VMware and SpringSource: It's All About the Cloud, Baby

Though Facebook's acquisition of FriendFeed seemed to garner most of the headlines on Aug. 10, the bigger story for the enterprise was easily VMware's announcement of its intent to acquire SpringSource for $362 million to bolster its cloud strategy against Microsoft and others.

Though Facebook's acquisition of FriendFeed seemed to garner most of the headlines on Aug. 10, the bigger story for the enterprise was easily VMware's announcement of its intent to acquire SpringSource for $362 million to bolster its cloud strategy against Microsoft and others.

Make no mistake, that is what's at the core of VMware's move here. With SpringSource under its wing, VMware can become the Java-based equivalent to what is expected to be Microsoft's Azure private cloud play -- which has .NET as its development platform. But rather than .NET, VMware will have the Java-based Spring Framework and its surrounding set of Eclipse-based tools as the development environment for the emerging VMware vCloud private cloud initiative.

Microsoft will likely leverage its Azure, .NET, Hyper-V, System Center, and PowerShell, as well as Windows Server and other software to deliver its private cloud play. In a blog post, Microsoft's Steven Martin talks a bit about this. More on Microsoft's plans is expected at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in November in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, VMware will likely leverage its vSphere, Spring Framework and tools, SpringSource Hyperic system management software and other secret sauce virtualization technologies to deliver the VMware private cloud solution.

In an interview with eWEEK, Mik Kersten, a Java developer, CEO of Tasktop and creator of the Eclipse Mylyn project, explained his view of the tooling part of the equation:

""In the past year Tasktop has been working closely with SpringSource on the cloud deployment tooling in the SpringSource Tool Suite (STS). That has given me a perspective on how important virtualization is about to become to a large number of Java developers. Consider how the success of the Windows client and servers followed an investment in developer tools, APIs and the programming model for deploying to physical hardware. Virtualized infrastructure is replacing that physical hardware as the new deployment target, and Spring already has the hearts and minds of the majority of Java developers. With the acquisition, Spring developers can expect to start leveraging the profound capabilities of a virtualized infrastructure, while the tool support in STS will make it easy for them to deploy and manage applications in the cloud. This marks a big step forward for enterprise Java.""

Indeed, a recent Evans Data survey indicated that a majority of developers chose Java as the top language for building private cloud applications, followed by Microsoft's C#.

Meanwhile, in a separate interview with eWEEK, Rod Johnson, CEO of what will become the SpringSource division of VMware, said, "When you look at the large enterprise market, which is our bread and butter, every CIO [Chief Information Officer] is trying to figure out their cloud strategy and what they can do behind their firewall to build their private cloud. And if they're in the enterprise they're likely to be using Java. And if they're using Java they're likely to be using Spring. So you take the Java programming model with Spring and you combine it with our management offering (Hyperic) and the VMware virtualization platform. This gives the virtualization layer deep knowledge of what's happening inside the application at runtime."

Moreover, this integration builds naturally as the management software serves to promote a more "autonomic" and instrumented environment, and will enable the virtualization layer "to make decisions in real time" about things such as how many servers to add to support larger workloads, Johnson said. Other such decisions include: Which components need to be co-located on the same virtual server to minimize latency? What layer of the application or infrastructure is the bottleneck? Will increasing compute resources solve the problem, or are there other gating factors?

To the question of whether the VMware marriage with SpringSource is aimed primarily at Microsoft, Johnson told eWEEK:

""There's an industry wide shift toward cloud and the concept of Platform as a Service (PAAS). Microsoft clearly recognizes this. It's no longer about the operating system. As we said when we launched our Build/Run/Manage initiative at SpringSource a few months ago, Microsoft is one of the few companies with a credible, joined up message from developer desktop to data center and cloud. I see the relationship as one of -coopetition.' There are areas in which SpringSource works together with Microsoft right now, and will potentially work together in the future, and we're keen to continue that as a division of VMware. We'll also continue our commitment to Spring.NET, which is growing in popularity.""

So not only does Microsoft have reason for concern about this VMware/SpringSource PAAS play from a Java perspective, but perhaps the software giant might also have need for a casual concern from a .NET perspective to the extent that Spring developers begin to show interest in .NET (or .NET developers to show interest in Spring).

But that is further from the focus of this deal.

Moreover, not only does this deal put VMware in more competition with Microsoft, but it puts the virtualization juggernaut in the sights of Amazon, Salesforce.com and Google as well. Microsoft has .NET, Google has Python -- and to some extent Java -- but with this move, VMware is making a power play to claim the title of being the application platform for Java-based cloud development. If nothing else, this VMware deal could serve to stall CIO decisions about which direction to take in the cloud as the various contenders continue to build out their platforms.