VMware is a leading provider of virtualization software and cloud computing services. The company was founded in 1998 and has grown to become a dominant player in the virtualization space. But who exactly created this pioneering company?
In this article, we’ll look at the origins of VMware and dive into the backgrounds of its founders. Understanding who created VMware provides interesting insights into the early days of enterprise virtualization.
The Founders of VMware
VMware was founded by four individuals:
- Diane Greene
- Mendel Rosenblum
- Scott Devine
- Edward Wang
These four founders each brought unique expertise that allowed them to develop the initial virtualization technology that would become VMware’s first product, VMware Workstation.
Diane Greene is a MIT-trained computer scientist and one of the leading entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. She served as VMware’s CEO from 1998 to 2008.
Greene studied mechanical engineering as an undergrad at MIT, followed by a master’s degree and PhD in computer science, also from MIT. Her doctoral work focused on virtualization and foundational research into resource partitioning and distributed systems.
After MIT, Greene worked at a number of technology startups, gaining experience in enterprise software development. Notably, she co-founded a company called VXtreme in 1997, which developed tools for streaming media over Internet networks.
When VXtreme was acquired by Microsoft in 1997, Greene took her share of the proceeds and looked for her next opportunity. This led her to connect with Stanford computer scientists Mendel Rosenblum, Scott Devine and Edward Wang, who had developed innovative virtualization technologies for x86 architectures.
Sensing the commercial potential for their research, Greene co-founded VMware along with Rosenblum, Devine and Wang in 1998. She served as the company’s CEO for 10 years, overseeing massive growth that culminated in a $625 million acquisition by storage giant EMC in 2004.
Mendel Rosenblum was an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University when he co-founded VMware. His research areas included virtualization, operating systems, distributed systems and security.
Rosenblum completed his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Virginia before earning a master’s and PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley.
At Stanford, Rosenblum met his future wife Diane Greene, who was also a computer science professor there at the time. The two would later go on to co-found VMware together.
In the 1990s, Rosenblum worked on early virtualization technologies for UNIX and Linux systems. But a key breakthrough came when he and fellow Stanford researchers were able to develop fast and efficient virtualization for x86 architectures. At the time, many experts believed x86 virtualization was impossible due to the architecture’s lack of virtualization support.
Rosenblum led the initial development of the VMware Workstation product. He also invented the company’s core virtualization layer, known as the VMware Virtual Machine Monitor.
Along with his technical contributions, Rosenblum played an important role in guiding VMware’s business strategy in the early years. He served on the company’s board of directors until 2003.
Scott Devine was the third Stanford computer scientist who co-founded VMware along with Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum.
Devine received his undergraduate degree in math from the University of Wisconsin. He later got his master’s degree in computer science from UC Berkeley before coming to Stanford for his PhD. There he focused on distributed operating systems research and first crossed paths with Rosenblum.
Following Stanford, Devine worked at a number of Silicon Valley startups. This included leading the systems infrastructure team at RealNetworks.
When Greene and Rosenblum were looking to launch a new company focused on virtualization, they recruited Devine due to his mix of systems programming experience and academic research background. At VMware, Devine took on the role of Chief Technology Officer.
Devine led the engineering team that developed the initial Workstation product. He also managed the core kernel virtualization technology behind VMware. Like Rosenblum, he served on VMware’s board in the early days but stepped away from day-to-day management around 2003.
Edouard Bugnion was the fourth and final co-founder of VMware. He was another doctoral student of Mendel Rosenblum at Stanford focused on virtualization and operating systems research.
Originally from Switzerland, Bugnion studied computer science at ETH Zurich before coming to Stanford for his PhD. There he worked on runtime partitioning methods that enabled efficient virtualization on commodity Intel processors.
Bugnion is credited with developing key technology for VMware, including the binary translation system that enabled virtual machines to run unmodified operating systems. He also created the virtual machine monitor component that mediated access between guest operating systems and the underlying hardware.
Along with Rosenblum, Bugnion is considered a pioneer in the field of hardware virtualization. Their research at Stanford in the 1990s laid the groundwork for the enterprise adoption of virtual infrastructure.
Like Devine, Bugnion served as CTO in the early days of VMware. He left the company in the early 2000s but remained close to its technology as the co-founder of a VMware spin-off called Nuova Systems.
Developing the First VMware Product
With complementing expertise across systems software, virtualization, business strategy and startup experience, the four founders were well-positioned to launch a new company. Their first order of business was developing a commercial product based on their virtualization research.
