It looks that EMC has finally admitted it needs a better approach for courting developers and is doing something significant to fix this. No longer will key assets like Greenplum, Pivotal, or Spring flounder in a corporate culture dominated by infrastructure thinking and selling. 

After months of rumors about a possible spin-out going unaddressed, EMC pulled the trigger today, asking Terry Anderson, its VP of Corporate Communications, to put out an official acknowledgement on one of it its blogs (a stealthy, investor-relations-centric move) of its plans to aggregate its cloud and big data assets and give them concentrated focus. It didn't officially announce a spin out or even the creation of a new division. Nor did it clearly identify the role former VMware CEO Paul Maritz will play in this new gathering. But it did clarify what assets would be pushed into this new group:

  1. SpringSource – VMware bought this highly popular Java framework developer in hopes of leveraging it to build a new generation cloud OS spanning from its vSphere hypervisor up to the Tomcat JVM. Spring had recently launched a platform-as-a-service offering based on this framework, CloudFoundry. VMware, however, had higher priorities around hardening its hypervisor in the wake of strong competition coming from Microsoft and the open source communities and thus ended up starving Spring of the resources needed to fulfill this vision. On top of this, VMware saddled SpringSource with a sales force that knew how to sell to the infrastructure & operations buyer – not the developer. To its credit, however, VMware did advance the PaaS SpringSource had brought into the company, which has become a popular foundation for AppFog, ActiveState, and others. And the company might still deliver – its own public PaaS offering. VMware also brought together Rabbit MQ, GemFire, and Spring assets to form vFabric, a bit of a move toward on-premises PaaS. Spring remains very popular with enterprise developers. With a new lease on life, it should be able to finally build on this and carry these developers into the new era.
  2. Pivotal Labs – This reorganization of assets is being called "The Pivotal Initiative," which certainly suggests the level of importance this social application development environment will play. The Pivotal Tracker may have been the centerpiece EMC was after when it bought this San Francisco-based startup, but its role in this new group will more likely be centered around the role it plays in helping enterprises shift to Agile development and cloud development. If VMware's Socialcast gets added to this mix, it could help EMC play a role in social-enabling applications, something that had grown key for Oracle,, Microsoft, and many others.  
  3. Greenplum – EMC acquired this big data disruptor in hopes of ensuring that this hot analytics trend would tie back to (and keep in place) EMC storage assets. However, the company needed a more concerted effort to sell to data scientists, business analysts, and data warehouse buyers to make this as successful as hoped. Greenplum has since spun its business model to focus more on Hadoop and cloud-based delivery, where the buyer is quickly overlapping with development.
  4. Cetas – VMware bought this big data analytics vendor and caused a lot of head scratching. Sure, big data in the cloud runs on a hypervisor. Sure, big data can be built in Java using the Spring framework. But aren't these just adjacencies? Where's the one-plus-one-equals-three or greater? Pairing Cetas with Greenplum makes much more sense.
  5. Other assets – VMware had already folded Gemfire into Spring, and that moves over here too. Beyond that, all EMC is saying is "additional related assets." Could this be assets from Documentum or RSA? Anyone else in the company who knows anything about development and is looking for a fresh start? What about its other floundering cloud-like services – Atmos, Zimbra, Rumors are still out there that these last three may just be spun out in yet another new group focused on selling EMC assets and services to hosting providers.

Is this a good move? Heck yeah! But they better get their own go-to-market and sales teams. Combining these R&D teams will allow for some much-needed cross-collaboration, which could result in some powerful combinations and outgrowths. Way too soon to speculate on the end results, but this could help EMC play a significant role in cloud development services. Hopefully this new business unit, division, spin-off  – sorry – group will focus on cloud-based delivery and not build its business model around on-premises software license sales. It has a tremendous opportunity to ignore the past and focus on building something truly new for the next generation of cloud-native applications. Here's hoping that's exactly what it will do.

Now we can speculate for the next four months, as the formal announcement of what this is won't come until Q2 2013. 

For thoughts on what this means for the I&O buyer, read Dave Bartoletti's blog about this announcement


Dave Bartoletti, John Rymer, and Rob Koplowitz contributed to this report.