VMware Adds Social Networking with Socialcast Buy

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-05-31

Hardly a month goes by without virtualization giant VMware buying more new intellectual property as it continues to build out its product set.

The company revealed May 31 that it has acquired Socialcast, a 3-year-old San Francisco-based social collaboration software maker for enterprises. Terms of the deal were not released by either company.

It was the fourth acquisition in the last two months for VMware, which is rapidly building up its end-user application portfolio.

Socialcast can be delivered as a hosted service, private cloud deployment, or through an on-premise installation, founder and CEO Tim Young told eWEEK. Socialcast is similar to Yammer, BroadVision and Salesforce.com's Chatter in that it is used inside an enterprise's firewall to enable employees and contractors (as needed) to share, develop and present documents, conversations, presentations, photos, video and any other business file needed for a project.

Where It Differs from Competitors

Socialcast has a homepage like the other services, but where it differs from its competitors is that it can be attached to other applications -- such as Word, PowerPoint, Adobe PDFs, SlideRocket, and others. Depending upon company policy, it can provide a conversation area at the bottom of a Word document, for example, or a text box alongside a presentation document, so that qualified employees working with the file can comment about it on the record.

Those dispersed comments are then collected on the Socialcast homepage for all those qualified to read them. Permissions for which applications can be seen by which employees are granted by administrators.

"It's like Facebook ConnectUs," Brian Byun, VMware's vice president and general manager of cloud applications, told eWEEK. "You can go all over the Web and see in context what your other friends on Facebook do. Socialcast does the same thing, in that you can follow your friends, and they can follow you into the right application in the right context."

For example, if a project team is asked to read the same story in The New York Times or in eWEEK, using Socialcast they'll be able to comment internally on the story so only they will be able to see it.

Socialcast has sold its package to several large enterprises, including General Motors, Avaya, Humana, Nokia, Philips Electronics, SAS and VMware, Young said.

"It's similar to a news- or Twitter-stream concept," Young said. "We're not here to just create a water cooler or another portal but to drive business performance in improving outcomes.

"We want the workforce to have the same tools at work as they have at home, whether they're on a mobile device, on a Web browser, in their email, in their accounting applications -- wherever they may be -- so they can always have the people they work with and the most important updates right in front of them."

VMware Building Up Its Feature Set

VMware continues to put the pieces together to provide a full complement of Web services for businesses.

"The post-PC era will be defined by a new way to work that is increasingly social, real-time and collaborative," Byun said. "For enterprise collaboration to improve business outcomes, it can't just be a feature in a single application. Organizations need a new social collaboration fabric across the applications people already work with. Socialcast combines real-time activity streams that are contextually integrated within existing enterprise systems. This is the new way to work."

On May 16, VMware bought Shavlik Technologies, a provider of cloud-based IT management software for small and medium-size businesses. This will serve as the application manager for VMware's Horizon suite of apps.

On April 27, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company bought Web-based presentation software provider SlideRocket. In March, the company picked up visual development toolmaker Wavemaker.

Earlier, in January 2010, VMware bought email and collaboration software vendor Zimbra from Yahoo to start the social-business software buying trend.

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