VMware Goes On Acquisition Spree

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VMware, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based server virtualization heavyweight, on Tuesday said it has signed an agreement to acquire Thinstall, a San Francisco-based developer of application virtualization technology.

On Monday, VMware confirmed reports that it had acquired Foedus, a Portsmouth, N.H.-based solution provider focused on providing virtualization technologies and services.

Both Thinstall and Foedus will help VMware as it moves to gain momentum in the nascent desktop virtualization market, the vendor said.

But while the Foedus deal gives VMware a base for providing professional services and best practices to solution providers working with the vendor, the acquisition of Thinstall, expected to close late this month, gives VMware a way to virtualize applications, said Jerry Chen, senior director of enterprise desktops at VMware.

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Thinstall allows almost any application to be virtualized and installed on a portable USB stick, Chen said. Users can then take the USB stick and plug it into any desktop or portable PC to run that application without the need to install or download any client agents or application software. When the USB stick is removed, the application disappears from the PC as if it was never there in the first place.

"For example, a user can 'Thinstall' Microsoft Office to a USB stick, and then run it on another PC that doesn't have Microsoft Office," he said. "It 'Thinstalls' any application without modifying the application. It turns the application into a single executable file."

As such, the technology complement's VMware's technology, Chen said. "Much like VMware breaks the bond between the server and the hardware, Thinstall breaks the bond between the application and the OS," he said.

Thinstall is VMware's first step beyond the virtualization of machines, Chen said. "It's very complementary to our hardware virtualization," he said. "We see these two technologies sitting side-by-side with each other."

VMware, with server and desktop virtualization technology, and soon to have application virtualization technology, is one of a handful of companies that are looking at ways to virtualize a wide range of customers' IT infrastructures.

Another is Citrix, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Citrix is building a complete virtualization infrastructure, including server, desktop PC, and application virtualization, thanks to a number of recent acquisitions including the $500 million acquisition of server virtualization vendor XenSource last October.

Chen said that VMware's and Citrix's moves are not necessarily competitive, as Thinstall counts Citrix as a strategic technology partner. "A lot of customers use Thinstall to virtualize applications in [Citrix's] Presentation Server," he said. "There's no reason they can't do that going forward. We're a big believer of having applications sit on virtual desktops."

Thinstall currently works with about 50 solution providers worldwide. In addition to Citrix, other strategic partners include Macrovision, Santa Clara, Calif.; BMC Software, Houston; AppStream, Palo Alto, Calif.; SAP, Newtown Square, Penn.; LANDesk, Salt Lake City; Provision Networks, Reston, Va.; and CapaSystems, Denmark.

Mitch Kleinman, president of Ryjac Computer Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and VMware partner, said that he has not yet had a chance to see how VMware's acquisition of Thinstall might impact his business. However, he said that the Foedus acquisition is good news for many of VMware's channel partners.

A lot of VMware partners are selling VMware because customers are asking for it without realizing that VMware is only part of a solution, he said. "What most partners don't realize is that there's a plethora of other products to add to make it work," he said.

VMware's offering of Foedus' expertise in services and best practices is similar to IBM's Express line of pre-packaged IT solutions and services, Kleinman said. "A lot of partners don't have their own technical services skills," he said. "There's so much going on that VMware needs people to support their partners and help train their partners."

The value of the Thinstall and Foedus deals was not disclosed.