Cover Story: VMware's Maritz Aims To Run The Table In Cloud

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VMware is gaining momentum in leading its traditional channel into the cloud, but there's another barrier: legacy enterprise applications. Maritz has pointed to older application code as the most formidable obstacle standing in the way of customers' cloud migration. Cloud Foundry, the open-source Platform-as-a-Service VMware unveiled in April, is a bid to become the PaaS of choice for developers to rewrite older apps so they'll run well on private clouds.

VMware is piloting a commercial multitenant public cloud PaaS service that's slated for launch in the first half of 2012 and is leading an open-source Cloud Foundry project under the Apache 2 license. Cloud Foundry reflects its belief that the popularity of programming frameworks like Spring, Ruby and Node.js will continue to grow.

"Our view is that there's a new generation of developers who will be building a new generation of applications, and we're trying to accommodate them on our platform and also have the business opportunity," Maritz said.

Cloud Foundry is based on technology gained from VMware's 2009 acquisition of SpringSource, and it includes the collaboration of Mark Lucovsky, technical director, and Derek Collison, chief architect of the Cloud Services division, both of whom VMware recruited from Google.

"Our view is inevitably someone would do something like Cloud Foundry, so rather than wait for it to happen and have to react to it, we're putting our hat in the ring and pre-emptively offering something there,"said Maritz.

The challenge VMware faces with Cloud Foundry is that, for the most part, its traditional channel doesn't have in-house development expertise. "The only partners doing Cloud Foundry are super-high-end, and it will take awhile before it gets down to the level where everyone can adopt it," said one VMware partner, who requested anonymity. "We're looking for VMware to wean the market and show us how to monetize Cloud Foundry. They're able to explain how it works for them, but so far they're not able to explain how it's going to work for me."

Eschenbach expects Cloud Foundry to appeal to VMware partners with cloud infrastructure expertise that are ready to take the next step into app development. But he acknowledged that Cloud Foundry will be driven, at least in part, by partners with which VMware hasn't worked in the past.

In the end, Maritz believes that VMware's track record with virtualization can help convince customers and partners that despite the uncertainty over moving to the cloud, it's a decision they won't regret.

"This is an issue that we increasingly have to come to grips with as we talk to our customers and explain to them that there are different ways to think about this. My sense is that cloud is where virtualization was four or five years ago. We're going to see the same cycle play through," he said.

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