Proof of Concept
In late 1997, Rosenblum, Bugnion, Devine and others from Stanford published a paper titled “Implementing POWER virtualization on the IBM RISC System/6000.” This outlined a proof of concept for full virtualization on a commercial RISC-based architecture.
The research got noticed by major server vendors who were intrigued by its possibilities. However, when they approached the Stanford team about licensing the technology, the researchers realized the intellectual property belonged to the university.
This led the founders to launch a startup that could fully own and develop the virtualization technology. Greene was brought in to lead the new company, called VMware, as CEO.
In 1999, VMware released its first product: VMware Workstation. This allowed software developers and IT professionals to run multiple operating systems concurrently on a single workstation.
Developing and testing complex multi-OS environments was previously challenging and required maintaining separate hardware systems. With Workstation, users could create virtual machines running different operating systems all on the same PC.
The initial release supported Windows and Linux virtual machines. VMware Workstation provided features like isolated virtual networks, disk resources and device emulation. Users could even migrate live VMs between host systems.
VMware Workstation was an immediate hit with engineers, programmers and sysadmins. Within a year, over 200,000 copies of Workstation were sold. This early success with Workstation set the stage for even greater growth.
Expanding Virtualization to Servers and Data Centers
Following the popularity of Workstation, Greene and the VMware team saw an opportunity to bring virtualization to enterprise server and data center environments. This led to the development of two seminal products: GSX Server and ESX Server.
In 2001, VMware introduced GSX Server. This allowed organizations to partition a single physical server into multiple virtual machines running independent operating systems and workloads.
GSX Server was designed as a “hosted” architecture. It ran as an application within a traditional OS like Windows or Linux. The virtual machines then ran on top of the host OS.
This made GSX Server easy to deploy on existing x86 servers. However, it carried some performance overhead since everything went through the host OS kernel. Still, it provided a valuable entry point for server consolidation using virtualization.
The following year, VMware launched ESX Server, which represented a major technical step forward. ESX used a “bare metal” or hypervisor architecture that interfaced directly with the server hardware.
Unlike GSX, ESX Server did not require an OS like Windows or Linux. The ESX hypervisor had its own kernel optimized for virtualization. This removed the performance tax of going through a general-purpose OS.
ESX also introduced advanced resource controls for storage, memory, network bandwidth and other elements. This enabled true isolation and quality of service between virtual machines residing on a shared server.
The initial release supported up to 4-way SMP systems. But subsequent versions scaled beyond 4 CPU sockets all the way up to 64-way systems. ESX quickly became the preferred platform for large production workloads due to its performance, stability and ecosystem support.
Rapid Growth and Acquisition by EMC
With pioneering server virtualization products entering the market in the early 2000s, VMware experienced tremendous growth. By 2003, the company had reached nearly $100 million in annual revenue.
As adoption ramped up, large established tech firms took notice. EMC Corporation, the market leader in enterprise storage systems, recognized how VMware’s virtualization technology could complement their product line.
In December 2003, EMC announced an agreement to acquire VMware for approximately $625 million. This provided EMC direct access to VMware’s industry-leading virtualization platform. It also gave VMware substantially more resources and sales reach under the EMC umbrella.
Over the next several years under EMC, VMware experienced even greater mainstream success. Total revenue grew over 10x from the time of acquisition to reach $1.9 billion by 2008.
The company also successfully transitioned beyond its initial server virtualization offerings. New capabilities were added for storage virtualization, desktop virtualization, cloud computing and other infrastructure services.
This expansion transformed VMware from simply a virtual machine company into a broad enterprise infrastructure platform provider. Today it remains one of the most influential and successful enterprise software vendors of the 21st century.
- VMware was founded in 1998 by four Stanford University computer scientists: Diane Greene, Mendel Rosenblum, Scott Devine and Edward Bugnion.
- Greene’s business expertise and the founders’ technical skills in virtualization combined to get VMware off the ground.
- Their first product was VMware Workstation in 1999 which virtualized desktop OS environments.
- GSX Server (2001) and ESX Server (2002) brought full virtualization to enterprise x86 servers and data centers.
- Rapid revenue growth and industry-leading technology led EMC to acquire VMware in 2003 for $625 million.
- Over the next decade under EMC, VMware became a multi-billion dollar leader in virtualization and enterprise infrastructure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who were the original founders of VMware?
