It supports the shift from licensing to services and monetizes open source the right way: I've always felt that cloud computing was going to be the way many organizations consume open source, given the seeming reluctance on the part of many organizations to embrace it in a packaged form. Moreover, most open source companies have struggled to achieve revenue levels commensurate with their product adoption levels--after all, why should people pay for something they can get for free? That goes away when what's delivered is not bits, but service: what you're buying is not software, but execution, so the licensing conditions of the bits is irrelevant. Likewise, I've felt that a transition from proprietary licenses to value-based service is the future of software companies. I know that VMware is a true-blue license company and that seems to negate the argument. However, it may be the last great packaged software success story, since most software today seems to be offered in a bits-and-service bundle. In any case, much of how users will consume sPhere will be via service provides who will transmute VMware licensing fees to usage-based cloud services.
Of course, no guarantee exists that the reality of the VMware/SpringSource mashup will prove successful. Many mergers offer brilliant opportunities and then founder on poor execution, organizational rivalries, shifting competitive environments, and plain bad luck. Here are some things that could challenge the happy consummation of the acquisition:
It could founder on the reality of enterprise Java applications: A common framework is great, but the reality of enterprise Java applications is that they are a mish-mosh of product versions. Every application requires a specific stack of OS and middleware, and even applications that have a common stack often require different versions of the individual components within the common stack. A vSphere/Spring stack that offers a consistent framework is great from an operations efficiency perspective, but may be unworkable in the face of individual applications being written to varying version and patch levels. Of course, this might not be as critical for home-grown applications that can be written to a consistent stack, but commercial applications define configurations based on the vendor's decisions, not the deployment operating environment's configuration. To be fair, this is a challenge for any PaaS environment, and I expect that Azure will face it as well. Nevertheless, corporate IT operations environments are messy places filled with varying application stacks, and a common framework may be a theoretical ideal that poorly maps to the pragmatic deployment reality.
It may be too complex, even though architecturally elegant: The jury is still out on internal clouds and this offering may prove too difficult for enterprises to implement. Getting a highly-automated virtualized environment to work properly is formidable, given the complexity of knitting together all the piece parts of the computing infrastructure. Making it more challenging is the cost pressure that most IT organizations are under, making investment in operations kit and personnel very difficult. Trying to overlay a complex cloud environment on top of complicated infrastructure may be too daunting for most IT organizations in a time of budget squeezes. Of course, this might mean that IT orgs will turn to service providers which, as noted, may be eager offerors. This question cannot be answered today, but gives thought for the future prospects of the offering.
It might be too late: Integrated product offerings are notorious for delays and an extended delivery timeframe for the IaaS/PaaS product might render its relevance moot. One need only look at the Oracle Fusion debacle to see how imposing integrating disparate products is. It was three or four years ago that, one year post-PeopleSoft acquisition, Oracle announced with great fanfare (I seem to remember the Oracle President announcing with pride "It's great when a plan comes together") that is was half-way through integrating all of the product portfolio with Fusion. Even allowing for Oracle math, this illustrates how hard it can be to get different software products to work together. While the vSphere/SpringSource integration might be very attractive, the pace of cloud computing adoption might mean the product misses a window of opportunity. An attractive product offering can freeze the market for a while, but customers will not wait forever before moving forward--especially on something as important as cloud computing. Again, this question cannot be answered today. Unlike the previous issue, however, this one would affect both internal cloud implementers as well as service providers.
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