VMware's SpringSource Acquisition: More Than Meets the Eye?
Analysts and observers are still digesting the recent news of VMware's acquisition of SpringSource for $420 million, and I continue to find interesting perspectives cropping up. As we discussed here, the move has the potential to put the squeeze on Red Hat, especially in the application server and enterprise software development markets. It also gives VMware a lot more credibility with developers, because SpringSource's Spring Framework is a popular enterprise Java programming environment, it maintains the Apache Tomcat Java app server project, and more. It also gives VMware a strong presence in the open source arena, when it has been seriously threatened by open source virtualization offerings.
This week, though, Todd Weiss, writing on Linux.com, discussed how many analysts see the move as allowing VMware "to tie virtualization directly to applications without requiring a separate operating system." Could VMware have its eye on the fast-growing Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) arena, aiming to deliver virtualized apps that users and IT administrators can hop in and out of without a tie to a parent OS?
Several analysts who spoke with Linux.com on this topic said that VMware's vSphere is a key part of why it's interested in SpringSource, and aiming at delivering online applications that don't rely on a parent operating system. As background, VMware bills VSphere as a "cloud operating system, transforming IT infrastructures into a private cloud—-a collection of internal clouds federated on-demand to external clouds-—delivering IT infrastructure as a service."
Linux.com quotes IDC's Gary Chen, commenting on:
"...Applications that could run directly on vSphere without an overlaying operating system. That's not been done before...The application doesn’t know it's on a virtual machine. It thinks it's running on a [physical] server. This would let the applications know they are running on a virtual machine."
vSphere was initially targeted as a cloud operating system aimed at allowing IT applications to exist in a private cloud and communicate with other cloud apps. The IT focus was key, where VMware had a PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) play with vSphere. The scenario that Chen describes, though, could lead VMware more into the arena of hosted applications, and SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).
As we've discussed before, SaaS and open source are very much evolving in tandem. In a recent Future of Open Source survey, respondents said that SaaS applications have more potential to disrupt commercial open source companies than any of the other big trends they could choose from in their responses. (See the graphic below.)
If VMware does go down the SaaS path, giving birth to lots of new hosted applications running virtually, it will have a whole new list of direct competitors, and it will compete much more directly with long-time competitors such as Microsoft and Citrix. (VMware's relatively new CEO, Paul Maritz, was a long-standing Microsoft executive, and has intimate knowledge of Microsoft's plans for online applications.) Both of those companies are expanding aggressively into the world of online applications, and perhaps VMware realizes that it can't be left behind as that happens.