The original founders of VMware were Diane Greene, Mendel Rosenblum, Scott Devine, and Edward Bugnion. The four founders met at Stanford University where they were involved in pioneering research into virtualization technologies.
When was VMware founded?
VMware was incorporated in 1998 based on virtualization technology developed at Stanford University in the mid-1990s. The company was founded by Diane Green, Mendel Rosenblum, Scott Devine and Edouard Bugnion.
Where did the founders of VMware meet?
The four co-founders of VMWare met at Stanford University. Rosenblum and Bugnion were PhD students, while Devine was a research assistant. Greene was a professor in the Computer Science department at the time.
What backgrounds did the VMware founders have?
Diane Greene had expertise in enterprise software and startup operations. The three others had deep technical research backgrounds in virtualization and operating systems. This complementary mix of skills helped drive VMware’s early success.
What was VMware’s first product?
VMware’s first product was called VMware Workstation. Launched in 1999, Workstation allowed developers and IT professionals to run multiple operating systems concurrently on a single PC.
When did VMware’s first server product launch?
After the success of VMware workstation, the company launched its first server virtualization product called GSX Sever in 2001. This was followed by ESX Server in 2002 which became VMware’s core data center platform.
What was significant about ESX Server?
ESX Server was architected as a bare metal hypervisor that interfaced directly with server hardware for maximum performance and stability. Previous solutions relied on a host operating system which added overhead.
When did EMC acquire VMware?
Storage giant EMC acquired VMware in December of 2003 for approximately $625 million. EMC recognized the value of VMware’s virtualization technology and the acquisition helped spur even faster mainstream enterprise adoption.
How much was VMware worth at time of EMC acquisition?
When EMC acquired VMware in 2003, VMware had total annual revenue of just under $100 million. The purchase price was $625 million, valuing the company at around 6-7x yearly revenue.
Did VMware founders stay after EMC acquisition?
VMware founders Diane Greene and Mendel Rosenblum both stepped back from day-to-day operations around 2003 after the EMC acquisition. Scott Devine and Edward Bugnion had already moved on from executive roles by that point.
Who replaced Diane Greene as CEO of VMware?
Paul Maritz, a former top executive at Microsoft, replaced Diane Greene as VMware CEO in July 2008. Greene stepped down as part of a change in leadership orchestrated by EMC.
Is VMware still a part of EMC today?
No. In 2016 Dell acquired EMC in a deal valued at $67 billion. As part of this, VMware became a subsidiary of Dell Technologies but continues to operate largely as an independent company.
Is VMware the market leader in virtualization?
Yes, VMware remains the market leader in server virtualization and software-defined data center infrastructure. Key competitors include Microsoft, Citrix, Nutanix and Red Hat.
What was VMware’s IPO date?
VMware completed its initial public offering (IPO) of stock on August 14, 2007. The company was first acquired by EMC in 2003 while still private. The IPO raised over $1 billion.
How many employees does VMware have today?
As of late 2022, VMware employs over 37,000 people worldwide. The company has continued to grow both revenue and headcount substantially since being acquired by EMC in 2003.
What are VMware’s main product lines today?
VMware’s core product portfolio now includes vSphere Cloud Foundation, vSAN, NSX, vRealize Operations etc. The company provides a full stack of on-premises and cloud virtualization infrastructure.
Who is the current CEO of VMware?
Raghu Raghuram became VMware CEO in June 2021, replacing Pat Gelsinger who left to run Intel. Raghuram had previously served as VMware COO and head of products and cloud services.
Does VMware only do virtualization?
No. While virtualization remains core to its business, VMware now provides a broad range of infrastructure and cloud computing software across areas like hybrid cloud, multi-cloud management, networking & security.
What company split off from VMware in the 2000s?
Nuova Systems was launched in 2004 by VMware co-founder Edouard Bugnion and some former VMware engineers. Nuova developed hypervisor technology for Cisco UCS servers before being acquired by Cisco in 2008.
VMware’s founding by Diane Greene, Mendel Rosenblum, Scott Devine and Edward Bugnion marked the beginning of a new era in enterprise computing. Their pioneering work in virtualization and multi-OS systems laid the groundwork for the cloud model we know today.
The founders’ vision and execution allowed VMware to rapidly evolve from a startup to global enterprise leader and Dell subsidiary powering modern data center infrastructure. Millions of organizations today rely on the virtualization technology originally created by this forward-thinking team of Stanford computer scientists.