SpringSource to launch VMware into the cloud

Buy may also help VMware leapfrog Sun and reach Java developers eyeing the cloud

VMware Inc.'s $420 million purchase of open-source application tool maker SpringSource will help the virtualization vendor reach its aspirations of becoming a cloud computing player, the company and outside experts said Monday.

Marrying tools such as the Spring Java application framework with VMware's vSphere cloud management platform will give VMware a stack it can sell to developers who want to write applications once and then deploy and manage them on-premises, as services, or to external clouds -- all with minimal work, VMware CTO Steve Herrod said in a blog post today.

The move makes VMware competitive with companies offering platforms-as-a-service, Herrod said, citing Salesforce.com Inc.'s Force.com and Google Inc.'s AppEngine.

Kim Terry, CEO of cloud computing consulting firm, Terrosa Technologies, agrees. "[The buy sets] VMware on a path to become a strategic platform provider far beyond their traditional infrastructure role," Terry said in an e-mail.

Apps managed by VMware and Spring could become fully autonomic. "We could be close to the day, where the application itself decides how many machines images need to be involved to insure performance expectations are met."

VMware could also shove aside Sun Microsystems Inc., Java's creator, and its new owner, Oracle Corp., and take on the role of helping enterprises modernize their legacy Java apps, said Michael Cote, an analyst with Redmonk.

"I haven't really seen anyone spin up a large 'Java in the cloud' effort, and these two [VMware and Spring] could be very credible at that," Cote said in a blog post.

"There's a lot of Java-based software out there that's theoretically inclined to run in cloudish environments if it followed J2EE distributed Java practices, and it's been kind of sad (considering all the work put into making Java 'distributed') that we haven't heard more along those lines. One suspects there's a lot of work to make that actually work, otherwise we would have seen more of it. Solving that issue, then, would be a nice market."

The buy comes with green-field markets for VMware, which has experienced falling profits as virtualization becomes commoditized because of competition from Microsoft Corp. and others.

"VMware's been moving beyond the hypervisor," said Paul Maritz during a conference call Monday afternoon after the purchase was announced. "We want to make virtualization more application-aware ... and the internal and external clouds significantly simpler to manage."

The purchase won't have an immediate impact on VMware's bottom line. VMware CFO Mark Peek declined to reveal the five-year-old SpringSource's sales, which, like most open-source firms, are based on support subscriptions for its tools.

But he did say SpringSource, which has 150 employees, is unprofitable and won't be cash-flow positive until next year.

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