Avram Grant was ousted at Chelsea after taking the club to within an ace of the Premiership and Champions League so perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised to hear that VMware is parting company with its CEO despite having become the most successful business technology startup of the last 10 years.
The news that Diane Greene is walking the plank at the virtualisation flagship will shock many, however, for several reasons.
One, VMware remains a company in hypergrowth. Even with a downgraded outlook that came in tandem with the Greene announcement, VMware expects to grow at close to 50 per cent year on year.
Two, VMware stock is highly prized. Even trading near its year low, the company is valued at well over $15bn, making it a peer of veteran software bellwethers like Symantec and Adobe.
Three, Greene has deep roots at the company, having founded VMware with her husband Mendel Rosenblum in 1998.
Possibly, it’s this last fact that did for Greene’s stewardship. VMware owner EMC seems to have wanted a person in charge who had more experience of running a big company. Her replacement Paul Maritz hasn’t been the CEO of a blue-chip but he did run a huge franchise - Microsoft Windows. Also, it might not hurt the company that, as Microsoft ramps up its virtualisation challenge, VMware has a person in charge who is intimately familiar with Redmond strategy. Also, Maritz joined EMC through an acquisition of Pi, his cloud computing project, and that could be a pointer to the direction EMC is charting for its subsidiary.
“Paul Maritz will be the man steering the ship, and I wonder whether his experience in the cloud computing space will impact the direction the company moves in,” said Parallels CEO Serguei Beloussov in an email.
“We see the cloud model, including software as a service and hosting, playing a prominent role in the future of IT and virtualisation will help enable this evolution. There is clear user demand for software to be offered in this way, so it will be interesting to see whether Paul focuses on this opportunity, shifting from selling primarily to the enterprise data centre to targeting service providers.”
Either way, Greene is gone and the first sign of a chink in VMware’s armour is apparent. Competitors won’t be shy of pointing out to CIOs that virtualisation software needn’t equal VMware.