back to article VMware turns 25 today: Is it a mature professional or headed back to Mom's house?

In a decade of watching VMware, I've encountered two unverified but irresistible legends about the company. One is set in the very, very early days of the company, perhaps even before it opened for business. In this legend, IBM approaches VMware because Big Blue had sniffed the wind, realized x86 servers were going to be a …

  1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

    customer for ~23 years

    Been a customer since 1999, when VMware was a desktop product for Linux hosts only(if I recall right), Windows support didn't come till 2000 maybe? For whatever reason I started keeping historical copies of my vmware desktop versions on my server, turned into a mini hoard of sorts, but am just a bit fascinated by the sheer number of builds it has gone through and the size of the resulting installer package over the years.

    The oldest copy of vmware I have is 2.0.3 build 799, which is 5.9MB in size, has a file timestamp of Jan 12 2001(files inside appear to be dated Nov 2000). The README says their officially supported distros were Caldera 1.3->2.4, Red Hat 5.x->6.2, and SuSE 6.0->6.4 (I ran it on Debian 2.x). Looks like this could even be a beta, there is a CHANGES file inside that says "VMware Beta 2.0 for Linux contains many improvements over VMware 1.x for Linux", unsure if perhaps they just forgot to remove that reference from the final. I assume not beta since it is 2.0.3 not 2.0.0.

    I had at one point a "VMware for Linux 1.0.2" CD, kept it for a long time, then I lost it somehow a decade ago.

    By ~2006 I have VMware workstation 4.5.3 build 19,414 and is 41MB in size. Looks like it took the name "workstation" starting with 3.0.0 (build 1455, 9.3MB Nov 2001).

    The latest version of vmware I have is Workstation 16.2.4(I know 17 is out already of course), build number 20,089,737, and is 523MB. Timestamp of Nov 1 2022, though I'm sure it's older than that.

    Just sort of blows my mind they have apparently run almost 20 million builds of vmware between these 2 versions.

    Also ran GSX, later VMware server, then started with ESX with version 3.5(for me around 2006/7), though others at my org at the time were using earlier versions of ESX in their test labs, and they made extensive use of GSX too back then (~2004).

    I saw recently VMware's product page has nearly 180 products on it, though I only use Workstation, ESXi, and vCenter. Some of the other products look neat just way down on the list of priorities as far as budgeting goes that I've never considered purchasing them.

    The VMware hypervisor products have been among the most solid pieces of software I've used in my career, which has made me very loyal to the platform. I know many folks can get burned on their more bleeding edge releases but I haven't been on the bleeding edge since ESX 4.0 came out(was very excited for that release, and none since). So very very few issues and my configurations are very conservative as well. I waited till far after ESX(didn't use/want ESXi, I liked the thick hypervisor) 4.1 was EOL before installing (not upgrading to) ESXi 5.5, waited till a year or so after that was EOL before installing (not upgrading to) 6.5, which is where things are today still. I've missed out on all the early "fun" bugs in 7.x(and probably the earlier releases too skipping 5.0,5.1 and 6.0). I didn't upgrade to workstation 16 until a a couple weeks before 17 came out, I have a license to 17, just no immediate plans to use it, 16 does everything I need(as did 15, only reason I changed was I got a new computer, though new computer runs the same Linux Mint+MATE 20 that the old computer did, and will run Mint 20 until at least 2025).

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: customer for ~23 years

      "Just sort of blows my mind they have apparently run almost 20 million builds of vmware between these 2 versions."

      That's a lot of builds.

      2001 1,455 .. 2006 19,414 = 9.841 builds / day

      2006 19,414 .. 2022 20,089,737 = 3,436 builds / day

      I wonder if the build number is unique across all their products.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: customer for ~23 years

        No, it's a common builder for many of the products, not just release builds but all builds,, and it builds constantly.

        Still, that is a crazy number!!

    2. Notas Badoff

      Re: customer for ~23 years

      Glad that their product evolution has been of service to you. My oldest order is dated 2000/12, for Linux and Windows products. I even bought a copy for my brother-in-law in 2009 to save him boots to DOS for some software he was reviving.

      But what brings me here is: "The company started life serving developers with a desktop hypervisor so they could more easily test their work in multiple environments."

      And so I last bought VMware in 2014, when with lack of support, dropped features, and inflation of prices they left this developer behind.

      I understand that it's a cutthroat world out there. And the stock market demands more and more revenue/profit. But this developer customer thought I was supporting the company. Instead we were the throw-aways on the road to victory.

  2. lockt-in

    ESXi Essentials rock solid. ...Wouldn't it be a shame if Windows breaks on it....

    I used ESX then ESXi Essentials for many years for lots of server VMs, rock solid, easy and intuitive to use. Since then, I have managed many Hyper-V setups, the VMWare product is excellent in comparison, no wonder it survived Microsoft's give away pricing*.

    I only used the Essentials version of ESXi as the pricing was too high for better. I would love to have had the budget, would have saved me many hours!

