I have to admit that Tuesday’s announcement from VMware was a bit of a head scratcher for me, at least at first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very familiar with SocialCast and have written several times that I think highly of the product and the team, as presumably SocialCast customers like Avaya, Humana, Nokia, Phillips Electronics and VMware itself do as well. I guess I wasn’t as current on VMware’s strategy though, and at first I had a hard time understanding how SocialCast fit into the VMware story. After a little catching up on VMware and some reflection I’m starting to see an interesting picture emerge.
I’ve followed VMware to some extent, I mean server virtualization, while not directly related to applications, is important to both public and private cloud. I have also wondered about the long term future of virtualization as a stand alone function, should it actually be a set of features in an OS? In some ways maybe you could look at virtualization as a sort of OS for the cloud. Beyond that, desktop virtualization is interesting from an apps perspective, particularly around mobile and multi-device support, and I follow Citrix fairly closely in this market. Anyway, it does make sense that VMware needs to broaden its offerings but I’m not sure I would have immediately thought of a social collaboration tool as the next adjacent app.
If you look at the acquisition in context though, it’s a bit more obvious. Think of the three major enterprise tech trends that I’ve talked about for the last few years, mobile, social and cloud, and how they are related. Each of these tends are deeply interrelated and in one way or the other add value to each other through that interdependence. VMware already plays an important role in cloud and as I mentioned in some way is starting to look almost like a cloud OS. A shift in mind set is also happening among employees, who now feel empowered to use whatever tool they choose to help them get their jobs done. Businesses are starting to see a proliferation of devices and IT is struggling with how to manage them. Citrix has invested quite a bit in this part of the market through desktop / mobile virtualization. VMware just launched a competitive product called Horizon App Manager which provides secure multi-device access to public and private SaaS apps.
This leaves VMware with two issues, 1. how to compete aggressively with Citrix (and Microsoft) and 2. how to take advantage of the trends around social business? The answer, at least from its perspective is to offer more value to Horizon App Manager customers by providing apps that facilitate collaboration, thus gaining a social business software offering. VMware has done that through three acquisitions this year, Zimbra, SlideRocket and now SocialCast. Zimbra gives VMware customers cloud based email and collaboration, SlideRocket delivers a cloud based presentation solution and now SocialCast adds social collaboration / activity stream capabilities. The SocialCast addition also gives the capability to embed the social layer into any app in context, something I believe is critical to drive enterprise adoption. The complete package provides a cloud based (public and private) end user suite of robust collaboration and social tools that when combined with Horizon maps directly to the next generation model; mobile, cloud, social, in context and in real time. Now there’s a story…
One additional thought, what about VMware’s platform offering, SpringSource. VMware has positioned the platform as a cloud development platform even partnering with Google and Salesforce.com (VMforce). What if VMware embeds SocialCast into that platform, much like Salesforce.com has done with Chatter in its Force.com platform. That could drive adoption in both directions by giving developers an embedded social collaboration tool to enhance their products and by getting wider distribution of the SocialCast app. That could be an interesting offering, although one has to wonder if partner Salesforce.com would see that as competitive to Chatter?