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VMware springs into frameworks with imminent acquisitions

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Structure 2010 VMware is committed to buying more software companies specializing in frameworks to provide application portability – and to keep up with coders.

On Wednesday, company chief executive and president Paul Maritz promised "you will see us expand our repertoire over the next few quarters."

Speaking at the Structure 2010 conference in San Francisco, he would not reveal where VMware is looking, but he said opportunities exist in the "data stack".

Reportely. VMware has been in talks to buy EngineYard, a provider of Ruby on Rails technologies and services, including Ruby hosting. EngineYard also provies support for JRuby, after chief maintainers Charles Nutter and Thomas Ebeno joined from the once mighty Sun Microsystems.

Maritz's commitment comes after VMware last year bought SpringSource, maker of the ubiquitous open-source Java programming framework. SpringSource then bought Rabbit Technologies, maker of the RabbitMQ open-source multi-protocol messaging system, and in-memory caching specialist GemStone.

Maritz, speaking during a Q&A with conference organizer Om Malik, did not comment on the EngineYard rumor, but made it clear he's a firm believer in the power of frameworks and their ability to help developers and – ultimately – VMware.

It's in VMware's interest to have developers bypass the operating system via frameworks and virtualization, while having applications move seamlessly from one VMware hypervisor to another in servers inside different clouds and data centers.

"We got a lot of hard work ahead of us at the infrastructure level... we took out our checkbook last year and wrote a big check to acquire SpringSource," VMware's CEO said.

Maritz made it clear he wants VMware to go where developers are programming and to not get left behind. Today, on the web especially, developers are building applications using frameworks.

He said application portability is of fundamental importance. "We need a layer that will help ensure that... and those layers should be open and open source."

He pointed to recent agreements with Salesforce.com and Google on Spring as helping portability of applications in the cloud and as proof of VMware's commitment to frameworks.

"Salesforce.com is working to retool or upgrade its Force.com environment to use the Spring framework as a hosted API or programming framework... so you can move a Spring application into and out of Salesforce.com or VM Force cloud with less effort."

He said under the agreement with Google, the Spring API "cloaks" the Google App engine.

VMware has also talked to Amazon about a similar deal on Spring. "We'd be very happy if they'd see fit to come up the level of abstraction and offer services a higher level like Salesforce and Google – we'd be very happy to see that," he said.

He also revealed he's concerned VMware might miss out on the transition to cloud computing. According to Martiz, technology is easy to alter. It's an inability to change business models that holds companies back. "I worry a lot about are we are the tail end of one generation [of computing] and the beginning of another," he said.

Martiz went on to explain why VMware bought email provide Zimbra, given this is an application and the rest of VMware's recent deals have been on application development and middleware.

The idea was to give service providers using email from Microsoft, who they are also competing with, an alternative software provider. Also: "I realized you need some applications to illustrate what you are trying to do." ®

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