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VMWare, SpringSource to revolutionize Java development

With VMWare's acquisition of SpringSource, Java's relevance to cloud application development has never seemed stronger. However, the real story here is how application deployment and operations may be made much more developer friendly.

VMWare's acquisition of SpringSource this week is a significant development in the history of the Java development platform.

I have been working closely with VMWare for some time now, and I know a little bit about how the company sees its role in the cloud. The acquisition of the commercial open-source middleware/framework company makes perfect sense to me.

SpringSource gives VMWare a development "platform," of sorts, to deliver in VMWare-based cloud services and a unique declarative environment in which to define both application construction and deployment architectures. The vision painted by SpringSource CEO Rod Johnson speaks to an environment in which developers can declare not only how objects should connect with one another, but how they should be packaged into virtual machines and deployed into the virtualized infrastructure:

Working together with VMware we plan on creating a single, integrated, build-run-manage solution for the data center, private clouds, and public clouds. A solution that exploits knowledge of the application structure, and collaboration with middleware and management components, to ensure optimal efficiency and resiliency of the supporting virtual environment at deployment time and during runtime. A solution that will deliver a Platform as a Service (Paas) built around technologies that you already know, which can slash cost and complexity. A solution built around open, portable middleware technologies that can run on traditional Java EE application servers in a conventional data center and on Amazon EC2 and other elastic compute environments as well as on the VMware platform.

Much of the early analysis of this acquisition has focused on how it plays as a counter to Microsoft Azure, which--when combined with the Hyper-V virtualization platform--threatens VMWare's dominance in the enterprise. Forrester Research's James Staten thinks it's much more than that, however:

VMware has a bigger agenda SpringSource helps to fulfill making vCloud bigger than simply an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) alternative and keeping Microsoft at bay. Enterprises are already demanding that cloud environments and internal cloud solutions support their hypervisor standard VMware. So it wasn't going to be a stretch to get vCloud adopted, assuming it delivered as promised. But the battle isn't IaaS, it's becoming the equivalent of the operating system for the next generation data center and you can't achieve that aim without applications; and you can't become application-relevant without being relevant to developers.

Redmonk's Stephen O'Grady thinks it's not just about the development and integration, but also about tooling:

When (colleague Michael) Cote and I met with SpringSource CEO Rod Johnson at OSCON a few weeks ago, one of the primary topics of discussion was the development experience. This could wind up one of the unheralded benefits of the acquisition: Rod gets the tooling story. He understands that Microsoft, again, is setting the bar for the development experience by allowing its developers to localize the cloud environment via Visual Studio. With VMware's virtualization capabilities, the tooling story for SpringSource could get very interesting vis a vis cloud development and deployment.

This goes to the vision that has me most excited about the future of cloud computing right now. I think that there are technologies evolving for both public and private clouds that actually give developers and solutions architects just as much control over every element of how their applications are built, deployed, and operated as they have had in the past.

These technologies are a combination of declarative descriptive configuration policies and automated software and systems that can interpret those policies and respond as required. Contrary to Harvard Professor Jonathan Zittrain's well-read New York Times OpEd piece, developers would keep control over their application environments.

SaaS offerings could allow for customization at levels of granularity unthinkable before Spring demonstrated dynamic instantiation. Custom applications deployed to IaaS offerings could declare that they require a isolated networks for backplane communication, connectivity to two different storage systems by name (perhaps even one in the cloud and one through FCoE), or provide monitoring through specific protocols.

By the way, I don't think VMWare is the only company that can achieve this vision. As noted in the earlier quotes, Microsoft is in a great position to allow a similar story for its developers, assuming it partners with the right systems companies to push dynamic configuration beyond Hyper-V into the physical infrastructure layers. .Net and the Microsoft tool set are already quite capable of delivering significant coordination between application development and deployment. Citrix and Red Hat, by contrast, do not yet seem to have such a sophisticated vision.

Oh, and VMWare got cloud monitoring powerhouse Hyperic in the deal as well. More on that in a later post.

I'd love to hear your opinion of the VMWare's acquisition of SpringSource. Is it as important as the cloud pundits and I say it is, or is there little excitement to be found here?

Follow James Urquhart on Twitter.