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Even mighty VMware faces IT problems

VMware inundated with cloud apps, CEO Paul Maritz says

Few companies know IT better than VMware, but no organization is immune to technology problems.

The issue of software-as-a-service applications moving into a business environment without IT's knowledge is a common one, and VMware Paul Maritz says it's one his company faces too.

In his keynote at VMworld, Maritz said VMware's IT infrastructure includes 15 cloud-based apps, and indicated that they were "uninvited."

"I didn't approve a single one of them," Maritz said of the cloud-based apps. "They come in uninvited. They don't even share single sign on today. But they're there and they're multiplying. Ultimately, IT is going to be left holding the bag."

The hottest virtualization products at VMworld

Maritz didn't say whether the uninvited applications caused any real havoc for his own IT department. Instead, he seemed to be making the point that software-as-a-service is creating a shift that IT didn't plan for, in much the same way that PCs did in the 1980s, and that new strategies are necessary to accommodate end users in a secure manner.

In addition to the shift from desktop-based to cloud-based applications, Maritz noted that IT departments are seeing a flood of non-Windows and non-PC form factors brought in by users.

"I'm willing to bet that 10% to 20% of you are carrying an iPad device. You know who you are," Maritz said. "And not just that, you're taking it into business meetings."

"Steve Jobs is going to try to sell you a new iPad every six months," Maritz continued. "IT can't keep pace with that."

Obviously, VMware is trying to benefit from this trend by selling desktop and application virtualization software (VMware View and ThinApp) and by pursuing various cloud-based initiatives. VMware has worked with partners to set up cloud networks that let customers run workloads either inside their own data centers in virtual machines or in a public cloud network. VMware is also working on something called "Project Horizon," which will apparently deliver cloud-based applications to users regardless of what device or operating system they're using.

VMware also just acquired TriCipher, a security company, in an attempt to apply a single-sign-on model to apps running in the enterprise data center and the cloud.

VMware is trying to be the company that helps IT deliver applications to any sort of device, but in a manner that enforces security policies and gives IT control over which users may access which applications.

These ambitions naturally lead to some concerns about vendor lock-in. For example, VMware's cloud initiative has raised questions about whether applications that run on VMware servers will be portable to other hypervisors, or from one cloud to another.

VMware executives briefly addressed these concerns by noting that the Open Virtualization Format has just received an endorsement from the American National Standards institute. The OVF is a project of the Distributed Management Task Force, which counts VMware, Microsoft and Citrix among its 15 board members.

The OVF's advancement will allow "portability of workloads between virtualization environments," said VMware chief marketing officer Rick Jackson. 

Follow Jon Brodkin on Twitter.

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