Intel Capital to buy US$218.5 million share of VMware

Intel Corp. said Monday it plans to buy a US$218.5 million stake in the software firm VMware Inc., bolstering the companies’ existing agreement to run VMware’s virtualization software on Intel’s processors.

Intel has been selling chips since November 2005 with specialized technology that allows enterprise IT managers to use a VMware application that treats each hardware platform as multiple “virtual” platforms. The companies also cooperate on their marketing and product development strategies.

The chip giant will make the purchase through its investment arm, Intel Capital, subject to approval by U.S. antitrust regulators.

The purchase will be part of an initial public offering (IPO), in which VMware plans to sell 10 per cent of the company. VMware has not set a date for that sale, but it is expected to happen in the second half of 2007. In addition to purchasing stock, Intel will also gain the power to appoint one of its executives to the VMware board of directors. However, Intel will still hold a minority stake in the company, with just 2.5 per cent of VMware stock, according to an IPO registration form filed Monday by VMware with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The majority of VMware stock — 89 per cent — will be held by EMC Corp., the enterprise data storage company that acquired VMware in January 2004. That investment has paid off well, since VMware has grown quickly. VMware revenue rose 82 per cent last year, from US$387.1 million in 2005 to US$703.9 million in 2006.

VMware says that growth rate will continue, since currently just a small fraction of existing servers and business desktop and notebook PCs use virtualization software. At the same time, many companies use only a portion of their computing power, because the latest multicore processors have allowed their processing power to grow faster than workloads.

To solve that problem, businesses can use virtualization software to separate the operating system and application software from the underlying hardware. That allows them to combine multiple servers, storage and networking units into pools of capacity they can allocate wherever it is needed most, VMware said in the SEC form.

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