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VMware buys SpringSource, embracing application development

To ease the burden of operating public and private clouds, VMware has made a Platform as a Service play with its purchase of an application development framework from SpringSource.

Virtualization provider VMware plans to acquire application development framework provider SpringSource for more than $362 million. Combined, the two companies aim to provide Platform as a Service (PaaS) offerings for both private data centers and the compute cloud. Industry analyst group Forrester Research Inc. has estimated that over the next eight years, the PaaS market could grow to $15.2 billion in total volume.

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SpringSource founders, including CEO Rod Johnson, originated the Spring open source framework primarily for Web application building. Spring provides a lightweight componentized alternative for Java EE application server programmers that consider full-featured application servers, often involving Enterprise JavaBean components -- to be "overkill" for common applications.

The SpringSource price tag of $362 million in cash and equity (and the assumption of $58 million in unvested employee stock and options) indicates the importance VMware puts on effectively deploying Web applications to the cloud.

"It's about making virtualization more application aware," said Paul Maritz, the president and CEO of VMware. "We have to make the data center element -- the internal cloud, the external cloud -- simpler to operate. And we have to do that at the application level."

VMware's PaaS play
Covering two ends of the platform spectrum, both the ''hardware facing'' and the ''application facing'' aspects, will help achieve simpler operation for VMware customers, Maritz indicated.

The move to acquire the popular emerging alternative to IBM, Oracle, and Red Hat Java application servers gives VMware "a fuller platform play," according to Tony Baer, analyst for research group Ovum.

For VMware, "it means going higher up the [software] stack," he wrote in an interview conducted by email.

"SpringSource provides the application layer, making [VMware] a more rounded PaaS play," said Baer.

It's about making virtualization more application aware.
Paul Maritz, president and CEO of VMware,
"Of course, the cloud in the silver lining is that SpringSource and VMware sell to different constituencies -- IT operations and application development," he continued. "Jelling the two cultures will be the chief impediment."

Keeping it simple
As a simpler alternative to a full-fledged Java EE architecture, Spring has found success in development circles. It provides design patterns targeting popular applications, such as e-commerce website development. Spring Framework use was measured at 76.8% among software architects and developers that took part in a 2008 Java survey from's sister site

And indeed, enterprises now use the Java extensively. Brought forward in 1995, it is now a mature language, trying to keep pace with changes in development styles. "Spring is the framework that has kept Java competitive," said Josh Long, a Los Angeles-based, independent consultant.

"The framework provides a consistent way to manipulate objects," said Logan, the co-author of Spring Enterprise Recipes: A Problem-Solution Approach, which is due out in the fall from Apress.

"When you use raw Java EE, you get APIs [application programming interfaces], and the way you program to them is different for everyone. With Spring, you can use the same idiom for different application types," he said.

Of the VMware-SpringSource pairing, Logan says: I didn't expect this marriage. but I can see why it makes sense." Being part of larger software stack will have benefits, he suggested.

SpringSource had just begun a more concerted push into corporate data centers when VMware stepped in as a buyer. In May, SpringSource bought Hyperic Inc., a performance management tool vendor, with the intent to improve management of lightweight Spring applications for use in corporate data centers.

Because Spring is open source software, SpringSource owns no monopoly on the standard. Red Hat, for example, recently began to support Spring along with its JBoss open-source Java application server offering. SpringSource has sold Spring on a subscription basis and offers services for Spring implementers.

The acquisition of SpringSource has been approved by SpringSource's stockholders and is expected to close in September.

Jack Vaughan is the executive editor of Write to him at Rob Barry is a news writer for Write to him at

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