by Edward L. Haletky

As Key Leaders Exit, Has VMware Lost its Innovation Edge?

Sep 11, 20083 mins

VMware lost or fired three top people in recent weeks, but hasn't done enough to reassure customers that it can continue to innovate or recast its development plan to stay ahead of its competition.

It’s always a sad day when the founders of a company leave. This sends quite a few mixed signals.

Mendel Rosenblum has resigned from VMware. Everyone knew this would eventually happen, after VMware co-founder and CEO Diane Green, his wife, was ousted from the company.

In addition to Mendel, Richard Sarwal, vice president of research and development, has also left. However, VMware CTO Stephen Harrod is stepping in to fill that breach and provide some continuity.

Does this mean they feel there is no more hope for VMware? Or that they have gone as far as they can in the current environment?

Those three people, now gone, were the driving force behind much of VMware’s current product line. Filling the gap will be crucial.

I wrote in a previous blog that VMware must innovate to stay ahead of Microsoft. With the key human drivers missing, is the company more likely to innovate or stagnate?

The current scope of VMware products is huge, covering every aspect of virtualization management, as well as many different forms of hypervisor technology. However, more products don’t necessarily equal more innovation.

VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 was an innovative improvement to VMware ESX v2. It had more security and many more features. VMware ESXi is an attempt to shrink all that into a smaller package. But are either of those really innovative compared to earlier VMware developments?

VMware ESXi points us in the direction of VMware next flagship product for the data center, ESX version 4, which is currently in beta and expected to ship next year. Is this an innovative product? We await this answer. I will post a future blog with what I would like to see in version 4.

One thing we do know is that VMware Workstation must stay ahead of the competition. Even hopes for that are sliding, however.

It seems as if all the new features coming out of VMware show up first in VMware Workstation, before they show up in the server and enterprise market. What you see in VMware Workstation is a good indicator of what VMware has on the plate for the future.

VMware Workstation is a great tool. But it also has to be developed quickly in order to stay ahead of the competition. In features such as support for USB, for example VMware Workstation falls behind options such as Sun xVM VirtualBox.

Losing three top people will hurt VMware in the short term, but that doesn’t lessen the need to innovate, and quickly. The tone and announcements coming out of VMworld will tell us quite a bit about VMware’s direction and ability to deliver.

It will also tell us not only whether it can maintain its lead, but also whether its new leadership can articulate what they plan in order to do so.

Virtualization expert Edward L. Haletky is the author of “VMWare ESX Server in the Enterprise: Planning and Securing Virtualization Servers,” Pearson Education (2008.) He recently left Hewlett-Packard, where he worked in the Virtualization, Linux, and High-Performance Technical Computing teams. Haletky owns AstroArch Consulting, providing virtualization, security, and network consulting and development. Haletky is also a champion and moderator for the VMware discussion forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions.