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Views From VMworld 2008

Every new CEO encounters significant challenges, but Paul Maritz's ascension at VMware was thornier than most, as it followed the very public sacking of company founder Diane Greene. Maritz's VMworld keynote was further complicated by the resignation the previous week of VMware co-founder (and Greene's husband) Mendel Rosenblum.

Maritz, who played a major role in Microsoft's successes in the 1980s and '90s, proved himself up to the task. After graciously acknowledging Greene and Rosenblum's foresight and contributions to VMwares virtualization product and market leadership, Maritz went on to outline how the company's new Virtual Data Center Operating System (VDC OS) strategy would play to next-generation demands for highly flexible and robust IT infrastructures.

The context Maritz provided highlighted a point that all too many IT vendors forget; that visionary strategies are built on the backs of reliable point products. It is also critical that a company's long-term plans fall logically in line with past accomplishments. For VMware, the logic of its "cloud" ambitions arises out of its historic focus on helping clients maximize their IT investments while minimizing complexity for end users. While the details of VMware's effort may change over time, its raison d'être makes sense.

VDC OS aims to leverage and extend VMware's deep virtualization expertise beyond servers to integrate and optimize end-to-end data center infrastructure processes. Is this reasonable? We believe so, though we also expect the company to encounter significant challenges along the way. Some of these will come from competitors including Microsoft and Citrix, which have made no bones about their virtualization market plans. But we also wonder how VMware's VDC OS ambitions will sit with companies that willingly rely on enterprise-class UNIX and mainframe solutions. Just how encompassing can an IT worldview be if it sets its sights on a single platform?

Overall, we believe that VMware's partners will play critical roles in driving the success of the VDC OS effort, a point Maritz made clear in his keynote. Along with the company's roster of well known x86 server buddies, the group signing on to support VMware's effort was a veritable who's who of storage, networking, and service provision vendors.

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