VMware is a virtualization company. Server virtualization, network virtualization, and storage virtualization, in public and private clouds, and in data centers.
So why on earth did the company fork out over a billion dollars earlier this year for AirWatch, a company that makes mobile device management (MDM) software?
The answer appears to be that VMware wants to be more of an infrastructure management company than just a virtualization technology one, and that mobile device management fits in with that strategy. Or at least VMware wants to be thought of as a management company, even if the reality is somewhat different.
To further this aim, the company has announced a new program called "Safe Passage," which offers customers incentives and migration tools to move from their existing MDM solutions to AirWatch — now called AirWatch by VMware.
The program also aims to persuade customers to switch from other desktop virtualization and application delivery solutions to VMware Horizon, VMware's own desktop virtualization solution.
In this latter area, VMware is offering a cost-neutral switch to Horizon 6 with 3 years of support and subscription service, for roughly the cost of 3 years of their existing solution and support. The company is also including various Citrix XenApp-to-Horizon 6 migration tools to make things easier.
For MDM users, VMware is offering an easy switch to AirWatch at a "cost attractive price."
Now if you're a VMware customer that uses non-VMware solutions for desktop virtualization, application delivery and mobile device management, this offer probably has you scratching your head.
Is There Truly a Benefit to Seeking "Safe Passage"?
What's the benefit? If someone seeks to attract you as a customer by offering you something similar to what you already have, at a cost that's significantly less, then you may well be interested. Everyone likes to cut costs after all.
But if the move is cost neutral, and involves the hassle of migration, then why bother?
VMware offers a few halfhearted reasons: management is easier, according to the company, and "both platforms offer a comprehensive set of capabilities that meet the needs of mobile employees." Hardy compelling stuff.
VMware appears to be sowing FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) at the same time: "Although companies can use 25-year-old desktop technology from other vendors as a way to test the transition to the mobile cloud, pursuing this path is often wrought with poor user experiences, complexities with cloud access and control, and management complications due to inadequate integration," the company says.
And there's more FUD to go with it. "CIOs don't want to manage desktop, mobile, content collaboration from multiple point vendors that might not be viable long-term."
And what about mobile device management specifically? Finally, VMware comes up with a sensible reason, if true, as to why it may be worth switching to its MDM system. "…AirWatch by VMware's commitment to R&D is almost 2x to 3x the size of our nearest competitor," which one would assume means it will be spending at least two to three times more than the competition.
Where's This Ship Headed?
So what to make of it all? VMware bought AirWatch at the start of the year, and now the company is trying to get more customers for it and for Horizon 6. But AirWatch was already a leading MDM provider, so how exactly has it been enhanced by being part of VMWare? Where are the synergies? And more to the point, how does it enhance VMware as a company?
What VMware needs to be doing, surely, is integrating AirWatch with the rest of its software and turning vCenter into something more like Microsoft's System Center — something that controls and manages everything: physical severs, server virtualization infrastructure, mobile devices, operations and everything in between.
Perhaps it's too early to expect that to be offered just yet, but without it you're left wondering what the attraction of Safe Passage is to potential customers at all.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.