VMware's incestuous acquisition of Mozy from EMC doesn't overcome 'Huh?' factor

If EMC continues to own both companies, how does VMware buy Mozy?

In what is more an internal cost-center shuffle than an acquisition, VMware acquired online storage company Mozy from EMC -- parent company of both VMware and Mozy.

Since Mozy is a consumer-oriented online storage company and VMware is an enterprise-oriented virtualization- and cloud-computing software developer, it's hard to see why it's better having VMware own it than EMC. EMC, you may have heard, is involved in storage in some way.

"We believe that, by being directly engaged with the delivery of such a service, VMware will further ramp our own cloud-related learning and accelerate new IP, scale, and capabilities into the products that we provide to our customers and public cloud partners," Steve Herrod, CTO for VMware, wrote in a blog post about the deal.

On one hand, having a popular cloud- or SAAS company among its assets makes some sense, considering VMware's relentless efforts to convert both end-user companies and the tech industry to worship of the cloud.

Smaller businesses are more likely to buy sophisticated IT services by subscription than in traditional ways, so having something smaller than a data-center-quality storage offering can't hurt VMware.

On the other hand, Herrod wrote that he was impressed with Mozy's scalable, highly available data-centers "fronted by elegant, user interfaces across many client types. This is the foundational architecture for the many cloud-based services being delivered today."

True. It's also what VMware is supposed to be in the business of building and selling. Does it really need to get that from Mozy?

Herrod also likes the chance to add "Mozy's data compression, synchronization, client integration and analytic tools" to VMware products, which makes more sense than needing Mozy to teach VMware how to build large virtualized IT infrastructures.

The counterweight blog from Mozy COO Charlotte Yarkoni said EMC will continue owning the Mozy business, but VMware will run it, hire some of Mozy's staff and integrate some of its technology into Mozy's as well as vice versa.

That part is even more odd. VMware and EMC already operate under a series of arms-length agreements that allows each to sign up and work with partners in its own line of business without seeming to favor the other too overtly. EMC does a lot of business with Microsoft, which doesn't like VMware very much, for example.

NetApp is one of VMware's closer partners and one of EMC's nearest competitors.

This kind of acquiring-without-owning may be a more-confusing extension of that, allowing VMware direct access to Mozy talent it wants without crossing any of the impossibly complex barriers that might exist if Mozy lived somewhere on EMC's side of the building, where VMware can't always go.

At some point the organizational convolutions become so complex they either bog down all the contracting and intellectual-property-rights management, or everyone but the lawyers just gets on with their jobs and pretends the barriers don't exist.

Either way there's always some comeuppance. Either you can't do what you need to do because you don't want to step over the lines on your corporate jigsaw puzzle, or you risk continually and (probably) unknowingly lying to your customers or business partners about how strong the imaginary wall is between you and the corporate sibling they don't like.

Whatever VMware is after, specifically, better be pretty good to make up for the "Huh?" factor in all this.

It's not the kind of thing that will nag at anyone a whole lot, or ruin anyone's business model. It will raise a lot of eyebrows, though, and probably a lot of questions with, apparently, very complex, imprecise answers.

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