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VMware Lays Out Mobile Vision At VMworld

Aug 30, 2011 (10:08 AM EDT)

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VMware has set out some lofty goals for itself at VMworld 2011. It wants to not only soothe customers recently upset by vSphere licensing cost changes, but also convince them that VMware automation technology belongs at the center of their future data centers. Did I mention that VMware also wants to step into the thick of customers' smartphone problems?

As Robert Mullins reports today, VMware has unveiled Horizon Mobile, a solution that in essence lets you have a virtual machine that contains your work phone, inside your personal phone. Your insecure Facebook app does not play next to secure work data. Leaving the company? No problem. Your company IT department wipes the VM.

This is the sort of solution that IT has long wanted for control reasons. The carrot to users is that they get to choose the devices that they want. VMware has demonstrated similar technology before, but got real about rolling it out today (although on a limited number of phones, for now.)

Support for Android tablets is on the drawing board, as well.

Is there any greater pain point for IT right now than mobile and mobile security? VMware knows where to lay on the virtual charm.

VMware also previewed "Project Octopus," which sounds like its answer to Dropbox, using technology from Zimbra and Mozy. The idea here is a file-sharing service that enterprise IT can approve in terms of security. In announcing this Tuesday, VMware made a point of asking the VMworld attendees how many of them were using Dropbox--and how many of them were supposed to be using Dropbox.

Project Octopus is certainly an idea IT can get its head around. But what the incentive is for users to stop running around IT and going to Dropbox, I'm not sure.

In the long run, VMware's harder, and more crucial task, is to convince its faithful that it deserves a starring role in the data center of the future--a highly virtualized, automated data center. As my colleague Charles Babcock expertly explains in his analysis of VMware's next act, the products and services announced thus far at VMworld 2011 move VMware further beyond hypervisors, deeply into automated operations, an area that VMware has pursued with zest for the past two years.

CEO Paul Maritz proposes a data center--and just as notably, an IT staff--that looks much different from the one that most enterprises have now. His tools have you running virtualized databases and using a mix of private and public cloud technologies.

Maritz's team has the vision and the tools, as Babcock notes, but it also has customers who are experimenting with Microsoft's virtualization technologies, and afraid of lock-in in the data center and in the cloud. That's why VMware continues to innovate at its customers biggest pain points.

"When it comes to transforming the data center, VMware occupies the driver's seat," Babcock writes. "There are many reasons to be wary of a proprietary vendor in that position, and they apply as much to VMware as they did at one time to IBM or to Microsoft. But you can't say VMware is failing to execute on its strategy or failing to bring innovative software to market."

Maritz's enemies from Microsoft are on the ground at VMworld trying to stir the still-simmering vSphere licensing controversy pot.

As my colleague Art Wittmann has pointed out, many VMware customers have reason to be upset at the licensing pricing changes.

Still, when you look at the totality of what VMware is able to do for enterprises right now, from cloud services to virtualization management to mobile tools, the innovation and breadth in VMware's portfolio is quite impressive. And in the other corner, you see Microsoft, talking up basic virtualization management tools that it hasn't even shipped yet.

On day two of VMworld, VMware set its own tone. And it was not that of a follower.

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