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VMware names second ex-Microsoft exec to leadership role

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VMware's landed its second ex-Microsoft executive at the top, this time the individual who drove Redmond's developer outreach in the glory days of the 1990s.

Tod Nielsen has quit his current post as chief executive of Borland Software to take up the newly created mantle of chief operations officer for virtualization market leader VMware.

Nielsen joins former Microsoft colleague Paul Maritz at VMware. Maritz was named VMware chief executive last July, having initially joined to lead the company's cloud computing initiatives, after VMware co-founder Diane Greene was booted.

Maritz said in a statement that Nielsen's appointment would let him devote more time to product strategy and development, with Nielsen focusing more on business, marketing, and operations.

"Having worked closely with Tod in the past, I know that we will work effectively together and complement each other," Nielsen said.

The appointment comes as Microsoft seeks to undercut VMware's market share by giving away its own Hyper-V technology. VMware, meanwhile, has stumbled both technically and in terms of execution in the face of the growing assault.

R&D director Richard Sarwal, recruited by Greene, left soon after her and was quickly followed by Green's husband and VMware chief scientist Mendel Rosenblum. Amid the changes, VMware issued product updates that crashed virtual servers, leaving Maritz in the embarrassing position of issuing two apologies.

Quite how Nielsen can help in any of this is difficult to see, unless Maritz was overly focused on marketing and operations at the expense of product.

VMware talked up Nielsen's 20-year industry credentials. To be sure, Nielsen played an important role at Microsoft by helping create the massive Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), to feed and educate Windows developers with code and resources at a critical time during the life of Windows. That work helped established Windows as a platform, with MSDN becoming the envy of other software companies.

Since leaving Microsoft, Nielsen has gone from a start-up called Crossgain to hopping around in various marketing positions at BEA Systems and Oracle before landing the CEO role at application lifecycle management vendor Borland in 2005.

At BEA, Nielsen led marketing strategy and operations as well as research and development operations. Unfortunately for Nielsen, he stood out for under-delivering on a rash and over-optimistic commitment from his bosses to recruit millions of supposedly disillusioned Microsoft Visual Basic developers to BEA's then-new web services orchestration environment, WebLogic Workshop, and dev2dev online developer network.

Nielsen's Borland tenure was marked by ongoing attempts to reposition the company in a cut-throat market while saving money. An attempt to sell Borland's core tools business at an inflated $150m failed after eight months in 2006. Tools were then turned into a wholly owned subsidiary - CodeGear - and sold to Embarcadero Technologies two years later in 2008 at $127m below the original asking price.

During this time, it was decided to move the company's operations out of its home in Silicon Valley to more affordable facilities in Austin, Texas.

Nielsen's resignation from Borland was announced yesterday along with 15 per cent job cuts - 130 employees - and restructuring intended to save the company between $12m and $14m. Borland did not explain Nielsen's exit but said simply the changes were intended to position the company to executive on its OpenALM vision while managing through the period of global economic uncertainty. ®

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