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VMware’s Genius: Doing Something Old

A break-out solution for doing something new. Thank you VMware.

Virtualization Magazine on Ulitzer

Here's my premise:  high impact, culture-bending technological innovations - however different they may be one from another - conform to a predictable template of evolution.  It goes something like this:

1.       Break-thru - The point of entry at which a technology breaks onto the market scene doing something old in a dramatically new way.  The break-thru vendor, frequently a modest sized venture or start-up, faces the uphill struggle to educate, and otherwise evangelize its would-be market.  It is an expensive, labor-intensive phase in which there the potential rewards are as high as the risk of failure.  Early adopters assume the risk of pioneering to gain substantial advantages in costs and/or performance.


Greg O'Connor at the AppZero booth during 4th International Cloud Computing Conference & Expo, at Santa Clara Convention Center, CA

2.       Break-even - The period of maturity during which an ecosystem develops around this technology to improve, optimize, manage, and extend it.  Much of the activity in this phase is directed to making the technology enterprise-grade.  Hype, risk, and pricing level off as the technology moves from upstart to mainstream.

3.       Break-out - The window of opportunity in which innovators springboard off the mature gains of the now-established technology to do something truly new.  Frequently the ‘something new' is enabled by the confluence of technologies and business drivers.  This phase offers the greatest potential gains at the lowest risk.

AppZero is a break-out company doing something new; VMware is the break-thru company that did something old in a dramatically new way.  This observation is not a slam.  Note the title - "VMware's genius".  That's praise, right?  They definitely started something new and altered the IT/business culture.  But, they started it all by doing something old ... better.  Much better.

Boring?  Apparently not since VMware holds the record for being the company with the fastest time to $1 Billion.  The reason for the spectacular growth was so simple - dramatic cost savings addressing a universal problem.

Business as usual in the data center had traditionally been to not only plan for the worst, but to provision for it as well.  So it came to be common for an application to sit on its very own server, using less then 10% of its CPU and resources, except for the occasional spike that edged utilization briefly upwards.  Multiply this scenario by however many applications live in a data center and the number is a very big dollar amount of sheer, bottom-line chewing waste.  Hardware, software, management, maintenance, sysadmins, space, utilities ......

Break-thru:  Enter VMware with its ESX hypervisor, which divorced server operating systems (OS) from server hardware in virtual machines (VM).  Server consolidation and all it implies hit a real meat and potatoes enterprise IT issue with a hugely cost-savings solution.  Modern day server virtualization was born and a market was created, complete with its de facto leader.

Break-even: Server sprawl was also born, joining the ranks of general issues such as manageability, governance, and security.  The usual suspects --CA, BMC, IBM et al - soon jumped in with management options that bring virtualized servers into the corporate fold.  Citrix/Xen and Microsoft threw their own hypervisor hats into VMware's ring making a brand new heterogeneous VM landscape, complete with the usual challenges of choice:.  What if I want to move my application across these different VMs? What if my data center runs VMware and Microsoft but I want to move some of my workload to Amazon, which is based on Xen?

VMware remains the market leader.  But constrained by the installed base of its success, it is unlikely to jump back into a break-thru round of innovation.  Rather, it is likely to continue improving its offerings, securing its market position, and harvesting the ongoing rewards of the first two phases.

Break-out: Now it gets interesting again.  At the intersection of virtualization, SOA, and the Internet, comes cloud computing - public, private, and hybrid.  The sky's the limit for break-out use cases.  Cost-savings like crazy.  Efficiencies unimaginable a decade ago.  IT and business alignment like a honeymoon.... How?  By virtualizing servers?  Not exactly.  You only cut costs in server consolidation when server applications actually run on those virtualized servers.  And that's a problem.

The ad hoc ability to provision server-side applications to and from servers - physical or virtual -- in the datacenter, from cloud to other cloud, and back to earth is necessary to fully exploit the potential of infrastructure on demand.  But that level of mobility is just not available in technology designed to separate an OS from a physical server.  And that includes the virtual appliance (VA), which packages applications with the lowest level of OS components required to run.

But any OS component in a deployment package is too much if you want cloud-neutral mobility - the opposite of vendor lock-in.  (I'll maybe describe why in a later blog.)

Enter AppZero with its Virtual Application Appliance (VAA).  Our customers package their server-side applications with all of the dependencies, but with zero OS component.  Unencumbered by the intermingling of OS and application that is introduced at installation, VAA-packaged applications arrive at destination servers (physical or virtual, on premise or in the cloud) ready to run and ready to depart at the click of a button.

No lock-in.  Complete mobility.  The functional equivalent of a neutral runtime environment - at home on any server that has a compatible OS.

A break-out solution for doing something new.  Thank you VMware.

More Stories By Greg O'Connor

Greg O'Connor is President & CEO of AppZero. Pioneering the Virtual Application Appliance approach to simplifying application-lifecycle management, he is responsible for translating Appzero's vision into strategic business objectives and financial results.

O'Connor has over 25 years of management and technical experience in the computer industry. He was founder and president of Sonic Software, acquired in 2005 by Progress Software (PRGS). There he grew the company from concept to over $40 million in revenue.

At Sonic, he evangelized and created the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) product category, which is generally accepted today as the foundation for Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Follow him on Twitter @gregoryjoconnor.

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