Is the End of the Federation the real question?

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Sometimes you get this one single thought that triggers a whole blogpost. This week someone asked me what’s to become of the EMC Federation when Joe Tucci is going on his retirement in 2015.

To give this some background; when the EMC Federation got it’s third leg, being Pivotal, next to VMware and EMC itself, there were some chairs being shifted. Once Pat Gelsinger made the move as COO of EMC to become CEO at VMware (2012), Paul Maritz moved into EMC to later become CEO of the third leg Pivotal (2013). In that light Joe Tucci said he wouldn’t leave the throne before 2015. Today we are 1 quarter away from 2015 so it’s worth thinking what could happen to the Federation.

[edit: re comment Greg Schulz] I forgot to mention that David Goulden is the 3rd CEO managing EMC Information Infrastructure (the EMC you know) and Joe Tucci is the CEO of the Federation itself.


What’s to become of the federation

I think the what’s to become of the federation lies in the other question what’s to become of VMware? I think VMware is heading a very challenging time. VMware is slowly but certain losing it’s market domination. If you simplify the last 30 years in technology you could say that

  • 20 years ago everyone ran the same mainframes
  • 10 years ago everyone ran Windows physical server
  • the last 10 years everyone ran VMware hypervisors

I’m sure you’ll disagree and tell me you ran other stuff but I am speaking about a specific technology being the primary for the market ecosystem.

What’s the alternative?

That today is the biggest problem! There is none. Everyone feels that the VMware ecosystem has had it’s peak. In it’s urge to keep growing bigger and bigger it has both matured in it’s product portfolio but it also alienated a lot of it’s partners that have found or are looking for alternatives. This in the end will make VMware just one of the choices rather than the primary choice.

The difference between now and 10 years ago is that out of the blue VMware came with something we didn’t know we needed. Today we are all searching for what’s next but we don’t know what that is. And even if we would agree on some technologies that could be next (OpenStack, containers, …) there is no true leader stepping up to the plate.

If you look at everything moving today, most directions could point towards RedHat. I honestly think RedHat could be the next market ecosystem leader. There is only one problem; I don’t think RedHat has the organisation today to make that happen.

14835198458_f731afa474_m Sidenote: CRN, better known as the tabloid of Enterprise IT, today reported a possible takeover of VMware by HP. Even if VMware would be on sale, HP would be the last place to land the company. HP has had a rough time reinventing/reorganising itself in the last two years that it could not handle this acquisition. And I can promise you a flood of VMware smarts running away when that would happen.

Update: EMC confirms not being interested in selling VMware. Some more reliable sources like Reuters confirm this news.

In summary

  • I don’t think Tucci’s retirement is that important if not for losing focus.
  • VMware is not going away anytime soon but it’s ecosystem is at challenge
  • RedHat has a great opportunity but probably lacks the skills of execution.
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  1. Hans,
    First on the EMC front – as you noted in the update, don’t be fooled. As I tweeted this morning ( – VMware is such an important piece of the Federation equation and the Federation IS the strategy, that it won’t change even when “the godfather” Joe retires.

    On the second front – has VMware peaked? Well, virtualization is reaching a saturation point. If I look at your history, people still use mainframes, just less than before. People still use Windows, but increasingly in VMs or in the cloud – and Microsoft Azure has an increasingly attractive hybrid cloud offering. The future is not virtualization – the future will have a variety of options that can live on premise and off and there will be bare metal, virtualization and containers (hello Docker). VMware has plenty of opportunities, but growth in the core market will slow.


    1. yeah, my comment towards the CRN post here may have given it too much credit. My immediate reaction on twitter when I heard it was more accurate: “so ridiculous I file this under humour of the week”

      And don’t be mistaken about my intentions here. I am not saying there is no future for VMware. I am just wondering who will be the centre of the next decade’s ecosystem. An ecosystem where VMware itself will be a partner rather than the leader.

  2. Hans 20 years (e.g. fall of 1994) there were actually still several mainframe (e.g. the real mainframes vs. generic label 😉 IBM Plug Compatible Machines/Manufactures (PCMs) meaning environments were using a mix of IBM, Amdahl, and NEC and HDS boxes for those environments. Likewise there were still some CDC/Control Data and Unisys big boxes, not to mention the HPC based Crays among others…

    Otoh, there were still many mid-range non-mainframes, yet what the desktop/PC/lan folks probably called mainframes (e.g. DEC VAX/VMS, Wang, ATT 3Bs, DGs, Honeywll DPs, HP and Sun among others), not to mention the NTs, OS2s and various *nix on proprietary as well as x86 boxes, some of which were also running virtual machines and containers.

    10 years ago in 2004, the mainframe PCMs had exited leaving that space to IBM, likewise continued shift from proprietary mid-range *nix or other OS to x86 as well as *nix and early VMware among other things… Thus Windows had not taken over the world as there was a lot of *nix and legacy, just as there is today.

    Today there is still a lot of Windows, as well as legacy *nix and still plenty of room for more *nix or variations to expand into. Likewise, while there is a common perception that the virtual space has reached its peak, keep in mind that not everything is virtualized yet. Likewise not everything will go VMware with Microsoft adding more Hyper-V footprints, as well as KVM/Xen, not to mention docker and other containers.

    Of course as in the past, there will be some cannibalization; however, there is also a lot of market expansion moving into adjacent spaces.

    As for EMC, keep in mind that in addition to Gelsinger (VMware) and Maritz (Pivotal) as heading up each of one of the three federation members, there is a third (David Goulden) who heads up the EMC business with Tucci effectively sitting atop the federation.

    The question used to be who would take over and run EMC, which was addressed in the last year or so with appointing David Goulden to that role. Now the question should be who takes over at some future point in time as CEO / chairman of the board / chairman of the federation? 😉


    1. That’s the problem with these dinosaurs (and I say this with the most respect) amongst my friends here. They can swing experience at me from the times I probably didn’t even touch a keyboard.

      To your point Greg; 10 years ago everything (I encountered) was Windows Server Rack and Tower with a specific Linux workload server being the exception. You know how I know this? I’ve spend 10 years migrating them to virtualised environments from door to door. You are probably right when it comes to big datacenter installations or hospital/bank basements but that is not the 90% of the customers I am speaking about.

      In the virtualization space VMware most definitely has lead the way and has been the market leader both from deployment and technology leadership at least until the most recent Microsoft Hyper-V solutions where MS slowly got on par. And be aware I am not only speaking about technology here but specifically about ecosystem leadership. When new software or storage comes out, there is a 90% chance that the first thing they will support is VMware, Hyper-V 2 years later and XEN only if they have a geek on staff that wants to do it in his spare time. It’s like the mobile app industry; if you are a developer you’ll design for iOS first, Android second and no-one but some exceptions will design for Windows Phone. So the question remains; who/what is going to be the next ecosystem leader? Which vendor/technology will all the others put their R&D focus on?

      And yes, I did forget to mention Goulden, making the circle round.

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