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VMware's Best And Worst Moves Of 2011

Virtualization market leader VMware launched several bold initiatives in 2011--and made several missteps.

VMware was a busy company in 2011, and many industry-watchers think it made a number of mistakes. However, the virtualization market leader did make a number of moves that advanced its strategy and product lines.

For those convinced that VMware made all the wrong moves in 2011, a look at third-quarter revenue offers evidence that it's still doing a lot right. VMware increased revenues 22% in the U.S. in the third quarter and 42% internationally, with an overall growth rate of 32%, reported Oct. 17. The international growth is important because the U.S. has led the world in moving to virtualized servers, and now VMware is benefiting as the rest of the world hurries to catch up. Here's what VMware did right and wrong along the way.

VMware's Best Moves

No. 1: A decisive move into managing the virtualized part of the data center, which in the not too distant future may be most of the data center.

Operations monitoring, configuration management, and capacity management are not VMware comfort zones. It could have left these tasks to third parties, or to the conventional systems management providers, which have been busy extending their physical systems management into virtual systems. But it's not enough for a data center manager to spin up virtual machines; most want to move them around as well. And they need a lot of infrastructure knowledge to move VMs and make sure networking, storage, and existing security settings move as well. Live migration, or "vMotioning," is a big selling point for VMware because it leads to reduced server use and energy savings. But the manager of the VMware environment needs to know where to move VMs.

Citrix Systems and Microsoft are contending with VMware in the virtualization management market, along with traditional systems management vendors HP, IBM, CA Technologies, and BMC. But VMware's initial offering in March, vCenter Operations Management Suite, covered three key bases well: configuration, monitoring, and capacity management. VMware's product suite is already generating the data needed to provide systems management in this brave new virtualized world. However, the game isn't over. Not every customer wants their future systems management to come from a virtualization software supplier. Some think that VMware, already the high-price option, will end up with too much of a stranglehold over the virtualized environment.

No. 2: The release of vSphere 5, VMware's overall virtualization environment.

vSphere 5 includes version 5 of the ESX Server hypervisor, and it contained 200 new features and improvements over its predecessor, giving VMware an edge on the competition. The size of the virtual machine moved up from eight to 32 virtual CPUs, capable of using one terabyte of memory, while its ability to generate I/Os moved up to one million per second. Under vSphere 5, IT can set up a high-availability architecture quickly. With Auto-Deploy, 40 virtual servers can be deployed in 10 minutes, as opposed to a manual deployment over 20 hours. In short, virtualization allows a more automated approach to managing the data center, and vSphere 5.0 takes a giant step toward automating some of those key functions.

No. 3: VMware's the creation in April of Cloud Foundry, a platform as a service for hosting developers.

This was VMware's most strategic and least understood move this year. Uncharacteristically, VMware made the software behind Cloud Foundry open source code, an adroit move that soothed some fears that developers have over getting locked into VMware's platform or proprietary product set. VMware already owned the Spring Framework; providing a cloud environment for development as well a popular Java framework made Cloud Foundry a magnet for developers, and developers soon added multiple languages and approaches as well.

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