Such a pretty house, such a pretty garden;
No alarms and no surprises.
-- "No Surprises," by Radiohead, from OK Computer, 1997  

I knew it. There was no way VMware (NYSE: VMW) could disappoint this week, not with expectations kept in check by all the wrong concerns.

The virtual-server specialist reported earnings of $0.11 per share on $438 million in revenue, sending its stock price north by more than 5% when the markets opened yesterday. A year ago, when VMware remained a captive subsidiary of data-storage giant EMC (NYSE: EMC), the unit would have seen $0.12 in EPS on $259 million in sales. The earnings shrinkage stems from dramatically higher research and sales expenses, along with the 20% dilution incurred when the stock went public back in September.

VMware's growth story is just beginning, since many potential customers are still sitting on data centers bulging with separate physical servers for every production-level business task. Squeezing the same business solutions into fewer hardware units means cheaper and simpler system management, cooler and less power-hungry data centers, better disaster-recovery procedures, and more bang for the hardware buck.

Given all these advantages, you have to assume that most of the world's large businesses -- and many smaller ones -- will eventually pour a lot of their computing infrastructure into virtual containers like VMware's products. It's hardly surprising that the company has attracted serious competition from the likes of Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Citrix Systems (Nasdaq: CTXS).

Nonetheless, VMware remains the lead dog in that sled team, and it's is the first name on the lips of many CIOs if you ask them about virtualization plans.

CEO Diane Greene highlighted the role that VMware's channel partners, like IBM (NYSE: IBM), Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), play in the company's growth. "Our partners don't hit customer objections when selling VMware," she said, noting that system builders and resellers get excited about selling more software and services to their customers atop the VMware platform.

In other words, some of the biggest names in technology are doing the heavy lifting for VMware's sales department. That's a sweet deal.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any companies discussed here. You can check Anders' holdings if you like. Foolish disclosure asks that you don't dig too deeply in today's National Poetry Month tribute unless you're fluent in Contemporary Irony.