Windows and operating systems in general have lost their status as the center of innovation in the IT industry, said VMware CEO Paul Maritz, himself a former Microsoft executive, as VMworld kicked off Tuesday.
Maritz didn't go so far as to say that operating systems will disappear, in remarks made during a keynote address and in a Q&A session with media. But the roles of operating systems in managing hardware and providing a set of abstracted services to applications are being taken over by the virtualization layer and development frameworks such as Spring and Ruby on Rails, he said.
"The point is not that quote-unquote operating systems are going to disappear," Maritz said. "It's the point about where innovation is occurring. Traditional operating systems did two things. They coordinated the hardware and they provided services to applications. The innovation in how hardware is coordinated today and the innovation in how services are provided to applications is no longer happening inside the operating system."
Maritz claimed that developers have "voted with their feet" in choosing frameworks such as Spring and Ruby on Rails. He conspicuously failed to mention Microsoft's .NET Framework, however, which is also quite popular and was rated the best overall framework in a recent Evans Data Corp. survey of developers. Spring, of course, is controlled by VMware now that it owns SpringSource, and will feature prominently in VMforce, a joint cloud computing collaboration with Salesforce.com.
The Microsoft-VMware rivalry is in full swing at VMworld, even though Microsoft itself has a limited presence on the show floor. While Maritz argued for the decreased importance of Windows, Microsoft took out an advertisement in USA Today in the form of an open letter to VMware customers pleading with them not to sign three-year contracts with VMware.
"First of all, I think it's a very sincere form of flattery the fact that Microsoft needs to take out a full page ad in a national newspaper for our customer event," Maritz said. "For Microsoft to talk about lock-in is a severe case of the pot calling the kettle black. I smiled when I saw that this morning."
Maritz also claimed that "There really hasn't been a lot of innovation inside operating systems for 20 years now," another interesting comment given that Maritz left Microsoft only 10 years ago and led development of Windows 95 and Windows 2000.
Maritz joined VMware as CEO a little more than two years ago when EMC, VMware's owner, forced out co-founder Diane Greene. Analysts said the appointment of Maritz appeared to be targeted at fending off the increasing competition from Microsoft, and his public statements seem to bear that out.
VMware is still mindful of the fact that its customers are running many Microsoft applications, with Chief Marketing Officer Rick Jackson telling customers Tuesday that VMware can improve performance of Exchange and SharePoint.
But Maritz made it clear he believes the importance of Windows is diminishing both in his comments about the lack of innovation in operating systems, and another comment in which he noted that IT departments are seeing a flood of "non-Windows" and "non-PC" form factors (such as Apple's iPad).
VMware is working on its own "Project Horizon," which will combine VMware's virtualization technology with partner services to deliver applications and data to user desktops, another case of VMware trying to steal the operating system's job.
VMware Tuesday announced the acquisition of TriCipher, a security company that will help VMware extend single-sign-on across applications in the enterprise data center and the cloud, potentially bolstering Project Horizon and other VMware cloud initiatives.
VMware, which was founded in 1998 when Maritz was still a Microsoft executive, is no longer simply a provider of a hypervisor, the tool that allows virtual machines to run on a physical server, Maritz said. Similarly, Maritz last year compared VMware's technology to a "software mainframe," and said virtualization is taking IT "beyond mainframe performance."
"We long since ceased to be a hypervisor company," Maritz said. "If you want a hypervisor for free we have one. A couple hundred thousand people a year download our hypervisor. We no longer make our money from the hypervisor. We make our money from data center automation."
Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jbrodkin
Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.