Microsoft’s Bob Muglia opens the virtualized kimono

In a recently published “executive e-mail”, Microsoft’s Bob Muglia describes the company’s view of virtualization. You won’t be surprised to learn that he thinks it’s a big deal. Being an IT management geek, I fast-forwarded to the part about management and of course I fully agree with him on the “the importance of integrated management”. But his definition of “integrated” is slightly different from mine as becomes clear when he further qualifies it as the use of “a single set of management tools”. Sure, that makes for easier integration, but I am still of the school of thought (despite the current sorry state of management integration) that we can and must find ways to integrate heterogeneous management tools.

“Although virtualization has been around for more than four decades, the software industry is just beginning to understand the full implications of this important technology” says Bob Muglia. I am tempted to slightly re-write the second part of the sentence as “the software marketing industry is just beginning to understand the full potential of this important buzzword”. To illustrate this, look no further than that same executive e-mail, in which we learn that Terminal Server actually provides “presentation virtualization”. Soon we’ll hear that the Windows TCP/IP stack provides “geographic virtualization” and that solitaire.exe provides “card deck virtualization”.

Then there is SoftGrid (or rather, “Microsoft SoftGrid Application Virtualization”). I like the technology behind SoftGrid but when Microsoft announced this acquisition my initial thought was that coming from the company that owns the OS and the development/deployment environment on top of it, this acquisition was quite an admission of failure. And I am still very puzzled by the relevance of the SoftGrid approach in the current environment. Here is my proposed motto for SoftGrid: “can’t AJAX please go away”. Yes, I know, CAD, Photoshop, blah, blah, but what proportion of the users of these applications want desktop virtualization? And of those, what proportion can’t be satisfied with “regular” desktop virtualization (like Virtual PC, especially when reinforced with the graphical rendering capabilities from Calista which Microsoft just acquired)?

In an inspirational statement, Bob Muglia asks us to “imagine, for example, if your employees could access their personalized desktop, with all of their settings and preferences intact, on any machine, from any location”. Yes, imagine that. We’d call it the Web.

In tangentially related news, David Chappell recently released a Microsoft-sponsored white paper that describes what Microsoft calls “Software + Service”. As usual, David does a good job of explaining what Microsoft means, using clearly-defined terms (e.g. “on-premises” is used as an organizational, not geographical concept) and by making the obvious connections with existing practices such as invoking partner/supplier services and SOA. There isn’t a ton of meat behind the concept of S+S once you’ve gotten the point that even in a “cloud computing” world there is still some software that you’ll run in your organization. But since, like Microsoft, my employer (Oracle) also makes most of its money from licenses today, I can’t disagree with bringing that up…

And like Microsoft, Oracle is also very aware of the move towards SaaS and engaged in it. In that respect, figure 11 of the white paper is where a pro-Microsoft bias appears (even though I understand that the names in the figure are simply supposed to be “representative examples”). Going by it, there are the SaaS companies (that would be the cool cats of Amazon, and Google plus of course Microsoft) and there are the on-premises companies (where Microsoft is joined by Oracle, SAP and IBM). Which tends to ignore the fact that Oracle is arguably more advanced than Microsoft both in terms of delivering infrastructure to SaaS providers and being a SaaS provider itself. And SAP and IBM would also probably want to have a word with you on this. But then again, they can sponsor their own white paper.

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