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Last month's $400 million buyout of SpringSource, an open source software provider, "shows that VMware is committed not just to being a player in virtualization but [getting into the] middleware and the application layer," said Keith Norbie, vice president of sales for Nexus Information Systems in Minnetonka, Minn.
SpringSource offerings include the Spring Framework for Java and .NET application development and Hyperic's application monitoring and management tools.
With tools such as these, VMware will compete with more of Microsoft's vertical software stack. In the past, VMware pushed its own virtualization as the solution for all environments but as Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat and others now push their own flavors of virtualization, VMware may have no choice but to expand beyond virtualization and provide more of a stack of its own.
"All along, VMware has been a very horizontal stack that has allowed users to choose what they want to use" along with VMware products, Norbie said. "What [the addition of SpringSource] will mean strategically for VMware is it will put them in competition with Oracle and Microsoft, who have vertical stacks," Norbie added.
While many industry observers think any full frontal assault on Microsoft's full stack is perilous, Norbie thinks it could benefit VMware partners over the long haul. "It makes sense, although this is going to be a target -- a long drawn-out process, in my opinion," Norbie said. "It takes a while to do this. I think the issue is getting enterprise adoption. That's always the final frontier."
Frank Basanta, director of technology for Systems Solutions, a New York-based systems integrator and VAR, called the SpringSource addition "a feather in [VMware's] cap. We have this to offer now as a large enterprise or small enterprise product, especially if [the customers already] are using Java."
For VMware and its VAR partners, the SpringSource Java tools add extra artillery for customers, Basanta said. "It's something positive that will help VMware to be able to say, 'hey … with this application, now you can do more things.'
You're giving them more features, more offerings, while Java will run across multiple platforms."
Basanta said his larger VMware customers will be able to take advantage of the SpringSource additions to bolster their existing use of Java.
"You have the [Java] developers onboard and you're pushing that skill set. It gives them the advantage of a stronger tie-in for [third-party] applications that need to be customized [and managed]. It's a plus in their favor."
Leon Thomas, president of technology consulting and services firm Jelecos Systems Inc. in Omaha, Neb., said the VMware-SpringSource deal "basically opens up …myriad opportunities to bridge the gap that has always been there for enterprise applications." And by doing that, he said, the deal will help his company, which also offers hosted VMware services and is a Microsoft partner, help his customers have the technology tools they require.
For VMware, this is " a strategic play that shows they are looking out at the horizon at the intersection of applications and infrastructure," Thomas said.
But, additional SpringSource tools won't be a tough adjustment for Jelecos because the company already uses an Eclipse-powered development platform from SpringSource.
"We will work with this technology before VMware brings it to us in a nice little package," he said. The marriage of SpringSource and VMware increases development resources, in his view. "To me this really solidifies VMware as a leader in the virtualization world and it demonstrates that they are focused on what's coming down the road, as opposed to a Microsoft, which is focused on 'how do we catch up with VMware?'"
Carl Mazzanti, co-founder of eMazzanti Technologies, a computer consultancy in Hoboken, N.J., that partners with both Microsoft and VMware, said the SpringSource acquisition won't help his customers much at this point because eMazzanti doesn't provide much in the way of Java development services today. At the same time, the move is needed because VMware had to automate its maintenance, setup and build out tools to make things simpler for users, Mazzanti said.
"VMware has always built things and hoped that people would [use them]," he said. "Now there will be a platform with tools they can use. I think it's a necessity," said Mazzanti of the SpringSource acquisition. "It will yet be determined how much of a plus it will be."
One challenge, however, is that "there are lots of partners like me who have just been waiting for Microsoft to release Windows Server 2008 R2" with its tools and Microsoft's backing, he said. "If I was VMware, I would be very scared and would focus efforts on securing and innovating in every way possible."