The long chess game of VMware

VMware knows Microsoft is going to compete against them since the Connectix acquisition time. Maybe earlier.

Quite every company in the IT world knowns that sooner or later Microsoft will invade its market segment.

Similarly every company in the IT world knowns that cannot survive competing against Microsoft without an exceptional strategy, even having an exceptional product.

VMware knows Microsoft is coming since 2003. And since that year the company management and marketing departments started to setup a long chess game (but I bet every single employee helped or wanted to in this).

Microsoft is now really near: within 2 years they will release a virtualization solution tight in every single Windows operating system out there. And to gain maximum exposure the company started to evangelize on the upcoming technology since this the first day of the year.

The so called Windows Hypervisor will exponentially diffuse virtualization awareness and adoption worldwide.

And VMware started to move its pieces.

The Palo Alto company started with horses in August 2005, promoting some Virtualization Standards and a Community Source program.

Establishing standards before Microsoft can impose its own and opening source code for the best 3rd party products integration means obtaining industry’s consensus and support, but just like an horse movement isn’t straight, and not everybody perceived what started to happen.

Both operations will be critical at a later time, appearing suddenly evident.

The second move, involving a first bishop in this chess game, took place in December 2005, when the company shaped a features-limited version of its best known product, Workstation, calling it simply Player.

Workstation is the product thanks to which VMware is worldwide beloved, where the company implements new cutting-edge features before anywhere else.

Limitations of Player are so weak and so easy to workaround, and VMware, aware of this, isn’t doing anything to limit users. This isn’t by chance…

Giving it away for free means the company is trying to establish a de-facto cross-platform standard, like Adobe did over years with its PDF Reader, reaching technology-avid users where Microsoft couldn’t follow: Linux, BSD (and soon Macintosh) and Solaris communities.

Another bishop followed the first one, in just a couple of months: in February 2006 VMware took one of its enterprise products, GSX Server, started updating it as usual but converted it in a free product, calling it simply Server.

GSX Server has same engine Workstation has but provides an uncapped capability of resources allocation and enough features to address most companies needs.

VMware Server has not same chances of Player to become a de-facto cross-platform standard from itself. But its purpose is different: to smoothly introduce VMware on a wide range of companies, reaching their research, development and testing departments, demonstrating CIOs/CTOs virtualization is reliable, efficient, performant, accessible. Better than any marketing campain ever.

When these concepts will be assimilated by IT managers they autonomously will ask for more, and will be happy to spend money for ESX Server and VirtualCenter, mainstream products VMware is currently offering.

In these days it’s easy to hear some VMware customers and fans wondering why the company should cut its sales on both desktop and enteprise markets. But history teaches us that continuing to move in the usual way cannot win against the Redmond giant.

It’s easy as well hear customers afraid that VMware will put no effort in improving Server: wrong. Server is the best indirect marketing tool the company has today. The best they will improve it, the most companies they will reach


Time to move pawns now: VMware launches the most exciting challenge ever in today’s IT world.

Rewarding a bunch of brillant community’s representatives with $200,000 just to produce something bringing them glory means knowing how to use viral marketing in a erudite way.

The effort to obtain money and fame will push the VMware awareness where it would be difficult to arrive in unexpected short times.

The whole amount of virtual appliances will act as a pawns army, using innovation and ready-to-go features to evangelize in place of VMware marketing brochures and events.

And as soon as all of them will be presented, VMware Server will be ready, demonstrating at once virtualization benefits in enterprises, dramatically cutting down companies approaching time.

Too romantic? It is not: Ubuntu Linux founder, Mark Shuttleworth, and O’Reilly Media founder, Tim O’Reilly, are among challenge’s judges. And this isn’t by chance… You can be sure contestants will do as much as possible to impress them.

Well, if I didn’t go wrong VMware has still to move 2 towers and a queen before Microsoft arrives. What will come from them?

A short-term move could involve extending virtualization infrastructure to serve other datacenter needs apart provisioning, like security. Some recent presentations let us understand that VMware is at least evaluating this path.

Something appearing at a later time could be breaking today’s limitations in resources provisioning. Maybe releasing with OEM partners the first physical virtualization appliance, based on ESX Server and blades architecture, where even memory can be provisioned in virtual machines in real-time. Something involving Distributed Shared Memory concept that many are running after since years.

This last hypothesis could lead us to the final move VMware could take, arriving where Microsoft will not be interested to go still for a long time: general-purpose grid computing.

Anything will happen one thing is for sure: this game is just started and VMware played great until now.