James Governor's Monkchips

VMware CEO: Django, Rails, Open Frameworks, Packaged Apps as Commodity and The New KingMakers.

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Paul Maritz, CEO of VMWare

I was in Copenhagen last week for VMworld Europe 2010. Monday was an analyst briefing so I wasn’t particularly surprised when VMware CEO Paul Maritz spoke at length about his strategy to attract developers to VMware as a platform.  After all most analysts are curious about what happens next.

But seeing Maritz give the same speech to his core VMware audience the next day was impressive. After all – the traditional VMware customer is very much on the ops side of the house – they are neither line of business nor application development. These folks are just not that interested in app dev- or more accurately tend to have a pretty adversarial relationship to the development side of the house. Application development means change, and enterprise ops folks don’t like change, because change can break things. So to see Maritz on a tear about application development was impressive.

If he made the same speech at SpringOne this week it wouldn’t be out of place at all. That’s right. SpringOne – in case you missed it VMware recently acquired SpringSource- the enterprise Java company. Sadly I couldn’t make the show but I will be following up because I know there was significant news waiting to drop at the event. [My spar @cote captures the big Spring picture in quick and dirty fashion here– its a very good read. ]

Maritz said that other major tech firms were still “consolidating the client/server stack” while VMware wanted to capture a new wave of application development.

“Developers are moving to Django and Rails. Developers like to focus on what’s important to them. Open frameworks are the foundation for new enterprise application development going forward. By and large developers no longer write windows or Linux apps. Rails developers don’t care about the OS – they’re more interested in data models and how to construct the UI. Those are the things developers are focusing on now. The OS will fade into the background and become one of many pieces. We plan to do the best job of supporting these frameworks.”

Or as he said to the analysts:

“Our goal is to become the home of open source and open framework-based development”.

[contextual digression here: In case you didn’t know, Ruby On Rails, the framework for building web apps invented by David Heinemeier Hansson continues to be about as popular with web developers as Apple Macbooks, which is to say, very popular indeed. If you want good-looking data-driven apps Rails is a really good place to start. Frankly though, hearing Maritz name check Django was more surprising – the framework bills itself as “The Web framework for perfectionists with deadlines” but is not nearly as well known. There is a wave of content-driven application development building, and Maritz is evidently hip to that. Adobe acquired Day Software, which is playing in that space. This week Alfresco at its developer conference pushed the message that content applications was all about the web, rather that traditional Enterprise Content Management. I met with Eric Barroca of Nuxeo last week and he is extremely excited by the new developer-driven content management apps he is seeing emerge. Nuxeo had originally been positioned as an application – but now its very much a platform to sell to architects, rather than slideware purchasers. Eric said his goal is to become a platform to integrate innovation happening in open source content management. So VMware certainly isn’t alone. Maritz is evidently just the highest profile executive to really grok what’s happening. Two key standards seem to driving all this content management integration goodness- CMIS and OSGi. I should also strongly credit our client the Apache Software Foundation for providing governance for a lot of this open source code/innovation.] But back to VMware.

Given RedMonk is all about developers you can imagine I loved the keynote. Thought I doubt many people in the audience had a bloody clue what Django is. When @sogrady came online later that day he immediately asked on twitter:

“Maritz really said that?”

it’s one thing to rubbish the operating system, but what about packaged apps? At the analyst briefing Maritz made it very clear indeed where he thinks competitive advantage lies.

In the final analysis they [purchasers] are not the people making strategic decisions in the business. Developers have always been at the leading edge, because that’s where business value is generated. Things that don’t differentiate you at a higher level will be SaaS apps – which will also be purchased at a higher level. The differentiated stuff you have to do yourself, and that means software development”.

In other words Maritz has pretty much the same core thesis as RedMonk: Developers are not an overhead – they are the new Kingmakers. I have to say I was pretty stunned. I still am. After years being an outlier RedMonk now has chief executives on side. And lets look at the folks Maritz has hired. Tod Neilsen is on the management team- he is the guy that built up the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) – you might have heard of it. Maritz himself is ex-Microsoft, and clearly knows developers. Paul Lukovsky is another ex-Microsoft guy in the fold – he understands what makes a successful API as well as anyone on the planet. Apparently back room enforcer Charles Fitzgerald is also in the mix.

That VMware can hire from Microsoft is not surprising. But poaching outstanding talent from Google shows the level of ambition, aggression and resources that VMware will throw into becoming a leader in application development, not just operations.

