VMware CEO: Operating systems being 'deconstructed'

VMware CEO: Operating systems being 'deconstructed'

Tech audiences love IT gaffs, and VMware Inc. delivered one during a talk by Paul Maritz, the company's new CEO and president, when a dialog box popped up on one of the screens in this large cavernous hall, where thousands had gathered for his opening keynote.

The dialogue screen -- an Apple updater displaying the "Bonjour for Windows" program -- drew some chuckles and loud laughs from those in the audience at VMWorld who could see it. The image appeared only briefly and Maritz seemed unaware of it.

But the future Maritz, a former top Microsoft executive, was sketching out sounded more like good night (or bonsoir) for Windows than good morning.

"By and large, people are no long writing traditional Windows applications," said Maritz. "People are increasingly looking at different ways of writing and provisioning applications."

For instance, Maritz noted that for developers working with Ruby on Rails, an open source Web application framework, "the traditional operating system has all but disappeared - it's kind of hard to even know what's down there."

Maritz said experimentation in operating system development is growing, and "we are going to see the traditional operating system, in fact, deconstruct and made more customized and relevant to the particular application framework."

Maritz didn't spell out how this would affect Windows. But VMware in its products roadmap is clearly trying to move users to understand that as the importance of operating systems declines, and the ability to move between various operating systems improves.

The overarching message is about an IT approach that puts the focus on application delivery as a service to whatever client device someone is using, whether a laptop, PDA or something not yet on the market. More immediately, VMware is working to deliver tools that integrate and extend virtualization functionality and management capability to every aspect of the data center, including networking through virtual switches.

VMware's product announcement focusing on higher levels of management will center on its Virtual Data Center Operating System (VDC-OS), which is due out sometime next year.

Joe DiMeo, a systems architecture for New York University who was at the conference, said VMware has no choice but to move beyond its basic technologies if it is going to have a chance against Microsoft's push into virtualization with Hyper-V.

"I think it's the only way they are going survive," said DiMeo. "It is clear that in two years Microsoft is going to commoditize a good chunk of their old products."

Another user at the conference, a vice president of IT at a consumer products company who asked that his name be withheld, said his firm has moved to x86 and VMware products for most of his environment, except for some large databases running on a Unix system. In time, he expects to be able to move his entire operation to that x86 platform, and he noted that he has saved considerable IT costs because of virtualization.

But he also acknowledged that his company is increasingly putting all its eggs into VMware's basket.

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