VMware and Collaboration: What a Long Strange Trip it’s About to Become

Brad Shimmin

Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:

  • First VMware pulls back from an early file sharing and sync tool; then it sells its email platform to Telligent. So, what’s left for collaboration at VMware?
  • In a unique but potentially risky move, the company has thrown its enterprise social networking offering into the waiting arms of its endpoint management suite, VMware Horizon.

When I arrived at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco last week, I didn’t expect much in the way of razzle-dazzle from VMware’s End User Computing product group. This conference has historically resembled a three ring circus, spinning around the many wonders of workload virtualization. On that, the conference did not disappoint, featuring much ado over both software defined networking and hybrid cloud services.

But with the company’s recent, surprising divestiture of Zimbra, selling it off to Telligent, I expected the company’s sole remaining collaborative computing asset, Socialcast, to play the role of timid pink elephant, distinctly present but wholly ignored. To my surprise, during VMware’s analyst presentation, the company’s newly appointed EVP and GM of End-User Computing, Sanjay Poonen, trotted this elephant onstage and had it jump through fiery hoops.

The idea, according to Sanjay and others with whom I spoke during the conference, is to transform Socialcast into a collaboration infrastructure, an integral component of each desktop and device managed by VMware’s endpoint management solution, Horizon Suite. For the time being, customers can buy Socialcast as a stand-alone SKU, but it is clear that VMware would prefer enterprise buyers consume it as a component of the Horizon Suite, right alongside VMware’s long lost file sharing/synchronization technology formerly called Project Octopus. That service is already woven within Horizon’s application workspace. That way, when IT provisions a new user and that user boots up his or her shiny new mobile device for the first time, he or she will have at the ready not only line of business apps but also a full cadre of social networking and file sharing/synchronization tools — all secured, managed and monitored by IT.

This is what VMware means when it proclaims that we’re living in the mobile-cloud era for VMware. Whether or not this approach wins out over more traditional cloud and mobile deployment vectors for enterprise social networking solutions such as IBM Connections or Microsoft Yammer remains to be seen. I worry given the uniqueness of this approach and VMware’s stated estimation that it can do what other vendors have supposedly failed to do, encourage large-scale enterprise social networking user adoption. With Socialcast founder Tim Young now at the helm of the Horizon solution itself, at a minimum the company should be able to reassure its existing Socialcast customers that VMware has their best interests in mind.

My feeling is that VMware will do quite well with enterprises fully committed to VMware’s data center architecture as well as companies not yet heavily invested in rival collaboration solutions. There’s already some stiff competition out there with rivals SAP, IBM, Microsoft and others already capable of melding mobile device management, data center service automation and collaboration. The key for VMware may then hinge upon its ability to couple these capabilities with an app development and integration services platform that will encourage customer and partner software developers to integrate with and extend Socialcast.

About Brad Shimmin
As Principal Analyst for Collaboration and Conferencing at Current Analysis, Brad analyzes the rapidly expanding use of collaboration software and services as a means of improving business agility, fostering employee optimization and driving business opportunities.

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