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VMware Acquires GemStone For Building Cloud Computing Applications

By adding GemStone’s caching techniques for speeding applications, VMWare can offer Java developers the modern middleware they need for cloud-based applications.

VMware's SpringSource unit will finish acquiring GemStone Systems, maker of software that caches data across a server cluster to help scale applications, the week of May 10. No price for the privately held, Beaverton, OR, company was disclosed.

GemStone products compete with Oracle Coherence, a data caching system that speeds operation of the Oracle database; Terracotta, a data and Java virtual machine caching system for Java applications; and Gigaspaces Technologies, maker of a grid application server that exploits distributed, cached data.

The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves that signal VMware's determination to become a supplier of software to future cloud builders. It already dominates the creation of virtual machines that run applications. Last July it acquired SpringSource for $420 million to get the leading framework for building Java applications. In January it acquired Zimbra with its email that can be offered as an on-premises system or over the network as-a-service, along with Zimbra desktop applications.

At VMware's prompting, SpringSource further expanded its reach in April by acquiring Rabbit Technologies, a messaging system for applications, a crucial add-on for cloud-based applications that will need to communicate with other apps. SpringSource had earlier acquired the Java-compatible Groovy on Grails, a language look-alike to the rapid application-building Ruby script.

The spokesman for what is now the application development side of VMware is Rod Johnson, former CEO of SpringSource and general manager of VMware's SpringSource division. "We view GemStone as the kind of modern middleware that the Java developer base will need" for applications that run in cloud data centers, he said in an interview prior to the May 6 announcement.

By pulling data off of disks and keeping it readily at hand in server memory, applications can access the data they need more quickly, while needing fewer instances of the application to be running to serve a large number of users.

GemStone's GemFire product creates an object-oriented data fabric across a server cluster and is able to move data around from server to server and replicate it to more than one location. When data sets are replicated to a second and third server, a single piece of hardware can fail and the application continues running, shifting its reliance to a new location for the data. With managed data caching, clusters made up of commodity servers perform with greater reliability and availability, even when server hardware periodically fails.

GemFire was tested by Bear Stearns on Wall Street in 2003 and implemented across 1,000 Bear Stearns servers in 2004, said Richard Lamb, GemStone CEO, in an interview. The firm has 200 large customers, including the Department of Defense in the federal government, Lamb said.

"Cloud computing is a distributed deployment model, and for that reason, caching and data accessibility are of far greater strategic importance than before," Johnson noted.

Most of GemStone's 100 employees will become part of SpringSource, Lamb said.

"We see this acquisition as a common step being taken by large organizations like VMware, who want to create a single-vendor-controlled virtualized cloud stack," said Gigaspaces CEO Zeev Bikowsky, a competitor. Cloud users looking for flexibility should stick with Gigaspaces, he added.

In a related move, VMware has hired Salvatore Sanfilippo, the lead developer of the open source Redis project, an open source, in-memory key value store system similar to Memcached. Distributed key value stores are often found in what is termed NoSQL systems, which are designed to deal with large masses of data quickly using a server cluster rather than maintain the strict discipline of relational database transactions. VMware in the past has funded the Redis project.

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