What does VMware really do?

With Zimbra, VMware is moving away from virtualization and sending mixed messages about the kind of company it is, Server Virtualization Advisory Board member Greg Shields says.

Greg Shields
Founding partner, Concentrated Technology

The Zimbra acquisition shouldn't necessarily hurt VMware's finances, as they've got the resources to support such unrelated diversification. But it is an odd addition from the perspective of, "What does VMware really do?"

For most of its early history, VMware has been a product company, selling software that enables x86 (and, later, x64) virtualization. It was only down the road, as the realities of competition grew more potent, that VMware re-imagined itself into an infrastructure delivery company. If you listen carefully today, VMware very carefully delivers that message, particularly when it comes to cloud computing: We do the infrastructure.

The worst part of the Zimbra acquisition is that it complicates that messaging. Now, VMware delivers your cloud infrastructure, but they also… sometimes… deal in services that ride atop that cloud. What does that really mean for the consumer? And, more importantly, does that consumer think of VMware when they think of…email services? Perhaps not.

So, in the end, Zimbra will neither help nor hurt VMware, but it will present a marketing conundrum for a company that appears to be seeking its long-term positioning. In essence, if you throw enough mud up on the wall, eventually something will stick.

This was first published in February 2010

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