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What’s next for Pivotal?

Paul Maritz, chief strategy executive of EMC, speaks during the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San FranciscoPaul Maritz, chief strategy executive of EMC, speaks during the Reuters Global Technology Summit in San Francisco
Paul Maritz, head of a USAID advisory group. © Stephen Lam / Reuters REUTERS

Now that Pivotal has a new CEO in Robert Mee, with his predecessor Paul Maritz staying on as vice-chairman, the company could still be headed for an initial public offering.

Or not.

When it announced the management changes earlier this week, Pivotal also said that Cloud Foundry, a software development platform for building next-generation cloud applications, is now generating $100 million in annual revenue. Two sources close to the company said its other two core businesses, the Pivotal Labs development shop that builds custom applications for customers and the Big Data Suite, also each log about $100 million in revenue, if not profit. In a February talk, Scott Yara, the Pivotal president and head of products (and co-founder of Greenplum which is now part of Pivotal) said Pivotal had surpassed $100 million in data product sales.

A Pivotal spokesman would not comment on revenue of the other businesses and there is no way to verify that $300 million number, but if it is even close, Pivotal has way more revenue than many other IPO-bound companies. Hadoop star Hortonworks(HDP), for example, was short of its own $100 million revenue goal when it filed for its IPO last November.

The Pivotal spokesman would only say the company remains “hyper focused on executing against our vision to help good companies transform into great software companies” and that all of its businesses are “successful.”

Complicating matters is that Pivotal is partly owned by parent companies EMC (EMC) and VMware (VMW) which spun it out two years ago, with General Electric (GE), a big customer, taking a 10% stake for $105 million. If you do that math, Cloud Foundry was valued at $1.05 billion. A few weeks ago, GE announced its own “industrial cloud” that taps into Cloud Foundry.

The continued presence of Maritz at Pivotal as vice chairman could ease the path to a public offering. Maritz, after years as a top Microsoft executive followed by a turn as CEO of VMware and now most recently of Pivotal, has a lot of credibility on Wall Street.

Both Maritz and EMC CEO Joe Tucci have talked about a Pivotal IPO being the goal, but there was never a timeline. Many observers assumed EMC will follow its own VMware playbook by taking Pivotal public but retaining a healthy stake. But for the past year, Elliott Management, which has taken its own stake in EMC, has been pushing Tucci to offload VMware in the interest of maximizing shareholder value. It’s hard to see Elliott endorsing VMware redux with Pivotal.

A standstill agreement between Elliott Management and EMC ends next month, which means that we may be hearing more about Elliot’s wish list for EMC, VMware, and Pivotal going forward. In the past month alone, there has been talk of EMC tightening its grip on VMware, selling off its stake in VMware, and even of VMware buying EMC.

Analysts agree that almost anything can happen. Forrester Research(FORR) principal analyst Dave Bartoletti sees no immediate indication of an IPO. “The Pivotal numbers are looking good, and momentum is building. PaaS is a tough market, though,” he said via email. Platform as a Service or PaaS, is the tech jargon for the software development category encompassing Cloud Foundry, Red Hat(RHT) OpenShift and other offerings.

So the long and short of it is that Pivotal watchers, like company insiders, have to wait and see what happens.

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