VMware's Rosenblum Leaves Virtualization Company for Stanford

VMware's Mendel Rosenblum, who helped co-found the world's leading x86 virtualization company along with his wife Diane Greene, is leaving VMware to return to full-time teaching at Stanford University. Rosenblum's exit from VMware marks yet another management shakeup at the virtualization company that started when Greene was ousted earlier this year.

The changes within VMware's top management continued as Mendel Rosenblum, the chief scientist and one of the co-founders of the virtualization company, announced he would leave VMware and return to academia full time.

In a statement released Sept. 9, a VMware spokeswoman confirmed that Rosenblum, who created the company in 1998 with his wife and former CEO Diane Greene, was leaving the company to return to a full-time teaching position at Stanford University.

Rosenblum's exit from the company he helped create comes two months after Greene was ousted from her role as CEO and president of VMware. An article in The New York Times suggests that Greene had a falling out with EMC-the parent company of VMware-and CEO Joseph Tucci, which led to Greene leaving the company.

In a statement, VMware spokeswoman Mary Ann Gallo did not offer a detailed explanation of why Rosenblum decided to leave the company now. Gallo did note that Rosenblum will no longer have any formal role with VMware.

"He [Rosenblum] played a leading role in creating the modern x86 virtualization market and contributed to our leadership in that market," Gallo said in her statement. "His technical legacy and influence on VMware-both the company and the many engineers whom he mentored-will continue long into the future. He will be missed and we all wish him the very best."

The shakeup at VMware comes just before the company's big tradeshow-the 2008 VMworld conference in Las Vegas-which is slated to start Sept. 16.

The departure of Greene and Rosenblum also comes when VMware, which had dominated the x86 virtualization market for years and had a successful IPO (initial public offering) in 2007, is being challenged on several fronts by several major competitors, including Microsoft with Hyper-V and Citrix with its XenServer.

On Sept. 8, Microsoft increased the pressure on VMware by announcing new features to Hyper-V and a deal with Sun Microsystems to create a new cross-platform virtualization initiative that validates Sun's new xVM virtualization platform to run on the Windows Server OS.

Other vendors, such as Red Hat, are also looking to take a piece of the virtualization market for themselves.

To meet these challenges, EMC turned to Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft executive, who has had experience in developing cloud computing. At VMworld, Maritz, who is now CEO and president, is expected to demonstrate VMware's new suite of products that will combine the company's virtualization know-how with new offerings to develop a cloud-computing infrastructure.

VMware is also looking to recover from a problem in August, where a faulty patch created problems for customers who were using the company's ESX and ESXi virtualization products. VMware quickly fixed the problem and Maritz himself issued an apology on the VMware Web site.

"I think that Paul Maritz is a very bright and able guy and his background at Microsoft and his understanding of Microsoft, both its culture and its technology, makes him very good leader for the company at this time," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research. "If Rosenblum left the company, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise. However, VMware does have an enormous R&D effort and a lot of really smart people, so I'd say the long-term impact will be minimal. It will give people a lot to talk about at VMworld."

In addition to Greene and Rosenblum, the VMware management shakeup also includes Richard Sarwal, VMware's executive vice president of research and development, who left earlier this month to return to Oracle.

In an interview earlier this year with eWEEK, Rosenblum said he was still interested in exploring operating systems within the confines of his academic work. At VMware, he said he was primarily concerned with opening up the company's APIs to allow security vendors to create better protection for the hypervisor. He was also working to improve VMware's virtual appliance products.

"Now it's pretty widely established that [virtualization] is a better way of doing things," Rosenblum said during the interview. "So, as we got bigger and more aggressive, we started to get more aggressive about the problems we took on. It's always been sort of the focus of the company to look around and see what the big pain points of the customers are and how can we solve them through this virtualization technology."

Editor's Note: This article was updated to include a comment from an analyst.