VMware History – Part 1 – The first 5 Years

VMware History – Part 1 – The first 5 Years

The idea of these pages is to provide a timeline for the full history of VMware.

There have been a few sites that have created a timeline of the history of VMware in past.  VMware even have their own timeline on their website:  https://www.vmware.com/timeline.html

Unfortunately, although the VMware interactive timeline is visually very good, it tends to skip over some of the acquisitions and items from the history of VMware, mainly because they are not relevant to the direction that the company is going in now.

My belief is that each action and experience in life moulds the person into what they are now, and this is the same for companies as well.  If some of the false starts on technology or acquisitions hadn’t happened, then would VMware be the company it is today?… it may well be a similar company but it wouldn’t be the same company it is.

I hope you find it interesting, I certainly found it interesting to put together.  I have tried to add references to blog posts, web pages etc. where I have used external sources but I apologise to anyone, if I happen to have missed a reference.

This covers the first 5 years of VMware from 1998 to 2003… additional posts will continue the story.

10 February 1998
VMware Founded

Going back to the very beginning, if we think about 1998 and what a fundamental year it was, here are some highlights:

  • If you are from Europe, then the Euro was introduced
  • Microsoft became the biggest company in the world and released Windows 98
  • Titanic won 11 Oscars at the 70th Academy Awards
  • Google was founded as a simple search engine
  • Amazon was just a web book shop

But back in February 1998, 5 people, Diane Greene, Ed Bugnion, Scott Devine, Mendel Rosenblum and Edward Wang created VMware

We have to understand how revolutionary the ideas created by the team were.  We are talking about a time when it was standard to install a physical server for every function you had on your network.  Most of those servers would be under-utilised just consuming power and doing nothing for most of the time.  At the time it was usual to see CPU utilisation being around 1% - 5%.





15th May 1999
VMware 1.0 Released

The first product released by VMware was VMware 1.0 (this would later become VMware Workstation).  This first product was presented at DEMO 1999.  The Wall Street Journal declared "VMware Brings Freedom of Choice to Your Desktop".

This was the first application that allowed you to run multiple operating systems on a single x86 machine.  The VMware Virtual Platform technology added a thin software layer that allowed multiple guest operating systems to run concurrently on a single standard PC.

The requirements for this capability were reasonable even in 1999 requiring a Pentium II 266Mhz processor and 64MB of memory.  A decent computer around 1999 would be running a Pentium III 600Mhz CPU with 128MB of memory.  This meant that this software was not out of the reach of normal users.

Virtual machines with up to 2GB memory were supported.  VMware 1.0 was able to run virtual instances of MS-DOS 6, Windows 95/98, Windows NT, Red Hat 5.0, SuSE Linux 5.3 and FreeBSD 2.2.8, 3.0 and 3.1

What we need to remember is that this product was a type 2 hypervisor meaning that it needed to run on either Windows or Linux - so you would have an operating system that you log onto and then load up the software to start the virtual machines.  This is how Workstation and Fusion work today.

The downside of this software was that it was slow... it would take approximately 30 minutes just to boot a virtual machine.

Throughout 1999, VMware released various updates for VMware 1.0 with several patches being released and then later in 1999, VMware for Windows 1.0 and VMware for Linux 1.1 were released.

2,260 universities purchased VMware 1.0 and VMware reached bookings of $1 million.






3rd March 2000
VMware 2.0 Released

The obvious next development of the software was to release an updated version and this came in the form of VMware 2.0 in 2000.

Admittedly, most people don't like to adopt a piece of software with a version number of 1.0, so this along with some new capability were probably the reason why VMware 2.0 was released just under a year after their first piece of software was released.

The new functionality in question was the capability to support "suspend and instant restore".  This was the technology which allowed for you to suspend the virtual machine to disk and to instantly restore the state of the virtual machine without having to reboot.   Also in VMware 2.0, there was the ability to shrink virtual disks (although not recommended) and the capability to use either bridged or host-only networking to connect the VM to a network.  If you are interested in knowing the build numbers, then VMware 2.0 was build number 476.

Again, throughout 2000 and early 2001, subsequent patches were released for VMware 2.0 resulting in VMware 2.0.4 (build 1142) being released on 21st May 2001.




23rd March 2001
ESX Server 1.0 Released

VMware realised the potential that server virtualisation could bring to the world and was already working on developing a type 1 hypervisor.  The difference with a type 1 hypervisor would be that it can be installed on bare metal, no longer requiring another operating system to run on.  This could be seen to provide a number of benefits, especially with the resource overhead reduction caused by not having another operating system running in the background (such as Windows).

Before ESX Server was released, early versions of the product were called 'VMware Scalable Server' and 'VMware Workgroup Server'.

Not much is known about VMware Scalable Server and VMware Workgroup Server.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of VMware knows about the crazy names that were assigned to some of their earlier products and then shortened into the names that we know today.

Well the most famous of the names is ESX.  A marketing firm hired by VMware were tasked with creating a product name for the new software.  They believed that Elastic Sky would be a good name, shortened to ES.  The VMware engineers didn't like the sound of that and thought that adding an X to the end would make it sound more technical and cool.  Therefore the name was Electric Sky X or ESX.

VMware employees later started a band called Elastic Sky with John Arrasjid being the most well known member.

ESX was targeted at enterprises to encourage them to virtualise their physical servers and better utilise their hardware.  Unfortunately, there weren't any migration pieces of software around at the time, so enterprises would need to rebuild their machines as VMs.




24th July 2001
GSX Server 1.0 Released

Following on the naming standards, a new type 2 hypervisor was created aimed at running server operating systems on a Windows Operating System.  The name chosen for this product was Ground Sky X which was then reduced to GSX.

5th November 2001
Workstation 3.0 Released

So here we have it, the culmination of a busy software release year for VMware and the first version of VMware Workstation to hold the name "VMware Workstation".  This was version 3.0 of the product previously known as VMware 1.0.

This was another major release for the product bringing new features such as the "Repeatable Resume Feature", which allowed for a VM to be resumed from a specific point at which it had been suspended, multiple times.  This feature developed into the fully functional Snapshot feature used by millions of people every day.

Remote Desktop support was added to the product allowing to connect to the host to remotely manage VMs.  Guest operating system support was extended to include Windows XP and Windows 2000, along with Netware 6.0 and recent Linux versions of the time.

The build number of Workstation 3.0 was 1455 and over the course of the life of this version of Workstation only a couple of updates were provided, namely Workstation 3.1.1 (build 1790) in April 2002 and Workstation 3.2 (build 2230) in September 2002.



Logo Change

VMware was starting to grow up and it was felt that the old logo design needed to be updated.  In came the logo that many of us know from when we started utilising VMware software.  This logo would stay with the company until 2009.



10th November 2003
VMware VirtualCenter 1.0 with vMotion Released

Although the dates appear to be a little vague around this release, VMware released VirtualCenter.  This came about to assist with the management of multiple hosts and virtual machines running on ESX Server 2.1.  This was also when we got the first glimpse of vMotion... although it wasn't as slick as it is now.





16th December 2003
EMC buys VMware for $635 Million

This is when it all started to change for VMware.  EMC Corp agreed to buy VMware Inc. for $635 million.  In that year VMware was actually the fourth acquisition that EMC performed that year along with Astrum Software Corporation in April 2003, Legato Systems in July 2003, Documentum in October 2003.  At the time of the acquisition, VMware had been regarded as one of the most likely Silicon Valley candidates to go public in 2004, after Google Inc. and Salesforce.com.  VMware had around 5,000 server customers and was only making around $100 million sales at the time, although that was expected to increase to close to $200 million in 2004.





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