This is a second post in my series titled “PaaS Is The Future Of Cloud Services“. I was planning to write about Heroku but since the VMForce news was a good fit for the topic, I am pushing the analysis of VMForce under the series. The post about Heroku will follow soon. Today morning, VMWare and Salesforce.com made a joint announcement about their partnership called VMForce. I will offer my perspectives about this partnership and how it fits into a PaaSy future. This post is not an in-depth look into the VMForce offering but, rather, an analysis of their strategies.
Every major cloud computing provider understands the significance of PaaS and how it is going to be a major player in the future of cloud services. Both VMWare and Salesforce are well aware of it and they have taken necessary steps to be an important player in that future. In my opinion, today’s announcement about their partnership is an intermediate play in their long term strategies. Let us dig into it a bit more by looking into each company’s strategy.
Salesforce.com is definitely a pioneer when it comes to cloud services. They unleashed the idea of consuming applications as a service in a big way after the botched up attempts of ASPs. However, their offerings were very narrow compared to big players like Google, Microsoft and, even, some smaller players like Zoho (disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of this blog). Slowly, their Force.com platform is gaining traction among developers. If you ask the good folks at Appirio,, they will happily talk about the Force.com platform. I was talking to Rick Nucci of Boomi last year during Defrag and he was very excited about some of the stuff they were doing on Force.com platform. Their Force.com platform did get the attention of some developers but it didn’t gain any traction in the enterprise due to the proprietary nature of their platform. There is no way enterprises are going to jump in en-masse on a platform that is closed like Force.com. Even though Salesforce posts impressive numbers every quarter, their Force.com platform is contributing only a tiny portion to these numbers.
After conquering the virtualization world and enterprise market, VMWare took some time before they realized the dawning of the cloud era. Their belated attempt to capture the imagination with cCloud didn’t get the kind of traction they had initially hoped (well, I can see some of my VMWare friends wanting to pounce me on this). When they acquired Springsource, it was clear that they are planning to move up the stack. But they are not a public cloud provider like Amazon Web Services even though they enable other public cloud providers. Their plans for the layers above infrastructure is still not clear and they are not in a position to offer anything to satisfy the needs of some the enterprises looking for a reliable and secure PaaS offerings. On the side of competition, all the big players are shaping up for the cloud game. Microsoft has clearly announced that they are going to push strongly with their Azure platform. They are even trying to lure the developers of open source platforms by making Java and other open source frameworks play nicely in their Azure platform. To a lesser extent, Google is trying to signal to enterprises that they can rely on their Google App Engine if they ever decide to trust Google. These things really got VMWare testy and they wanted to do something on the PaaS side.
Then the so called meeting between Paul Maritz and Marc Benioff happened and they must have figured out that the strengths and requirements of both the companies complement each other and a marriage between them could turn out to be powerful, at least in the immediate future. With VMForce, enterprise users can push their Java apps to the cloud without any modifications. The eclipse based Spring IDE makes this super easy and all the apps can be deployed with a single click. Add to this some of the social components on top of Force.com platform, the enterprises can be part of social computing game on the cloud.
Normally, this partnership is a brilliant move between two companies of the stature of Salesforce and VMWare. Knowing that both these companies want to dominate the cloud game, I could see this partnership as a marriage of convenience to position themselves well against their competitors in the immediate future. I may be wrong but, hey, this is what I feel right now. What do you think?