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VMware Buys Zimbra; Next Step Bed, Bath, & Beyond?

Question of ends and means

Greg O'Connor on Ulitzer

I'm arguing with myself, so I'm winning and losing.

The argument?

VMware's Zimbra acquisition: a) brilliant - and necessary -- building block in the drive to domination of the evolving cloud economy? Or b) distracting activity on par with a crow's attraction to bright, shiny objects?

The question isn't whether or not Zimbra is very cool. (It is.) Or whether it's worth the $100 million VMware shelled out. For me, it's a question of ends and means.

Readers of my blog know that I am a fan of VMware. They pretty much created the market that created the need for what AppZero (and no one else) does (server-side application virtualization.)  But they also know that I have questioned where VMware and its hulking shadow of a daddy, EMC, are headed.

I first blogged the question when VMware acquired Spring Source. I thought it was interesting that a company espousing and attracting partnerships for progress in this brave new cloud world, would jump into competition with those partners.  SpringSource put VMware outside of its core infrastructure business into the development and management business.

Fast-forward.  With the Zimbra acquisition, VMware has popped up the market stack to land smack in the middle of business' most ubiquitous application - email and collaboration.  Zimbra out-Outlooks Outlook. If you're unfamiliar with it, take a quick look at the demo (www.zimbra.com).

Anyone who has ever used Outlook/all of civilization will immediately be at home with the UI.  That same population will be tickled at the sheer elegance, practicality, and simplicity of the additional functionality.  Zimlets are mashups that let you do things that just make sense, like mouseover the word "tomorrow" in the email you're reading to see your calendar for tomorrow.  Click on it and you're in your calendar to drag, drop, and beyond.

Which brings me to Bed, Bath, & Beyond. (You wondered how I'd get here, didn't you?)  What is VMware doing?  If it is not taking direct aim at Microsoft ... If it is not positioning itself to be the Microsoft of the cloud economy .... If it is not aimed, ready, and equipped to command that dominion ... then acquisitions such as Zimbra and SpringSource are distractions from the core business that make only marginally more sense than would acquisition of Bed, Bath, & Beyond.

Steve Herrod, VMware's Chief Technology Officer blogging on the acquisition brings up the elephant in the cloud saying, "And there's one thing I'd like to address head-on. VMware vSphere is and will continue to be an outstanding platform for the deployment of Microsoft Exchange. We have heavily optimized our virtualization offerings specifically for the deployment of Microsoft Exchange, and thousands of companies are benefiting from the increased flexibility, availability, and security that comes from running Microsoft Exchange on top of VMware vSphere. We have some great material on these advantages available here.  So whether it is datacenters, desktops, application development, or core infrastructure applications, our mission will be to attack complexity and simplify IT. You'll see much more from us in this space, so stay tuned!"

That's my plan for sure.

Follow Greg O'Connor on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor

More Stories By Greg O'Connor

Greg O'Connor is President & CEO of AppZero. Pioneering the Virtual Application Appliance approach to simplifying application-lifecycle management, he is responsible for translating Appzero's vision into strategic business objectives and financial results.

O'Connor has over 25 years of management and technical experience in the computer industry. He was founder and president of Sonic Software, acquired in 2005 by Progress Software (PRGS). There he grew the company from concept to over $40 million in revenue.

At Sonic, he evangelized and created the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) product category, which is generally accepted today as the foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Follow him on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor.

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