    * It isn't only Microsoft's product dumping pricing, I remember a few years ago Microsoft released a Windows update that broke the network stack in the Windows VMs on VMWare, so I didn't roll out to all servers, the coming weekend there were numerous data centre outages around the world, ...only effecting Windows on VMWare. I can't believe that this got through Microsoft's testing without Microsoft being aware it would break their Windows on VMWare, so a Mafia style of behaviour.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: ESXi Essentials rock solid. ...Wouldn't it be a shame if Windows breaks on it....

      " I can't believe that this got through Microsoft's testing without Microsoft being aware it would break their Windows on VMWare"

      I can.

  3. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Centers of excellence

    I would like to mention the excellence of their sales staff. About fifteen years ago, I was in a meeting in which the VMWare sales people were pitching their product. In response to a question, I said that we were using Product X. The VMWare staff exchanged glances, and one asked, "Product X? Are they still in business?". Had my boss not been in the meeting, this would just have been good clean fun, but he was susceptible to this kind of thing. It was a while before he was pacified, by learning that someone that he had to listen to was still using Product X.

    Product X is gone. We do have VMWare, but I don't know for how much longer. Someone else, also susceptible, wants us off in the cloud.

  4. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    virtual machines on x86 were exotic

    There was no HW virtualization support in x86 at that time. It took guts to make a full virtualization product around intercepting privileged instructions in SW, and it took a suitably nasty mindset to include a prohibition on publishing benchmarks in the EULAs that were fodder for chuckles around coffee machines and for seriously fun OS lecture topics.

    But it worked then and became fast after Intel and AMD did their bits around 2006. I never kept detailed records but I am pretty sure I've been using VMware for 22+ years, too. Even had to learn some PowerShell only for their API - can't imagine this kind of sacrifice for anything else </smirk>.

    Thanks, and happy birthday!

  5. pip25

    That brings back memories

    I first encountered VMware in a magazine article around 2000, when such computer magazines were still a thing. It heralded virtualization as something new and groundbreaking (I'm not sure the author was aware of the prior non-x86 virtualization efforts El Reg refers to), but I remember myself blinking in confusion. Why would you use a computer... to simulate another computer, especially one with the exact same architecture? Of course, I was only 16 at the time and not at all aware of what the stuff meant for the industry.

    It's good to see that VMware is still around. I tend to use desktop virtualization and Virtualbox most of the time, but if there is one thing I've learned since reading that article back in the day, it is that our line of work desperately needs alternatives. Preferably more than one. So here's to another 25 fruitful years, VMware. :)

    1. Nate Amsden Silver badge

      Re: That brings back memories

      Back in the late 90s, Linux users especially wanted easier/better ways to run windows apps. WINE was around then but not too good. I do recall trying out Bochs at one point in I guess 1998, I found my screenshots ( censored some stuff from them), probably running Debian 2.0 with Linux 2.1.123, and probably a beta of KDE(that was the only time I seriously used KDE, switched to AfterStep not long after).

      My main memory from Bochs was it was SO SLOW. Totally unusable for anything outside of taking screenshots to say hey yes I did this. I found in an unrelated screenshot from May 1998 my hardware at the time was a P233MMX(overclock from 200, only time I ever overclocked), 128MB EDO ram, and a Number 9 Imagine 128 Series 2 video card, with AcceleratedX 4.1, and as of May 1998 running KDE Beta 4 (before 1.0 I assume) on a 14" monitor.

      When Vmware for linux came out it was fast, very usable. Stable too, I really don't recall many, if any issues with it crashing or anything. I don't recall my hardware changing too significantly from late 1998 (when the Bochs screenshots were taken) to sometime in 1999 when I got Vmware for linux.

  6. talk_is_cheap

    its been a long time.

    I started to use it back in 98/99 in a development environment where there was a need for 1001 different test systems and VMWARE's tools on the desktop basically turned a rack space problem into a disk space problem.

    I've been sticking VMware into sites ever since with the only problem time being when they decided that they were going to try and charge based on memory usage.

    Even today I still use VMware, but the VMs are likely to be hosting whole systems defined as docker containers or k8s environments.

    It works and it provides a common environment to all logical systems so I no longer have to worry about every new network card driver release for every deployment system and OS version.

  7. Randall Shimizu

    It is bizarre that IBM decided to ignore virtualization on X86 platforms. IBM invented virtualization over 30 years ago. To this day IBM's dynamic logical partitioning is probably the most advanced virtualization virtualization technology. DLPAR has the ability to instantiate & load balance new VM's on the fly. OS/2 had highly advanced virtualization back in the day.

  8. Rgen

    It will go downhill if Broadcom takes over

  9. Jason Hindle

    Open Stack

    I get the sense we’re starting to see the slow decline of VMWare, increasingly squeezed between the public cloud and Open Stack on prem.

  10. Korgonzolla

    First job in IT was as a graduate in 2005 working on EMC Symmetrix and migrating hundreds of physical Windows Server boxes to SAN and VMware. It's easy to forget just how revolutionary Vmware was at the time. I know the concept of virtualisation wasn't even that new at the time, as the guys in the Mainframe team kept telling us, but it really felt like we were working with technology that was very different than had gone before.

    The less said about the unholy trilogy of Windows Server clusters, VMware, and EMC SRDF the better though.

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