all the things for VMWare to acquire?! an Email company?! VMWare is a one trick product company that is struggling to breakout. VM View is not enterprise ready, ask Gartner. So where does that leave them with the likes of Oracle, Microsoft and Citrix muscling into their only dominate product space. Yes, VMWare needs to break out, but Zimbra?! Really?! Is VMWare the next Yahoo, AOL, CompuServe, Sun, Novell, Netscape? Is VMWare doomed to obsolesce for failing to diversify correctly. They don’t have the cash reserves of Google or Microsoft and cannot fail to execute on any acquisition. There is way too much hype surrounding VMWare's every move while Oracle, Microsoft and Citrix’s hypervisors are scoffed at as second rate. Look where the competition was one year ago and today and it’s a scary place scene for VMWare. Its competitors are already “good enough” according to Gartner and those same competitors are either giving the product away for free or for next to nothing. We saw how that approach worked with other products that Microsoft entered the space on and gave away the product, except in this case, MS is not alone in that strategy. Am I wrong? What was the last couple of quarterly reports on profits saying……

    Beware of the bubble.....every over hyped tech run has had its fall out and shaking out of won't be MS, Oracle or Citrix....does VMWare have the cash or innovation to survive diminishing market dominance in the server virtualization space.

  2. :) Loose ... there are two ways for VMware to fight competitors - either step on the battlefield and waste resources fighting larger companies like google & M$, or ... drawing the future leaving competitors to catch up (proven to work pretty well so far)
    VMware has enough innovation, so why looking backwards?

  3. A classic Sun Tzu approach is for the smaller force to change the battlefield and to refuse to let the bigger force drag you into their battlefield. VMWare is changing the battlefield by providing an end to end stack. What is their alternative. Just as superior one-off products like Wordpefect and Lotus 1-2-3 fell to the bundled MS Office, enterprise customers want a stack. The don't want to spend X on various software components and then 10X making them work together. Virtualization will be commoditized and they must provide a stack.

    But VMWare must change the battlefield. The virtualization-ready and cloud-friendly stack is that new battlefield. VMWare may not have the resources themselves, but they can form alliances with HP, Dell and Cisco to take on Oracle/Sun, IBM and Microsoft.

  4. I've also been making these kind of analysis for some time now and I liked your simplified diagram hehe.

    Yes, I have also been following VMware track of acquisitions and I must admit it is very interesting. The SpringSource acquisition not only brought a Java framework to them, but also the Hyperic management and monitoring platform, which is going to be key to their growth. From the list of supported technologies ( you can see it supports Linux, Solaris, Windows, AIX, Zimbra, Apache, Glassfish, Weblogic, MySQL, OracleDB, DB2, VMware, Xen, J2EE... I believe it's one of the most complete monitoring solutions there are, and if hardened, it will compete head to head with Oracle's Enterprise Manager + Sun Ops Center and the other players solutions.

    Given VMware's parent company (EMC) strategy with Cisco, and with Cisco competing against HP in the systems arena (California) and HP's answer to it (the 3Com acquisition), I don't see VMware partnering with HP. The internal message inside Cisco and it's partners is to avoid HP at all cost, and vice-versa (HP avoids Cisco). What I see there is and evolving alliance that will form another systems company with WMware, EMC and Cisco.

    HP will be Microsoft's main hardware provider.

    Also of interest, I have been pondering about the future of companies like Citrix and Novell. Given their close ties to Microsoft, I (like others) see a merge between them very plausible. Maybe SAP will stay independent and provide the enterprise applications layer to both this merged company AND VMware/EMC/Cisco. Or maybe not, after all we are still on M&A season...

    Something I would update in your diagram is that with Sun, Oracle actually will have not one, but two complete stacks, with interchangeable modules, but in general:
    - High End: Solaris - Oracle DB - Java (WebLogic, JDeveloper) - Enterprise Apps
    - Low End: Linux - MySQL - Java (Glassfish, Netbeans) - Enterprise Apps

    And both will work in x86 systems, or virtualized with VMware, Oracle's own virtualization platform or any other. I think that's one of their differentiators (with the high end one also targeting Sun's High End SPARC systems).

  5. Phobos, Good point, Oracle does in fact have two stacks: one based upon Linux and one based on Solaris. Oracle is a force in the market and they may have ignited "stack wars" with the software guys all building out stacks to woo the hardware guys. See today's post on HP needing a database and announcing a partnership around MS SQL Server, giving them a solution Windows but not Linux...

  6. Good stuff on Virtualization. Thanks for sharing it here. By the way I have gathered more information on Virtualization through the conference Cloudslam 2010 which is the 2nd annual and virtual conference on Cloud Computing and its innovations. I got a good chance to meet and talk with the world's leading experts of Cloud Computing through the conference.