Greene Couldn't See Beyond Virtualization

The removal of highly successful VMware CEO Diane Greene could mean she didn't see enough of the big picture.

Why would the EMC/VMware board of directors relieve VMware CEO Diane Greene of her responsibilities July 8 after she and her staff had built one of the most successful post-bubble IT companies in the world?
Did Greene have a personal spat with EMC Chairman/CEO/President Joe Tucci? Yes, but that wasn't the real reason. Was the misstep of the 2008 financial guidance forecast a lingering problem? Nada. Did she not wear enough makeup? Your call.
Was her appearance on the cover of eWEEK recently the equivalent of the Sports Illustrated curse? Highly unlikely.
It wasn't that VMware isn't making money, because it certainly is; and it's not because the company is losing market share, which it certainly isn't.
What then? Why make a major fix like this when nothing appears to be broken?
A carefully considered opinion is that the EMC board doesn't believe Greene is the person who can take VMware to the so-called "next level."
VMware has long established itself as the go-to provider for virtualization software in the data center. Having your software in about 85 percent of the world's data centers qualifies you in that way. However, the future is about more than virtualization; virtualization is one technical means to an end, and it changed the IT business forever. But there's more to it than that.
What's up next is undoubtedly on EMC's worry list.
"I didn't see the shifting of the leadership, marketing and the branding of the company to be about more than virtualization," Frank Gillett of Forrester Research told me. "I didn't see the blank-paper question addressed: 'If we had to start over from scratch right now, what would we build?'
"Virtualization is simply the subdivision or aggregation of IT resources to be different than it is. They're doing so much more than that, but they haven't got a name for it, they haven't got a vision for it. They haven't untangled themselves from virtualization."
For its part, VMware has been making the case that its hypervisor can be used as the basis for business continuity and disaster recovery, which puts the company into an entirely new market. A hugely upward-bound one, by the way.
The question is: Does VMware know how to monetize this, along with other opportunities? EMC, being a major storage player, more than likely had seen this coming and was probably wondering if VMware actually was going to make it pay off.
"It's not to say that VMware could replace all forms of business continuity and disaster recovery, but it does change how those work, for the better; it creates alternatives, and it creates less expensive options for things you previously couldn't do at all, or [that] were too expensive to justify," Gillett said. "VMware needs to unhinge itself from virtualization and name what they're about, which is efficient shared IT resources. Are they [also] about a fabric operating system? Are they the next operating system that will span a data center rather than a server?"
Microsoft, on the other hand, is calling its new strategy Dynamic IT. "Microsoft has a name for this destination, and a long-term strategy for it. VMware, not quite," Gillett said.
This is not an immediate crisis, Gillett observed. "But if you go to their Web site, they're still pitching themselves as a leader in virtualization. And I'm thinking, 'You're so beyond virtualization.'"

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...