What is Missing in the VMware and EMC’s Pivotal Initiative?
Last week VMware formally announced that it would form a virtual team with EMC to take cloud service and middleware market. There was a rumor about it the week early which turned out to be mostly true. If you are in IT industry nowadays, you simply cannot under-estimate the power of rumors. I think most of the VMware and EMC employees might hear the rumor before hearing it from their management teams.
The overall market reaction to the initiative is positive. I think it’s a good thing for VMware because from now on it can truly focus on the horizontal growth strategy instead of the previous vertical one as I pointed out in previous article Why VMware Needs A New Direction. If you want to know more about the thinking behind this initiative, especially from VMware’s perspective, you should read it.
Now let’s continue with what’s missing in the initiative.
Some of the news and blog posts suggested that VMware and EMC took on application market, which is not true. If you have read the book Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance by former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner, you may recall what Lou said there, “it [application] has always been dominated by entrepreneurial companies that bring obsessive focus to their specialties – such as sales force automation or financial services. Interestingly, nobody has ever succeeded in building a broad portfolio.”
For that reason, IBM exited the application market and focused the middleware with its five brands as its software strategy. Even we are now in a different time, the underlying principle of economics hasn’t changed much.
As I read the announcement, the initiative is about the opportunity in “the rapidly growing and fast-moving application development and big data markets.” In other words, it’s the middleware and big data as detailed later. So the Pivotal initiative does not include projects on the application level assets like sliderocket and socialcast. Maybe they won’t be there, or maybe they are relatively smaller than others therefore not mentioned in the announcement.
Anyway, I believe it’s good that application is missing, at least not a focus, in the initiative.
In terms of focus, I think the initiative may have started with too many areas even without application. The following table shows four areas to take on with the Pivotal initiative in two dimensions.
|Product||Greenplum||SpringSource and other products in the vFabric family|
All the four areas are pretty competitive and in none of the areas the new initiative owns market leadership position as number one. It’s still questionable whether these assets including big data and application middleware, while combined together, will create magic. Before the magic can happen, lots of engineering efforts need to be invested on integrating these assets together. Remember it’s not only about money – it also takes time.
Even more difficult challenge is on the product and services. Most successful cloud companies just focus on services. Amazon for example is number one in the cloud service market. But we haven’t heard much how their services are designed, implemented, and operated. As a normal user, you don’t know and don’t care much as long as the SLA is there.
The only two companies that I know take on both products and services and are reasonably successful are Microsoft with its Windows/middleware and Azure, and Oracle with its database and hosting service. I think their products’ market dominances have made big differences for their services.
Technically speaking, the mindsets of developing products and running services are different. You can hardly get both working well especially in early stage. One realistic way to work on both is to dominate on either and move on to the other. In that, Amazon may get into product for private cloud some day.
In summary, the missing of application in the initiative is a good thing. The broad focus (or lack thereof) is not. I think this is something the initiative should sort out as quickly as possible.