Few companies manage to write themselves a second act, translating early success into something fresh, rather than re-running the smash-hit successes of youth. This is the challenge facing virtualisation VMware today.
VMware might lack the B2C glamour of a Google but it has been one of the great forces of modern B2B infrastructure, effectively reinventing corporate computing along the way. For this Californian company, now rolled into the vast Dell estate of properties, life (as is the case for many of us entering our mature years) is good but increasingly complicated. When we talk today about the private cloud we are really talking about a business that was created by the genius of VMware engineers who figured out a way to jailbreak x86 servers, making them behave in a way they were never intended to behave. But, having cracked one code, the question that is up in the air is whether VMware can go again, extending its domain from the enterprise datacentre into the public cloud.
I write this from VMworld, a vast conference that appears to have swallowed the large city of Barcelona in north-east Spain. But the topic that is most in the air is all about an arrangement announced last week between VMware and Amazon Web Services that will see the pair, once the best of enemies, work together, with VMware’s core technologies – vSphere, NSX, ESX et al – sitting on the AWS cloud that is the go-to platform for so many modern IT.
If that were not enough of a caterpillar-to-butterfly metamorphosis, then the bigger picture is rendered more complex by the change of ownership, even if the company is, as with Catalonia where VMworld is taking place, at pains to stress its quasi-autonomy.
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger was once one of Intel’s most senior executives. If anybody should know about making a critical ingredient become a phenomenal success it is he. Can VMware become the beating heart of the “cross cloud” world it described in detail today? Who knows, but many billions of dollars are staked on the outcome that question.
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