Having received John’s approval to reclaim the “mighty” adjective, I am going to have a bit of fun with it. More specifically, I am toying with adding VMWare to the list. Clearly, VMWare doesn’t want to go the way Sun did with Solaris (nice technology, right place at the right time, but commoditized in the long term). They have supposedly surrounded themselves with a pretty good patent minefield to slow the commoditization trend, but it will happen anyway and they know it. Especially with improved virtualization support in hardware making some of these patents less relevant. For this reason, they are putting a lot of effort on developing the IT management side of their portfolio.
One illustration of this is the fact that VMWare recently recruited the Senior VP of systems management at Oracle to become its Executive VP of R&D (incidentally, this happened a couple months after I joined his team at Oracle; maybe the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to deal with my bad sense of humor for too long made it easier for him to approve my hiring). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they chose someone who is not a virtualization expert but an enterprise infrastructure expert (namely database performance and management software).
So, do we have the “Mighty Four” (Oracle, Microsoft, EMC and VMWare) for a nice symetry with the “Big Four” (HP, IBM, BMC and CA)? Or does the fact that EMC owns most of VMWare make us pause here? Might a mighty mother a mighty? How do you run a 85%-owned company whose strategic directions takes it toward direct competition with its corporate owner? EMC and VMWare are attacking IT management from different directions (EMC is actually going at it from several directions at the same time, based on its historical storage products, plus new software from acquisitions, plus hiring a few smart people away from IBM to put the whole thing together), so on paper their portfolios look pretty complementary. But if aligning and collaborating more closely may make sense from a product engineering perspective, it doesn’t make sense from a financial engineering perspective. At least as long as investors are so hungry for the few VMWare share available on the open market (as a side issue, I wonder if they like it so much because of the virtualization market per se or because they see VMWare’s position in that market as a beachhead for the larger enterprise IT infrastructure software market). And, as should not be suprising, the financial view is likely to prevail, which will keep the companies at arms length. But if both VMWare and EMC are succesful in assumbling a comprehensive enterprise infrastructure management system, things will get interesting.
[UPDATED 2008/5/28: The day after I write this, VMWare buys application performance management vendor B-hive. I am pretty lucky with my timing on this one.]