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VMware buys cloud army with SpringSource cash deal

Application management payoff

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VMware is buying open-source Java framework specialist SpringSource in the virtualization giant's biggest ever corporate acquisition.

The company said its proposed $362m cash deal would give it the in-house talent to make its vSphere virtualization hypervisor and management layer work with cloud applications. SpringSource has 150 staff and is home to the founder of the ubiquitous Spring open-source Java programming framework, Rod Johnson. The deal is expected to close in September.

The acquisition should also help VMware tap an army of open-source programmers already building web and enterprise developers with Spring, plus Apache and Groovy and Grails, for the cloud.

By leveraging this developer base, VMware will also hope it remains relevant with those buying virtualization technology and faced with "free" alternatives from Microsoft and open-source.

VMware's chief executive Paul Maritz said during a conference Monday integration between vSphere and SpringSource would let you know what cloud applications are really doing and to manage them. He highlighted management and deployment of applications plus security policies, fraud detection, and to "dial-in" service level agreements as areas for work.

Buying SpringSource meant VMware could hit these development goals quicker than working on its own, Maritz said.

"This will allow us to speak to some of the existing applications and more importantly lets us speak to new applications that are being written in the future," Maritz said. "We already do a good job of existing applications.... but to go all the way you have to have more understanding of what the application is really doing and that's what this asset gives us."

Rod Johnson, chief executive of SpringSource, said on his company's blog that the company could deliver a "joined up experience" using the combination of vSphere, Spring, and "other cloud-enabling technologies".

SpringSource was created out of Interface21 by Johnson, based on the idea of providing paid support for the free and ubiquitous Spring Framework. SpringSource has since recorded a minor spending spree of its own, with three acquisitions in two years.

It acquired Apache web-server services company Covalent, Grails and Groovy dynamic languages specialist G2One, and open-source systems monitoring and management start-up Hyperic that had moved into providing updates for applications on Amazon Web Services and Google's App Engine. Hyperic's HQ already provided systems management for VMware virtual machines.

Meanwhile, SpringSource had launched its own application servers based on the modular OSGi framework.

Apache, Groovy, and Grails are all good web and cloud technologies but it's the Spring Framework that's really permeated the developer market in the enterprise and is spreading on the web. The Spring Framework is so ingrained among developers that many middleware and tools vendors support it by default.

VMware hopes to accelerate what these vendors have been done, buy going beyond support and providing a deep level of integration between vSphere and applications that have been build using the open-source framework.

Financial analysts questioned why a systems company known for virtualization and runtimes would want to bother with a developer acquisition. But the deal could signal an attempt to build an ecosystem around vSphere among developers similar to the ecosystem that helped establish and sustain Windows among application programmers.

Interestingly, VMware's chief executive spent 14 years at Microsoft in different roles that saw him oversee development and marketing of Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Visual Studio, and SQL Server. VMware has also recruited as its chief operating officer as Tod Nielsen, who helped build Microsoft's Developer Network (MSDN), which established the developer ecosystem around the products Maritz was building out. ®

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