Later this month VMware (s vmw) will host its annual conference, VMWorld. Will we see VMware make a strong move to open source as one commentator, open source guru Simon Wardley, predicts? Bear in mind that VMware faces dual threats to its core virtualization product from:

  1. open source virtualization offerings (Xen for example)
  2. free virtualization within particular operating systems (from (Microsoft (s msft) and Sun (s orcl) for example)

A year ago, in a partial response to this situation, VMware launched its own open source client for virtual desktops.

The necessity of this was obvious, given that Microsoft (interestingly the Alma Mater of VMware CEO Paul Moritz) already included Hyper-V virtualization within Windows Server. In one move VMware staved off a competitive threat (in the short term anyway) and got some feel good community love at the same time.

VMware has an active involvement in open source, as their open source product list attests to. But these products are all, to some extent, peripheral to where VMware makes its bread and butter. Open-sourcing their core offering, or parts of it, would be a bold move.

Time, however, has moved on, and as open source thought leader Simon Wardley said this morning:

VMWare will be disrupted in the infrastructure space by open source tech and hence they’re building into the platform.

Wardley suggested that in his opinion, VMware will, in the next two years split their operation into two groups — PaaS and IaaS — with the infrastructure part being sold to a third party. The natural extension of this thought is that infrastructure is less profitable than platform and hence vendors will make moves to position themselves further up the cloud computing value chain.

Expect to see some strong moves announced from VMware in answer to the threats on the horizon – while Wardley’s contention is that this will come from a corporate split, there’s also potential for VMware to disrupt some of its own product offerings by open sourcing the lower parts of the stack and concentrating strongly on the higher, and more profitable, aspects.

The recent announcement of OpenStack upped the stakes in the open source infrastructure world; a partial open-sourcing appears to be the most logical approach for VMware to take.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • In know Paul Moritz and Tod Nielsen from their Microsoft days. They are smart folks. Google and VMware recently announced an agreement with VMware to connect Google’s developer tools with the VMware SpringSource tool suite to quickly build Java applications. VMware was partially built on Open Source tools. It will continue to move towards making more of its software Open Source for the simple reason that it has only modest effect on revenue. Anyone running production applications needs support. While Open Source is great and leads to software innovation, those relying on it for production work need quality support. VMware does this very well, and folks will pay for it. I believe that OpenStack will be supported by both Microsoft and VMware as it is good for the industry and facilitates high-speed interclouding (peering) which is the greatest impediment to wide-scale cloud adoption.

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