Michael Dell is Committed to VMware's Independence. But What About the Competition?

Article written by David Marshall

Unless you've been buried in the sand somewhere for the past eight days, you've probably read at least one news article or came across at least one email announcement telling the tale of Dell's intentions to purchase EMC (and subsequently with it, VMware). This was after all the biggest technology M&A news story made so far in 2015, affecting those of us living in and following the virtualization, PC and server hardware, storage, security, mobility and cloud communities.

One of the big question marks surrounding this acquisition news has been, "what will happen to VMware once Dell takes over EMC's share of ownership?"

EMC currently controls in excess of 80 percent of the virtualization giant. But the company has for all intents and purposes allowed VMware to operate independently and form its own partnerships with EMC competitors to further the VMware cause. This independence has allowed VMware to flourish and advance its technologies, and it kept the company from getting bogged down in the political fray within the storage market. And fortunately for VMware, EMC competitors, at least on the face of things, didn't seem to mind that money ultimately flowed back into the hands of their storage competition. 

Once Dell steps into the picture and takes over for EMC and the competitor list gets broadened, will those competitors (and new competitors) still smile and turn a blind eye?

Ahead of Dell's major trade show event, Dell World 2015 which is going on right now in Austin, TX, the company's CEO Michael Dell authored a corporate blog post sharing his personal thoughts and intentions about VMware and Dell's plans following the close of the transaction.

In that blog post, Dell reiterated his commitment to keeping VMware open and independent much as EMC has done these last number of years. Dell stated his company would continue to provide a "heterogeneous and open architecture that prioritizes customer choice first and foremost." And he further stated Dell would continue to offer choice and multiple partner offerings as EMC and VMware have done in the past.

Dell also writes:

VMware is an amazing company filled with very talented people creating innovative software and solutions that are leading the way in a cloud-based, connected world. It thrives on a vibrant ecosystem in its VMware Partner Network of OEM partners, Systems Integrators, Solution Providers, Resellers and of course hundreds of thousands of customers around the world.

We intend for VMware to remain an independent public company. Further, we believe it is very important to maintain VMware's successful business model supporting an open and independent ecosystem. We do not plan to do anything proprietary with VMware as regards Dell or EMC, nor place any limitations on VMware's ability to partner with any other company.

Calling VMware the "crown jewel" of the EMC federation, Dell said VMware will remain committed to its partners and make it easy for customers to use its products on any hardware or platform that they desire.   

That's the commitment from Dell. And I applaud their commitment and statement to keeping VMware operating independently. But will that ultimately be enough? Today, companies like IBM, Lenovo, HP and Cisco may not be that threatened by an EMC dominated VMware, but will that tune change when things shift to Dell? As valued partners continuing to advance add-ons and selling VMware technologies to their own customers, will those vendors start to question the thought of adding money (and large amounts of it) into a competitor's coffers?

Another item to keep an eye on is whether or not this acquisition will help finally thrust hypervisor competitors like KVM, Hyper-V and Xen further into the limelight and ultimately gain more of the market share that each has been searching for these last few years. And will current VMware partners instead throw more time, energy and money at open source alternatives like KVM and Xen? These technologies are considered "good alternatives" today, but they still lack some of the more advanced enterprise features already found in VMware vSphere.

One other thing to watch closely will be OpenStack. How will OpenStack and KVM come together to take advantage of this change in VMware ownership? The combination of these two platforms are starting to see an increase in adoption, but perhaps this is the ticket they need to propel themselves forward, and ultimately, into the production-ready, enterprise market.

If new money and energy does start rolling into groups like the Open Virtualization Alliance or the Linux Foundation's Xen Project, can those alternative offerings catch up and provide those hardware vendors with an alternative choice in hypervisor? Perhaps, but at the end of the day, those vendors still have to provide a solution that's being requested by customers... and for now, it's still a VMware dominated world.      


About the Author

David Marshall is an industry recognized virtualization and cloud computing expert, a seven time recipient of the VMware vExpert distinction, and has been heavily involved in the industry for the past 16 years.  To help solve industry challenges, he co-founded and helped start several successful virtualization software companies such as ProTier, Surgient and Hyper9.

David is also a co-author of two very popular server virtualization books: "Advanced Server Virtualization: VMware and Microsoft Platforms in the Virtual Data Center" and "VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center."  He was also the Technical Editor on Wiley's "Virtualization for Dummies" and "VMware VI3 for Dummies" books.  David also authored countless articles for a number of well known technical magazines, including: InfoWorld, Virtual-Strategy and TechTarget.  And in 2004, he founded the oldest independent virtualization and cloud computing news site, VMblog.com, which he still operates today.

Follow David Marshall

Twitter: @vmblog
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmarshall
Blog: http://vmblog.com