Correction at 7:40 a.m. Friday: The spelling of Xen has been corrected. Thanks to the reader who pointed out the typo.
Old friend and East Coast VC bigwig Bob Davoli has long had a theory about successful technology companies that goes something like this. Success begins with strong products that establish a large customer-installed base. Once the product gains traction, users find the need for supporting technologies and tools. The product vendor will certainly provide these but the real success metric is when third parties see demand and join the fray. Finally, as the product scope grows, it also carries more operational overhead and complexity. Service providers are only too happy to take over these tasks for end users.
When this cycle occurs, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Everyone promotes the technology in order to sell their own wares. In other words, the original product turns into a technology ecosystem.
Technology veterans will certainly recognize this pattern and have lots of examples. It happened with relational databases, Windows, and even the Apple iPod. Now it's happening with VMware. That's right. What was once a tool to improve server utilization for engineers is now an ecosystem of third-party products and services. ESG's server virtualization guru Mark Bowker tells me that there were 15,000 people at the Moscone Center for VMworld. Heck, that's almost as many as RSA and that's the premier security event in the U.S. I'd say that's pretty impressive.
What this tells me is that regardless of what happens with Windows Server 2008, Xen, or Citrix, VMware wins. In the technology world, ecosystems trump products every time.