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SAN FRANCISCO — Software company VMware is not dumb.

Developers have been quick to try the Docker open-source project that represents a free alternative to VMware’s core virtualization software for running many apps on each server. Today, a personage no less than VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger announced that it’s working with Docker to make Docker’s containers “enterprise ready.”

Large businesses pay big money for VMware’s software for creating virtual machines, so the collaboration could lead to greater usage of the Linux containers that the startup Docker introduced under an open-source license last year. Linux containers are often described as more lightweight; they make it easy for developers to relocate applications from one server environment to another.

Rather than ignore Docker and position VMware’s virtual machines as a more reliable and more secure alternative to Docker containers, VMware is invoking the possibly smarter alliance route.

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“The reality is both containers and VMs are just means for delivering applications, sometimes with VMs, sometimes with containers,” Gelsinger told the audience at the company’s 2014 VMworld conference here today. “The best way of delivering containers is through and using the VM. We call this containers without compromise.”

By offering products that capture the attention of young developers keen on Docker, VMware is setting itself up to get an edge and not just continue to resonate with IT buyers who have been paying licensing fees to the company for a decade or more.

VMware is essentially keeping its enemies close — and not just Docker. This also includes Google, which earlier this year introduced Kubernetes, a tool for orchestrating containers across clouds. Microsoft, IBM, Docker, CoreOS, and Mesosphere have already come around to support Kubernetes with Google, and now VMware is in on it, too.

But that’s not all. There’s also a little open-source cloud software project called OpenStack that VMware is hopping on. Lots of tech vendors have come out with hardware, public clouds, and other products, but when VMware does that, it’s especially notable. VMware sells licenses for software that creates and manages clouds to which OpenStack was essentially a free alternative.

Some big companies have adopted OpenStack, and now it’s obvious that VMware should come out with and sell its own distribution of OpenStack. At the same time, VMware naturally doesn’t want to sacrifice business in the area of management.

“IT can manage and troubleshoot an OpenStack cloud with the same familiar VMware tools they already use every day, providing significant operational cost savings and faster time-to-value,” VMware said in a statement today on the news.

But wait, there’s more. VMware has now joined the Open Compute Project, which Facebook initiated in 2011 to share its data center hardware customizations with the rest of the world. This year Microsoft contributed some of its server designs to the project, and today Gelsinger said VMware will make its new EVO:RACK hardware available on gear that meets Open Compute standards.

“We’re going to offer more choice,” Gelsinger said — and that means selling projects that carry the labels of headline-grabbing open-source projects.

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