Meanwhile the SpringSource assets are already great basis for a solid developer story. Rod Johnson, who runs that part of the business for Maritz, is as smart a strategist as he is a technologist – and he is a scary good technologist – with Spring he managed enterprise Java development far less painful. He is a purist about developer flow- which is why he outsourced development of the Spring IDE to Mik Kersten of Tasktop Technologies. Kersten’s company also contracted with Spring to develop the new “Cloud ALM” platform announced this week. Spring ROO is a Rails-influenced environment for building Java apps, while Spring is also home to Groovy, the dynamic language. Another intriguing developer play in the Spring arsenal comes in the shape of RabbitMQ – a lightweight scalable message queue system popping up all over the place. Developers like it, and messaging is going to transform the web into a more a event-driven transactional model. I list these technologies because you may not know about VMware’s assets in the space. (Please check out further coverage of VMware SpringSource here, here and here.)

You can’t buy competitive advantage, but you can build it. That’s VMware’s line. I’d love to see Nicholas “IT Doesn’t Matter” Carr and Maritz in a debate.

SpringSource is a client, Microsoft is a client. Google is not a client. Alfresco is not a client (but i should really sort that out).

The photo of Maritz, capturing something of his brooding nature, is by Robert Scoble. Please click on the link to see more of his flickr portfolio.


  1. The link by @cote appears to go to http://rubyonrails.org/ rather than to the essay on the Spring big picture.

  2. Did he not mention Grails? The Groovy-based web framework that plays in the same space as Rails and Django? After all – he owns it via SpringSource. Please clarify – I’m left wondering if this is a telling (or spurious) slip in either or Maritz’s talk or your reporting of it. If his, it seems like a serious gaff, no?

    1. Peter i am well aware of the groovy and grails story. given the django reference was in both an analyst briefing *and* the main tent keynote though i am inclined to think it wasn’t a slip in my reporting. There were *futures* in the talk too though. And Steve Herrod had a big box labelled PHP on his burger slide. At the time I assumed there would be an announcement of a partnership with Zend at SpringOne. I don’t think it was a gaff- I think Maritz is clearly looking at content-centric apps. Also I think he was flagging the world outside Java. Groovy came out of the Java world, and Maritz clearly has ambitions that go beyond that ecosystem.

    2. seems i am on the money, Peter. Here is a quote from the NYT. “Mr. Maritz said there were new ways that developers wrote applications that relied less on the services in the operating system. For example, they can use software known as development frameworks. Microsoft’s own .Net framework is one. But there are others, including versions of Java, Ruby on Rails and Django.”

  3. Hi James,

    Thanks for the mention. 🙂
    Here is an additional thoughts following our lunch and this post…

    In the ECM world, I think we have quite a unique platform and we are seeing more and more successes with architect looking for a base platform to compose and model from. It’s all based on extension points, OSGi bundles and the build is fully mavenized. We’re getting very nice feedback about that. For us, Nuxeo’s platform is really: an architecture, a wide set of services in the field of content management, a set of integration patterns and a tool chain. From there you can build pretty much anything. And we’ve used our technology to build the platform itself, it’s not an outside plugin system, extensibility has been designed ar heart.

    But more than this, we have open the tools allowing people to build stuff: fully automated QA (functional tests, performance tests, integration & unit tests), build tools (to create your own assembly from the platform), etc. I think this matter more than the open source license we adopted. We have fully opened the kitchen, not just the recipe. And we are sharing what we’ve learned and how we do stuff with the architect that can benefit from it. When working with Nuxeo’s platform, developers can easily get the full dev, build and testing environment in which we have investment massively to create it. I think that’s what will make a difference. I should blog that, actually. 🙂

    Back to what you asked “what are the technology our customers are asking us to integrate / comply with”. I’ve thought a bit about that, and there is no easy answer. The fact is that there is not a clear list. The thing is they ask us to integrate / integrate with a bunch of stuff, could be search engines, directories (with funky configuration), home grown services, BPM engines, etc. What they really appreciate is that we can give them a way to do it, without hacking. We give integration patterns for many things at all levels (from low-level event handlers to high-level list of content in the UI). The “extend, don’t hack” is much appreciated and it ease a lot future upgrades and ongoing support (cause they don’t fork!). Upgrades usually takes between 10minutes and 1 week of work, even when they’ve created large code base running on the platform (loose coupling thanks to extension points is king).

    Then there is deployment targets, and I’ve yet to see a large account where JBoss or Tomcat is not in the deployment target. So we usually deploy on those platform, with various level of constraints. This is where our runtime abstraction and the assembly system comes handy: we can quickly adapt the platform to run in different environment (especially on the with/without EJBs).



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