A Short History of VMware and Product Overview

VMware is one of the biggest names in the cloud and virtualization industry with all of the Fortune 100 companies relying on its services to some extent1. It also ranked as one of the fastest growing companies in 20122 with revenues of almost $4 billion up by 30% compared to the year before. It was founded in 1998 by the husband wife combo of Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum as well as Scott Devine, Edward Wang, and Edouard Bugnion3.

Diane Greene was unexpectedly fired as president and CEO in 2008 and replaced by Paul Maritz who was heading the cloud division at VMware’s parent company EMC after spending 14 years at Microsoft4. Incidentally, Diane Greene was also an investor in Nicira that VMware later acquired for $1.26 billion in 20125. Edouard Bugnion remained on as CTO till 2005 when he founded Nuova Systems which was acquired by Cisco6.

Overview of VMware’s Offerings

We can segment VMware’s products by platform or functionality. Going by platform for example, they offer VMware Workstation and VMware Player for the desktop and VMware ESXi for servers. But I think it makes more sense to segment by functionality instead. Going by this, VMware’s lineup falls into the following categories:

  • Hardware Virtualization
  • Virtualized Hardware management
  • Network Virtualization
  • Cloud Management Software
  • Desktop Virtualization

Storage Virtualization

There are a number of other products, but some feel that VMware is trying to consolidate with the launch of Pivotal – a new organization – in collaboration with EMC to transfer key cloud application and big data services7.

VMware’s roots were in hardware virtualization with the launch of VMware Workstation in 19998. Two years later in 2001 they released their ESX and GSX hypervisors9. While there’s some similarity in functionality between VMware workstation and these two new offerings, they target very different scenarios. While GSX required a host OS, ESX ran directly on the server hardware – what is known as a “bare metal” hypervisor. VMware GSX has since been retired10but the ESX line is now renamed ESXi with some important architectural differences.

vCloud and Operations Management

Some of the products and terminologies used can be confusing for those still trying to wrap their heads around the full range of products VMware has. For instance, one of the most prominent packages is called vSphere which is actually a collection of various individual products like ESXi, vCenter etc. If you’re trying to build a private cloud, then the consolidated package called vCloud bundles together various components like vSphere, vCenter Site Recovery Manager, vCenter Operations Manager Suite, vCloud Networking and Security, vCloud Director, and vCloud Automation Center11.

While vSphere itself allows you to consolidate your hardware and run virtual machines, it becomes more and more difficult to manage as your demands increase. This is where vSphere with Operations Management comes in. It allows you to manage multiple vSphere installations and obtain detailed analytics into what resources they’re using allowing you to squeeze out even greater efficiency12.

Network Virtualization

VMware’s NSX on the other hand allows for the virtualization of network resources much like vSphere does with server hardware allowing you to configure new networks on the fly within seconds without having to modify any underlying networking hardware. The logic of the network is already built into the vSphere hypervisors so no additional resources or modifications are necessary13.

Storage, Virtual Desktops and Data Center Management

VMware covers the entire gamut of services including storage virtualizations, desktop virtualization and all the tools necessary to manage a datacenter. There are far too many products to give even a broad overview of them all over here.

In addition to its paid software, VMware also releases plenty of its applications for free so that customers can get a taste of how it works before going for a full blown plan with all the bells and whistles. These include the vSphere hypervisor itself, the capacity planner and infrastructure planner14.

From a company that started out with a basic VMware Workstation, VMware has grown to be a one stop shop for all virtualization needs – from the lone developer to cloud operators.


1 “VMware Customer Success Stories – United States.” 2009. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://www.vmware.com/company/customers/>
2 “100 Fastest-Growing Companies 2012: VMware – VMW – CNN Money.” 24 Sep. 2013 http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fastest-growing/2012/snapshots/52.html>
3 “VMware Leadership in Virtualization and Cloud Computing – United …” 2011. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://www.vmware.com/company/leadership/>
4 Eric Savitz. “VMware Ousts CEO Diane Greene; Cuts ’08 Guidance – Barrons.com.” 2008. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://blogs.barrons.com/techtraderdaily/2008/07/08/vmware-ousts-ceo-diane-greene-cuts-08-guidance/>
5 Don Clark. “VMWare to Buy Nicira for $1.26 Billion – WSJ.com.” 2012. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443295404577545450326093834.html>
6 “Cisco Announces Intent to Acquire Remaining Interest in Nuova …” 2008. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2008/prod_040808b.html>
7 “The Pivotal Initiative | VMware Company Blog – VMware Blogs.” 2013. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://blogs.vmware.com/vmware/2012/12/the-pivotal-initiative.html>
8 Thiruvathukal, George K et al. “Virtualization for computational scientists.” Computing in Science & Engineering 12.4 (2010): 52-61.
9 Stephen Shankland. “VMware ready to capitalize on hot server market – CNET News.” 2008. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://news.cnet.com/VMware-ready-to-capitalize-on-hot-server-market/2100-1001_3-242656.html>
10 “VMware GSX Server Documentation.” 2004. 24 Sep. 2013 http://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/gsx_pubs.html>
11 “vCloud Suite: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) & Cloud … – VMware.” 2013. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://www.vmware.com/products/vcloud-suite>
12 “vSphere with Operations Management – VMware.” 2013. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere-operations-management/>
13 “VMware NSX | Network Virtualization – United States.” 2013. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://www.vmware.com/products/nsx/>
14 “All Downloads – My VMware.” 2012. 24 Sep. 2013 <http://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/downloads>

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2 thoughts on “A Short History of VMware and Product Overview”

  1. Sir,

    VMWare is awesome for virtualization and running older OSes from newer ones. I’ve used it before. I’ve used VMWare Workstation and VMWare Player. Since I looked for a free alternative, I shifted over to VirtualBox (acquired by Sun in 2008, which was in turn acquired by Oracle in 2010), but I must admit, VMWare still rolled. This I did when I was just 14 years old (in 2007).

    The past 8 years (2007-2015) have been pretty dull and dragging for me, so is there any product that rivals VMWare’s ones today? I want your opinion as you would know better.



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