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VMware is a cloud computing and virtualization company founded in 1998 that has been instrumental in changing how hardware setups power workloads and support architectures.
As enterprise IT evolved over the last few decades, virtualization became a revolutionary new component of how software and hardware resources are ordered to create agile systems. Essentially, virtualization replaces specific pieces of hardware with virtual nodes or workstations that accomplish many of the things that traditional physical servers and computers did prior to the virtualization era.
VMware capitalized on this change with its line of virtualization products and services.
VMware is perhaps best known for its hypervisor products. In a traditional virtualization scheme, virtual machines were run by hypervisors which operated as host machines.
VMware's hypervisors running on hardware allowed for these types of VM and VM monitoring setups.
More recently, vSphere server virtualization product has also changed how experts think about network virtualization. For instance, the way that vSphere works with an open source container virtualization resource called Kubernetes illustrates the complexity of modern virtualization systems and how they can be set up and run.
After companies became familiar with a virtual machine virtualization model, now often referred to as the “traditional” means of virtualization, another alternative emerged: the container.
Where a virtual machine has its own dedicated operating systems and related memory and performance resources, engineers running containers can “clone off” the OS for a shared kernel. This creates some efficiencies and in some cases can present a thin attack surface for security enhancement.
As alternatives like content container virtualization emerged, VMware products still held their own by offering benefits like better security and isolation.
Both virtual machine and container virtualization became common models for enterprise IT. VMWare’s resilience today, in the container era, has to do with how versatile these types of systems are, and how companies can “mix and match” in myriad ways.
VMware vSphere can run Kubernetes clusters, in which Kubernetes orchestration complements the VMware virtualization service architectures.
vSphere may host virtual machines that house Docker containers, even Docker hosts, while also hosting other VMs that do not house containers. The fundamental question for adopters, whether to rely on open source or vendor license products, can be answered in any number of ways.
On top of that, companies can use other vendor services like AWS Lambda serverless computing in vSphere-run systems, for an even more agile build and related IT benefits.
As a tech firm known for rapid progress, VMware also has its share of skeletons in the closet when it comes to corporate culture and a history of turnover.
Notably, the board fired founder Diane Greene in 2008, and chief science officer Mendel Rosenblum left the firm as well. More recently, according to public reports, employees have reported “corporate culture issues” at the firm, and moves like the abrupt firing of Fusion dev teams in 2016 has led to some speculation about VMWare’s workforce modeling.
Events like Dell's acquisition of VMware's cloud computing business EMC also created some turmoil.
In general, VMWare’s lead in hypervisors has not been seen as a “growth business” to date, and pivots have been necessary for the company to remain a top player in the field.