VMWare announced its intent to by SpringSource today for a combined amount of $420M (“$362 million in cash and equity plus the assumption of approximately $58 million of unvested stock and options,” to quote the press release).
Here’s some hasty analysis. It looks like our man Stephen O’Grady will have a more digested write-up soon as well.
That’s a nice chunk of change for what at first seems like a weird acquisition. Then again: this has been a year of unexpected acquisitions; there’s not a lot of Java suitors left now-a-days; and if you buy into VMWare acquiring to add a new line of business…”weird” turns into “unexpected.”
SpringSource itself purchased Hyperic sometime ago, which seemed to equally flummox folks, though it did make for an interesting “full stack” offering for enterprise software developers. Here’s what I had to say on the one-stack theory then:
Looking at it from the SpringSource angle, that’s exactly the space SpringSource has been wedging itself in of late. Ever since Rod threw his glove at J2EE’s face, he and SpringSource have been trying to save Java from itself. Clearly, SpringSource has a deep devotion to Java. Sure, they have a tough-love devotion, but they ain’t no rails. From this you can see that SpringSource’s market is squarely that massive, slow beast we call Java which means, pretty much, enterprise development. As SpringSource’s Charlie Purdom put it this afternoon, there’s some question of who’s going to carry the Java flag now and “selfishly speaking, we like to think it’s going to be us.”
No doubt, Hyperic will still service the general IT monitoring and management business, esp. for their existing customers. But, their focus from what Javier and Rod told me, seems like it’ll be up-leveled to servicing corporate development with the newly added ability to do monitoring and management as a first class citizen, not just the usual bolted onto stuff you expect from development framework vendors.
If SpringSource had positioned itself to be a “one-stop” application development shop, then you’d have to assume that what VMWare cares about here is application development for virtualized environments, and, yes, “cloud.”
Java in the Cloud
I don’t think many people, myself included, would have thought of VMWare as a top of the list acquirer, VMWare being further down in the IT stack than SpringSource. But, analogously RedHat bought JBoss and that seems to have worked out OK. The key thing of interest for me is the private and public PaaS talk in the press release:
Together, VMware and SpringSource plan to further innovate and develop integrated Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions that can be hosted at customer datacenters or at cloud service providers. These solutions will allow customers to rapidly build new enterprise and web applications and run and manage these applications in the same dynamic, scalable and cost-efficient vSphere-based internal or external clouds that can also host and manage their existing applications, providing an evolutionary path to the future.
And then from Rod Johnson:
Working together with VMware we plan on creating a single, integrated, build-run-manage solution for the data center, private clouds, and public clouds. A solution that exploits knowledge of the application structure, and collaboration with middleware and management components, to ensure optimal efficiency and resiliency of the supporting virtual environment at deployment time and during runtime. A solution that will deliver a Platform as a Service (Paas) built around technologies that you already know, which can slash cost and complexity. A solution built around open, portable middleware technologies that can run on traditional Java EE application servers in a conventional data center and on Amazon EC2 and other elastic compute environments as well as on the VMware platform.
I haven’t really seen anyone spin up a large “Java in the cloud” effort, and these two could be very credible at that. There’s a lot of Java-based software out there that’s theoretically inclined to run in cloudish environments if it followed J2EE distributed Java practices, and it’s been kind of sad (considering all the work put into making Java “distributed”) that we haven’t heard more along those lines. One suspects there’s a lot of work to make that actually work, otherwise we would have seen more of it. Solving that issue, then, would be a nice market.
Much of the cloud talk of the past year has been at the infrastructure layer, and I’d assume VMWare would use SpringSource to move beyond that lowest level of the cloud stack, “Infrastructure as a Service,” moving “up” into assisting companies develop and port applications that ran on private and public clouds.
Java & Enterprise Software
Ever since “snorkle,” I’ve felt that stewardship for Java has been up in the air. This is both a good and bad thing: good because it decentralizes control (in theory), and bad because it means competitors have to act more like a team to keep the community together. I’ve looked at SpringSource as a solid part of the Java community, and their involvement in it has exhibited that. As I often joke with people, Rod Johnson is like a polite Marc Fluery, that being a compliment as JBoss was a vital Java’s evolution.
While it certainly wasn’t possible for SpringSource to become the pillar of the Java community, they were one. I don’t think that dynamic changes much with VMWare unless they spend a lot of time doing Java stewardship. I’m not sure it’d be a good idea to ratchet up the Java stewardship too much, really. The Java world is in a more or less good state at the moment, as best as it can be as it ages and the dynamic language camps keep biting at its heals.
But, given more resources and employee retention, you could see what VMWare could have a much more expanded role in the Java world, which is a bit unexpected itself. “The Java world,” at this point largely means enterprise software, which is where VMWare already fits in nicely. Taken that way, there’s a bit of a SpringSource/Hyperic “one-stop shop” theory in reverse.
SpringSource has also been doing interesting things in the Java world with regards to OSGi, using dynamic languages for platform evolution instead of language evolution, and slimming down the application stack with a very “stackless stack” approach. Again, the hope is that VMWare would focus on keeping that work up rather than snap-shotting where SpringSource is now.
Hyperic & IT Management
The last area of interest for the IT Management minded of you out there, dear readers, is Hyperic, one of the open source IT Management vendors categorized under the infamous term “The Little 4.” One would think that Hyperic could help beef up VMWare’s ambitions to become more of a management vendor than just a hyper-visor vendor. In the area of open source and standards, I wouldn’t say VMWare has a terrible or golden reputation, they’re pretty neutrally perceived – though their open source hyper-visor competitors will tell you otherwise. Their space doesn’t “require” open source in the same way that middle-ware, where SpringSource operators does.
That said, it’s seeming like open source based IT Management tends to be, at least, more interesting and fast evolving than closed source IT Management…when it comes to new applications and platforms at least. (SaaS IT Management offerings provide a nifty loop-hole here.) If there’s any benefit to open source IT Management software, then, we’d hope VMWare would look towards Hyperic to figure them out more, beyond interoperability. Of course, it goes both ways: big name, largely closed source IT Management vendors (like VMWare) have yet to connect with the open source vendors (like Hyperic) in a major way, and I’d wager (complete) access to the executive wash-room would create some interesting Amdahl mug discussions.
Disclosure: SpringSource is a client (as was Hyperic), as is Sun, and the two remaining “Little 4,” Zenoss, and Groundwork.