Interview: VMware's co-founder on the EMC acquisition

VMware's ability to run multiple operating systems on a single physical server was a technology sought after by the top echelon of IT vendors, including IBM, which was rumoured to be a contender for buying the company. But VMware went to EMC, which closed on its acquisition of the company in January. This month, VMware co-founder and chief architect Ed Bugnion talked with Computerworld about that acquisition and where the integration with EMC technology is today.

Why did you pick EMC to acquire you? The surprise was that IBM didn't buy you. We were on track with deliberate plans to put forth an IPO, at which point we got interest from multiple offers. The criteria we were looking for was a partner that ... would allow us to increase our growth by effectively eliminating what was the biggest sales detractor, which was some uncertainty about VMware's future as an independent company and who we'd be acquired by. We obviously found EMC to be ideal along that criteria, because it is a key brand within the most mission-critical parts of the data center. It's something customers relate to. And it's something that really eliminates every doubt about the viability of VMware as a unit of a company the size of EMC, with a US$30 billion market cap.

The second criteria we thought was important for the technology to be successful was for it to remain independent of server platform. From a value perspective, an acquisition player that remains neutral with respect to server distribution was attractive. Otherwise we would have effectively been limiting ourselves to the market share of that vendor.

What was the value proposition of VMware, and how has that changed?

Historically, and I mean two years ago, it was primarily centered around server consolidation. Server consolidation is about taking a reasonably large server and splitting it up so you can run lots of smaller servers inside that machine. That was the first and second generation (of our product). What we have right now is a product set designed to run on a clustered environment ... in a farm of physical servers and manage that server farm from a single location and as a single pool of physical resources. That is basically to say (VMware products) manage compute bandwidth, memory bandwidth and I/O bandwidth.

It's very similar in value proposition to the kind of value that EMC provides with the ability to migrate certain storage across arrays.

Where's does integration with EMC's products stand right now?

VMware remains an independent, wholly owned subsidiary. So VMware is an EMC company as opposed to an EMC division, which means we maintain all our corporate functions, maintain our legal function, maintain our sales force and -- associated with the sales force -- we've maintained all our own distribution network, all sets of resellers and strategic partnerships, including Windows server vendors.

Do you ever see that changing, where you're more tightly integrated with EMC?

At this time there are no plans to change the model. I think there's huge value in maintaining independence. I think that maintaining independence doesn't mean it's void of synergy for EMC customers. I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive. There is, for example, a lot of value in interoperability and joint solutions that show how independent products work together to solve a problem and (how) a solution worked out from an end-to-end basis, but to keep the products independent of each other.

VMware will remain independent.

How long will it take to integrate your software with EMC's so that business applications and associated storage can be moved together without disrupting operations?

think we're too early into the integration process to be able to talk about the type of solution that requires new releases on either our part or EMC's part. Right now we're working on really just a level of documentation and writing up how joint solutions look and work together.

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