VMware Is The New Microsoft, Just Without an OS

Paul Maritz of VMwareIn the past 10 years VMware (s vmw) has executed a remarkable strategy to topple enterprise software incumbents and emerge as an ecosystem kingpin. More recently, the company has plunged head first into cloud computing from infrastructure to applications. Time and again, it seems as though VMware is beating Microsoft (s msft) at its own game. But a look deeper reveals that is no surprise.

VMware began with a concept to run multiple operating systems independently on a single physical machine through the use of virtual machines and hypervisors. Simple enough. But the implications are powerful as critical decisions once made at the operating system level quickly became less relevant. Companies such as Microsoft no longer need to be factored in up front for new data center architectures. This is how VMware put the first chink in Microsoft’s armor; operating system choices now take a back seat to hypervisor strategies.

VMware’s promise was visible early enough to EMC that it acquired the company in 2003. But it took until July 2008 for it to inject the company with leadership from Paul Maritz, a 14-year Microsoft veteran who joined EMC in February 2008. That is the same time EMC acquired Pi, a cloud computing company Maritz founded.

Martiz’s resume covers all bases of software infrastructure: platforms, operating systems, development tools, database products, productivity suites, and email. He also brought in two VMware co-presidents from Microsoft giving the executive suite a combined 47 years of Microsoft experience. So the VMware roadmap since then became easy to read. Start with a base infrastructure that can unseat the operating system, woo developers to create a robust ecosystem, and deliver value added applications up the software stack that reach directly to end users.

Pursuing the influential developer community, in 2009 VMware acquired SpringSource in a move to bolster their strength around the Spring Java development framework, and what was noted as a move towards an integrated platform-as-a-service offerings.

Building a collaboration portfolio, in 2010, VMware acquired Zimbra setting off another chapter in the cloud collaboration wars.

Most recently VMware launched Cloud Foundry, a platform-as-a-service that supports development in Java, Ruby on Rails, Node.js and other frameworks, further cementing its role as a market maker for new infrastructure approaches.

Along the way, VMware built a formidable enterprise ecosystem around virtual machine management and the fact that customers want VMware to tell them which other products they should choose to make virtual machine deployment easier. Think Windows Compatibility List 2.0.

With VMware holding the keys to the hypervisor layer and management, then the platform layer, and even the cloud applications layer with email from Zimbra, and presentations from Slide Rocket, why do I need Windows?

This story is far from finished. VMware has less than twenty percent of Microsoft’s market cap today. But if I were tracking the growth, and more importantly, enterprise influence, VMware appears to be making the right moves.

Want to learn more about the big moves in enterprise and cloud infrastructure? Check out the GigaOM Structure Conference June 22 and 23 in San Francisco.

Gary Orenstein is the host of The Cloud Computing Show.