Just after the VMware leadership change and at VMworld last week, our team had the opportunity to meet with VMware CEO Paul Maritz. Most of you have been following the blogs Chris Wolf, Drue Reeves and I have been writing about VMware and their challenges ahead as they take on the 800 pound gorilla in the market - Microsoft. We have made numerous analogies between VMware and Novell in the context of Microsoft’s competitive assault on the x86 virtualization infrastructure leader.
As many of you know, I witnessed firsthand the tactics Microsoft used against Novell during the 1990s when I worked for the once-upon-a-time network operating system leader. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had déjà-vu experiences while watching Microsoft methodically run the same game plan against VMware’s Virtual Center product with Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager. Integrations, pricing, and marketing tactics are all repeats of the past.
But before I get into the Paul Maritz meetings, you also need to realize that while I was at Novell, I had met personally with its CEOs: Ray Noorda (1982-1994), Bob Frankenberg (1994-1996), Joe Marengi (1996-1997), Eric Schmidt (1997-2001), and Ron Hovsepian (2006-present). Note: I never met with Jack Messman (2001-2006) as he never got out among the employees.
Now that I have met with these CEOs, I can tell you that this is where the analogies between Novell and VMware break down. Paul Maritz has a keen understanding of his competition, especially since he was closely involved in running the Microsoft play book against Novell during the 1990s. Paul understands that VMware Virtual Center’s current product position is vulnerable to attack and is making the moves to avoid the onslaught. As Paul describes, Microsoft drafts behind its competitor and then at the right moment swoops around to take the lead and leave their adversary in the dust. The trick is for the leader to go into a direction where Microsoft is uncomfortable. Microsoft tends to follow everyone to some degree, but if they are in an uncomfortable position, they won’t be successful in overtaking the competition unless the competition lets them do so. During the 1990s, none of the Novell CEOs exhibited vision and a keen understanding of what was happening to their core product in the wake of the Microsoft onslaught. And now, history is all but written for NetWare.
Drue Reeves on our team blogged about Paul’s direction for VMware in his keynote at VMworld. Paul had multiple goals that included outlining a direction that would make Microsoft uncomfortable as well as to get Microsoft riled up over that direction. It appears he has achieved those goals. The next phase is keen execution on those plans.
Don’t be mistaken, Microsoft’s “good enough” products will erode VMware’s market share, but VMware’s approach is designed to erode Microsoft’s market share in server and desktop operating systems by making them nothing but application libraries. However, this is where the 800 pound gorilla has more cards to play - applications. VMware must partner heavily with major applications vendors besides Microsoft to pull this off.
Do you think VMware will repeat history or write its own?
[Posted by Richard Jones]