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VMware-SpringSource about cloud, competition, open source in that orderJay Lyman, August 11, 2009 @ 1:05 am ET
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water … another blockbuster open source software acquisition, this time virtualization leader VMware looking to the future, and seeing itself in need of a more integrated, application-centric position. That position, according to more than $420 million in cash and stock from VMware, apparently comes from acquisition of SpringSource. SpringSource itself has grown by acquisition, first for Apache support vendor Covalent in January 2008, then Spring-like Groovy and Grails supporter G2One in November 2008 and most recently in May 2009, systems and application monitoring and management vendor Hyperic, which also focused heavily on cloud computing.
VMware is clearly in need of a story beyond virtualization, even if we are still relatively early on in enterprise adoption. Still, looking into the future, it sees clear skies, and that does not fit with the multi-billion dollar opportunity shaping up in cloud computing. Thus, VMware is willing to invest a significant amount in SpringSource, which does represent a crossover in customers without much, if any, crossover in competition.
VMware is working to address its increasing competition from all sides. While it may seem somewhat odd for VMware to want to get involved in enterprise Java application development and deployment, it may want to take advantage of SpringSource’s relatively quick climb in the enterprise Java development and support business. VMware may also be looking to offset any gain in enterprise Java influence and control by Oracle, which may do so with its more than $7 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems.
VMware is also facing increasing competition from OS vendors, including Microsoft, Novell and Red Hat, which is among SpringSource’s biggest competitors with its JBoss business. Again, SpringSource may not seem the most likely suitor for Java application development, but VMware may see this as an area where it can most effectively integrate its own technology and talent to differentiate in virtualization and cloud computing.
Although SpringSource’s open source nature has been critical to its developer reach and success, this is likely not as important to VMware, which may view SpringSource more as a subscription software company than as an open source software company. Either way, it seems VMware, similar to Oracle, may have somewhat limited vision when it comes to open source software, seeing it for its development and time-to-market advantages, but missing other community benefits — including user and customer communities, feedback and contributions — that help make things work. This is not to say VMware is doomed with its plans and integration for SpringSource. It made it quite clear on a conference call today it plans to keep the SpringSource team in place as much as possible. Still, it will face the difficult and recurring challenge of a proprietary software vendor taking over an open source software vendor.
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