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VMware Spinoff: Analysts Weigh In

Last week's announcement that VMware is spinning off a new organization called the Pivotal Initiative under parent company EMC to manage its application development and deployment products, including SpringSource, Gemfire, and Cloud Foundry, is probably a good thing for developers. Among other things, says 451 Research analyst Matt Aslett, it will better enable both VMware and EMC to tap into the developer-led adoption of cloud and big data technologies.

Aslett points to 451's survey of storage professionals (through its TheInfoPro service), which indicates that those responsible for purchasing traditional data storage technologies are not currently engaged in big data purchasing decisions. "[O]ur research indicates that adoption of technologies such as Hadoop is being led by functional and departmental business unit development teams rather than strategic corporate IT projects," said Aslett in an e-mailed interview.

The Pivotal Initiative will also manage Pivotal Labs' agile software development tools and services and EMC's Greenplum big-data analytics group. Greenplum in particular will benefit from being part of the Pivotal Initiative, Aslett said, because it will be able to exploit closer relationships with the vFabric, Spring, and Cetas teams.

"EMC has already attempted to bridge the gap with programs focused on engaging with 'data scientists' through its Greenplum, business," he added. He cited an example of potentially "developer-friendly technology" that the Pivotal Initiative might produce: EMC Greenplum Chorus, the collaborative data science and analysis platform originally started by Greenplum prior to its acquisition by EMC. The platform was completed thanks to a joint engineering effort that involved EMC Greenplum, VMware's vFabric Data Director team and Pivotal Labs prior to its acquisition by EMC, Aslett pointed out. 

IDC analyst Al Hilwa says that the spinoff came as no surprise to industry watchers. Paul Maritz, who led VMware for four years, passed the reins to incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger in August at the annual VMworld conference, and rumors of a reorganization have been circulating ever since.

"I think the idea of grouping all the application development and deployment related technologies in one division and separately from virtualization is sound and healthy for developers," Hilwa said. "It has the potential to bring a lot more focus on developers. Placing it with EMC allows VMware to maximize its virtualization opportunities with other platform players, which is, after all, how it is used in customer data centers today. Maritz has the skill, knowledge, and passion to drive this new division, though making money may still be a challenge. Going to market with the broader Pivotal portfolio allows the more marketable and monetizable back-end software and services to essentially pay for developer technologies."

Dana Gardner, principle analyst at Interarbor Solutions, also likes the spinoff plan, but he says the move needs to be about more than development efficiencies.

"It's interesting that EMC and VMware are pooling these specific resources into a new entity," Gardner said. "Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is a next big opportunity for cloud, but it needs to be more than appealing to just developers. PaaS needs to provide a consolidation function between various cloud models, and that includes automation for accessing Big Data and analytics resources regardless of where they reside. PaaS also needs to be integral to hybrid computing as an operations model enabler [and] an ongoing lifecycle function…"

Gardner sees VMware and EMC recognizing a larger role for PaaS, and therefore a larger opportunity for the Pivotal Initiative. "Data has long been thought of as a by-product of applications," he said, "but data resources and their business value are the application, increasingly. PaaS entwined with data integration and management functions can, in a sense, redefine applications."

"I'm seeing enterprise IT planners now recognizing that their IT transformation efforts, their Big Data efforts, and their cloud development ambitions all need to be synched and organized in conjunction," he added. "So if EMC and VMware can automate and organize that to a significant degree, it could be a very appealing adoption path for developers, enterprise operators, and cloud service providers alike. And it places them ahead of Amazon, where they need to get."


Posted by John K. Waters on December 10, 2012