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Mendacious metrics

In his VMworld opening keynote, Pat Gelsinger showed an endorsement of VMware by IDC as "number 1 in cloud management".

Now Gelsinger did not qualify that statement, but if you go looking for the source of that statement, you can find either a report ranking VMware as number 1 by 2011 market share, or a report ranking them as number 1 by 2012 revenue. The original reports are only available to IDC subscribers, but here's VMware's quote (emphasis mine):

According to market research firm IDC, VMware was named the leading cloud systems management software vendor based on 2012 software revenues. In the report, "Worldwide Cloud Systems Management Software 2012 Vendor Shares," IDC determined that VMware was the cloud systems management leader with 20.5 percent market share. Driving market growth in 2012 was enterprise and service provider customers' expanded use of cloud automation, monitoring, and analytics across their virtualized datacenter environments, according to IDC.

So in other words, existing VMware customers adopted VMware's new product at the expected rate.

This is not the first time I have seen revenue and market share metrics trotted out like this. What I don't understand is why customers are expected to care. Market share might be expected to have some influence on a customer's decision process, since a popular product brings a larger ecosystem of skilled staff, support, and third-party product integrations. But revenue? A high-grossing product could just as easily be overpriced or sold to a captive customer base lacking real alternatives. Not saying VMware does either of this things, mind.

The bottom line is that product revenue is a bad metric for customers, and as an industry we should stop using it.