CRN Exclusive: Paul Maritz's Plan To Take Over Big Data

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Maritz has his own sizable arsenal of technology assets to make his big data mark, and Pivotal is far from a pure-play startup. Maritz has gathered the best and brightest big data technology and employees from EMC and VMware, with 800 employees from EMC and 600 employees from VMware already on board. Pivotal has said it expects its current lineup of big data assets to deliver $300 million in sales this year, up an estimated 101 percent from 2012.

The company's big data technology assets include EMC's Greenplum next-generation database/analytics platform, VMware's VFabric cloud platform (including Spring and Gemfire), Cetas analytics software, the Cloud Foundry Platform-as-a-Service and, of course, the Pivotal namesake Pivotal Labs, which has a big data software development tool called Pivotal Tracker used by 240,000 developers worldwide, and a blue-ribbon big data customer list including Twitter. How many companies, by the way, get a shout-out from Twitter inventor Jack Dorsey, who has singled out Pivotal Labs for the "transformational impact" it has delivered to clients.

To make certain that "transformational impact" is brought to a much bigger business audience, EMC and VMware are investing $400 million this year and next to capture what Maritz estimates will soar from an $8 billion market opportunity today to a $20 billion market by 2017. At that point, Maritz expects Pivotal to be more than a $1 billion company.

EMC, which owns 69 percent percent of Pivotal, and VMware, which owns 31 percent, are hoping the payoff will come in the form of a lucrative initial public offering, with Pivotal dominating the big data business applications market just as VMware has dominated the server virtualization market.

The Pivotal play does, indeed, look like a replay of the server virtualization product strategy from VMware, a technology Switzerland that has worked with friend and foe of EMC to deliver what is by all accounts a blockbuster product set that reshaped the corporate virtualization and cloud computing market. Pivotal is aiming to have the same kind of volcanic market impact with its open platform.

"What we are doing is we are saying there is this new emerging opportunity and because it is different, we created a third company to go focus on it," said Maritz of the launch of Pivotal, slated for April 24. "So it is kind of playing the VMware play again. The model of this new company is Pivotal that will be wholly owned by EMC and VMware, but it will be an independent company. It will be focused on enabling these new applications. And just like VMware could work with EMC's competitors so too Pivotal can work with competitors of both VMware and EMC."

Maritz said that one of the big differences between VMware and Pivotal is that the "genius" of the VMware virtualization revolution is that it was "nondisruptive disruption" with information technology executives bringing the software in the back door to reduce the number of physical servers in an organization. Pivotal does not have that same luxury.

"This is going to have to start with applications and really understanding what businesses people are in," said Maritz, noting the importance of line-of business executives in the big data revolution. "You can't just go slide some big data [solution] in there and not tell anybody about it. So this will be a slower burn than VMware. We are not going to have the privileges that VMware had. On the other hand, in the long run, it could be even more transformative to people's real businesses in terms of really how people [do business]."

Sure, some customers for security or regulatory reasons will want to build on-premise solutions. But the true power of Pivotal is likely to be seen in a new wave of service providers building big data services for businesses. Pivotal, in fact, wants to make sure there are a "wide variety of people who are offering these capabilities as a service because one of our tenets is that these new classes of applications, these new data-centric applications we are talking about, should be cloud-independent," said Maritz. "You shouldn't have to be bound into any particular vendor's cloud for all eternity just because you wrote one of these apps."

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