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VMware tantrum shows it's not connecting with cloud buyers or sellers

Bernard Golden | March 8, 2013
At a recent partner conference, VMware executives threw a fit about the firm's inability to 'own corporate workload' and its partners' inability to beat a 'bookseller' at the cloud computing game. The outbursts show is that VMware isn't connecting with application groups, who are increasingly driving cloud buying decisions.

The cloud computing world witnessed a hissy fit last week, as reported in a CRN article from the VMware Partner Exchange. Two specific statements stirred up a hornet's nest of commentary. I want to discuss those statements-but, rather than solely focus on the gossip and chatter they've caused, I'd like to explore what they imply for this new world of cloud computing.

First off, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said this: "We want to own corporate workload. We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds. We want to extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both. Own the corporate workload now and forever."

Then VMware COO Carl Eschenbach said this: "I look at this audience, and I look at VMware and the brand reputation we have in the enterprise, and I find it really hard to believe that we cannot collectively beat a company that sells books."

VMware Looks Entitled and Exasperated

The first statement was a very poor choice of words. If accurately reported, it reflects a dangerous attitude of entitlement on the part of VMware. An ecosystem architecture underpinned by a common technology platform could be a significant advantage to both VMware and its customer base, and this is certainly a potential strength for VMware. To date, this advantage vis-à-vis Amazon has been mostly theoretical, with few real-world adopters of this architecture.

Even if the common architecture were a reality, rather than a posited capability, it's foolish to use the term "own" in any public forum where customers are undoubtedly going to learn of it. Nobody, but nobody, wants to be taken for granted-or, worse, perceived as a resource ripe for plundering.

Frankly, I find it astonishing that someone in such a responsible position would use such language. It's bound to raise hackles in the IT operations organizations that makes up VMware's customer base and cause them to reconsider their commitment to the company and its products.

More remarkable than Gelsinger's attitude of entitlement is the attitude evinced regarding Amazon Web Services. Characterizing Amazon (and by extension, AWS) as a "bookseller" clearly denigrates the service. The exasperation in Eschenbach's voice is nearly palpable: How can a mighty player like VMware be losing to...a bookseller?

VMware Cloud Approach Out of Touch

The message underlying the speeches is clear. Control of IT workloads is slipping from VMware's grasp, and the company's terrified at the prospect. Here's the important question, given VMware's dominance within corporate IT: Why are workloads leaking out of the data center and being deployed in, of all places, a retailer?

To me, the answer comes from the CEO of a large VMware partner quoted in the article as saying, "When we talk to our clients, most of them view Amazon as a test/development environment. What they really want is a private cloud."


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