Today I caught a tweet from Kara Swisher referencing some exclusive news she posted on Boomtown about VMware’s upcoming deal to buy Zimbra from Yahoo! This is would be VMware’s second acquisition of an open source ISV in under a year. In August 2009 VMware acquired open source java vendor SpringSource that not only developed the popular Spring framework but had also acquired open source systems management vendor Hyperic (May 2009) and commercial Apache support vendor, Covalent (January 2009).
According to CNET’s Matt Asay, Yahoo!’s Zimbra business unit is still growing and has an impressive customer base:
Lost in the news of Zimbra’s release of version 6.0 of its collaboration suite is the importance of one very big number: 50 million. That’s how many paid mailboxes Zimbra claims now, a number that puts it within spitting distance of IBM Lotus Notes (approximately 145 million paid mailboxes) and Microsoft Exchange (approximately 175 million paid mailboxes). Whatever the truth to rumors that Zimbra is up for sale, Zimbra is an appreciating asset for Yahoo, not a depreciating one.
I also noticed a couple of months ago that VMware started to re-brand getting rid of their old blue logo and moving to a grey logo sans the “virtualization boxes”. According to this post by VMware CMO Rick Jackson:
Now, as we look at our current offerings based on vSphere, and our vision of delivering the infrastructure for unrestrained cloud computing, the image we are portraying to the market has evolved. In fact, our message embodies the notion of freeing IT from the constraints of physical resources.
Makes you wonder in the long-term where VMware might draw the line...
Build, Manage and Provide the Silver Lining for Clouds?
Does this signal the beginning of a broader VMware open source acquisition strategy? Maybe they will complete their java application stack with a database. Barring Larry Ellison offering to sell MySQL to VMware maybe there are some other opportunities. VMware might benefit from picking up EnterpriseDB or maybe become the patron saint for MySQL fork, MariaDB sponsored by MySQL creator Monty Widenius. Beyond the database there are a number of interesting buying opportunities out there for VMware should they have their pocketbook open. For one there is rPath which can build and update Linux virtual machines and provide automated provisioning of systems taking VMware’s management and deployment capabilities one step further.
Another option would be to get deeper in management by picking up one of the open source configuration management vendors like Reductive Labs that produces Puppet or newly funded cloud configuration rival Opscode and their open source project, Chef. They could even go old school and take a look at CFengine which is similar to Chef and Puppet but supports not only Unix-like systems but Windows too. Alternatively, they could acquire commercial open source vendor, Cloudera that provides support for Hadoop, an open source implementation of MapReduce which is ideally suited for cloud deployment.
I guess that’s enough speculation for today. However, it will be curious to see if the deal goes through and if VMware pays a premium over Yahoo!’s acquisition price of $350 million back in 2007. It could as The VarGuy notes it could trigger a reset for how open source companies are valued.