Broad VMware vision still too narrowly focused

Is there any part of the infrastructure you don't want to replace?

Virtualization and cloud-computing leader VMware isolated its VARs and resellers in Orlando this week to roll out new products and indoctrinate the channel in its most recent view of the world as a platform on which to build virtual servers and clouds.

Its remarkably consistent vision is that end-user companies will want to virtualize as many of their computing resources as they can, to minimize the cost of hardware and support, and distribute CPU cycles, gigs of RAM and blocks of storage to specific applications based on what they need to perform best, not the physical location of the hardware.

The vast majority of end-user companies seem to be going for it, too, at least to some degree. VMware has put together an impressive set of infrastructure, management, migration and integration products that run the gamut from free one-machine VM or VDI setups to full-on hybrid-cloud, virtual- desktop/server/handheld infrastructures and hosting services to provide it in any configuration customers want.

The problem is, even if customers buy your vision, they don't necessarily buy your products; at least, not all of them.

They buy things they think they can afford and use them in ways that suit them, not the developer or manufacturer. Selfish bastards.

That's why VMware, though still in the lead in both technology and mindshare in the market for virtual servers and cloud-computing technology, is getting a lot more competition from Citrix, Microsoft, HP, the entire co-location and hosting industry.

Even VMware's partners are competing with it, kind of. Co-opetition. Which is very open-minded and friendly, except the part where your friends take away your customers because the customers want to buy a set of products and services that aren't quite the homogeneous lineup approved by your home office.

VMware has tremendous credibility in corporate data centers and market share of something like 80 percent in virtual servers, according to IDC analyst Ian Song.

"When you look, what percentage of data centers are virtualized in the whole world? It's more like 20 percent," Song said. "Those are the customers that are going to be the next battleground, for VMware and Microsoft and Citrix and whoever else has hypervisors or virtualization solutions. It's going to be tough."

It's going to be tougher because VMware not only seems to have an obsession with making sure its customers virtualized infrastructures are VMware end to end, it seems to want to get rid of Windows entirely – on servers and on PCs.

"That's their whole desktop approach, to get users away from the traditional Windows thick-computing device," Song said. "VDI, and remote-hosted desktops and their phone virtualization platform MVP – [VMware] are doing everything they can to get people away from Windows which in the short term is just an impossibility."

It might be in the long term as well, at least if it means having a competitor knock off Windows with a superior product. A lot of vendors and a lot of products that are superior for specific tasks or situations? That might be possible. It's happening already in smartphones and tablets. Not so much as a wholesale abandonment of Windows, which is what VMware appears to be after, as a generalized, piece by piece migration to something that seems better in a particular situation.

Building from scratch a whole series of products that can replace Windows in every use case and every instance in which it's entrenched now? No; forget it.

A gradual descent into irrelevancy as people choose smartphones or tablets or something else that doesn't run Windows until everyone seems to still have a few Windows machines around but can't remember the last time they logged in to one? Like when you realized you'd adopted ATMs so completely you couldn't remember the last time you talked to a human teller?

Or online banking to the extent that you couldn't remember the last time you wrote out a bill by hand?

That might work.

Corralling all the VARs or end users in Orlando for an annual brainwashing to convince them the all-VMware vision is the right way to look at the world?

Never. Not even for the VARs from farther north whose brains are still unfreezing in the tropical sunshine and aren't working as well as they should.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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