In-Depth

VMware Program Managers Look Down the Road

Top VMware executives driving strategies for end-user computing, network virtualization and hybrid cloud talk about the year ahead.

You've heard about the pressure VMware top-line executives face when it comes to executing on well-defined strategies, because you hear from them at VMworld and at every quarterly earnings call. But deep in the trenches, where the programming is mapped out and the marketing is formulated, that's where the program managers face career-changing pressures to implement and deliver the final product. In this article, you'll hear from Erik Frieberg on end-user computing (EUC), Steve Mullaney on network virtualization and Mathew Lodge on vCloud Hybrid Service (since renamed vCloud Air).

Erik Frieberg, Vice President, Product Marketing, End-User Computing

Q: Virtualization Review: Why all the fuss about EUC? Isn't it just about giving users what they want?
A: Erik Frieberg: Across VMware, as you're talking with other people here, you should be hearing a consistent message,that the environment is changing. You go back far enough, from the mainframe to client-server, to now, where we're entering the mobile cloud era.

I think what's changing consistently here is scale. You're always impressed by, in essence, the next scale. It's literally from what was thousands to tens of thousands to millions to, now, billions of users.

I remember marketing things around the dawn of the Internet... We'd take applications, maybe one where there might be hundreds of users making airline reservations, then exposing that to the Web where it might have tens of thousands or even a million users. And now you're out there with apps loading up on the platform with tens of millions or hundreds of millions of people.

The scale is consistently going up. With this, it's not just the scale, but the cloud delivery, the social aspects and the Big Data... We really see this evolving, not just for the users, but if you look in the organizations [it's] the number of apps having to roll out to internal people, to employees, out to their customers. So, the number of applications that people are interacting with has gone from thousands to hundreds of thousands. I think Apple is close to a million apps on their store. [It has] clearly billions of downloads, and almost a million apps just in the iTunes Store.

So, organizations are trying to figure out how they manage their mobile apps, their HTML, their internal apps they've had for 20, 30 years. It's a significant change.

VR: Give us some context and give us a view of the VMware vision as it concerns EUC.
EF: With VMware, our heritage is really around the virtualized infrastructure, starting off with compute [and] moving into storage and networking, and software-defined datacenter. [Our customers] are also probably using the cloud. We have this hybrid approach, where you can have your workloads on-premises or in the cloud. Then we have the management and automation to make this highly efficient. As you move around, you're not doing this manually, you're doing it in an automated way.

The vision for this is what we call the software-defined datacenter. In the end user space, what we're doing is leveraging the infrastructure, but now going out to the end users, and asking, "How does this impact on-premises or the cloud... really, the management and infrastructure of devices affecting how you approach the desktop, how do you approach the mobile, how do you approach the social -- another way to say this is files and collaboration.

Even the idea of not treating those three different things as siloed, for us in End-User Computing, the idea of a virtual workspace ties all these applications together to a single workspace that is location-independent, device-independent, and gives you access to everything you need to get the job done. It really doesn't matter if you're a desktop user, mobile user.

We call this vision our secure virtual workspace. We like to say it's for enabling you to work at the speed of life. It really transforms the two dimensions we see in the marketplace around desktop Windows application delivery and what people are trying to do with the mobile space, with the mobile apps, the tablets, iPads, all that infrastructure, and bringing it together into an environment that can span your desktop and laptop and tablet.

If I asked you several years ago, "What's the dominant operating system that your business systems are riding on from an end user's perspective?" you would have said 99.9 percent, it's Windows. Now if I ask you today, if you think of all the devices your users are using and the breakout of operating systems. We go to a lot of companies and what we see is that PCs with Windows are just about a third of the operating systems, tablets are making huge inroads, and so it's a lot of mix and match of BYO Android or iOS. And the surveys are showing that the devices are about a third iOS, Android, Windows.

Similarly, if you start to look over at what's going on with location, as well as files, I talked to people who say, "I don't have a Dropbox solution, I have a Dropbox problem," regarding the management of content. The other aspect is, as you get proliferation of devices, my Mac can't run Windows software natively, so should I build an iOS application directly, or should I go HTML5. And what about Android in the mix?

So, as we approach the market, that's what we hear that the market is struggling with as far as: "What's my desktop infrastructure? Here, it's VMware or Citrix. What am I doing on the mobile side? It's AirWatch, Good Technology, MobileIron... There's a lot of interest in social, and VMware's a leader here with SocialCast and Jive. But I also need my data, Box, Dropbox, AirWatch, and I need something to tie all this together..."

What we saw was a lot of opportunity in this area, but people are kind of frustrated with what we call "point solution pileup" -- all these individual solutions, but not working together. When you take a business process like onboarding an employee, it could take weeks. You get them their Mac on day one, but getting them access to applications might take days after that, and even weeks. And then there's also the informal software -- "Oh, we use Dropbox to share things" -- that lie under the corporate radar.

VMware saw an opportunity here, where we said we can bring all this together between our access on the Horizon side and acquisition of AirWatch to tie together your desktop, your mobile, as well as all these things we like to call workplace services -- identity, social, data -- together to this single, secure environment.

That's the background of the story. Things we've done to progress this story: Almost a year ago, we acquired Desktone and we saw this opportunity to see more and more companies decide that they want to get their desktops from the cloud. Three things were driving this. One was predictable economics. It's definitely true; I think you can run [on-premises] virtualized desktops cheaper than you can get them from the cloud, but at the same time, you have to take the risk of the up-front investment to do that. Getting a predictable monthly bill from VMware or one of our partners is an easy way to go. Second, we see is skills. Maybe you don't have the right people because of geography or other things to run this for you, so a lot of people want to go to Desktop as a Service because they don't have the skills. Third is seasonality. We just came out of tax season, so we can think of a company that, for four months out of the year, might have an increase of 20 percent in employees, or other organizations that have high numbers of contractors. The overall number of IP is relatively flat, but different groups are adding and subtracting significant numbers.

So, there's a huge opportunity in what we're seeing in Desktop as a Service delivered from the cloud.

We've made announcements around Cisco and what we're doing there, in essence, providing the infrastructure for this cloud business, with F5 and networking, and with Google and Chromebooks.

We see significant penetration with Google Chromebooks into classroom environments, particularly around management. Chromebooks are a very easy-to-manage device. That's great -- I can get access to all these HTML apps, but what about all the Windows apps in my corporate environment, or even schools? So, we're partnering with them where schools or enterprises can use a Chromebook, but then get all the Windows apps or desktops delivered down to them so they can run them in the environment.

VR: EUC has a wide spectrum of products right now. Is there some difficulty in keeping them strategically aligned with the mission of the group?
EF: It's wide, but not wide, at the same time. The end user is the target person we're focused on enabling. I think that is well defined. It tends to be people who work in enterprises or in an education environment. But the focus is really around application or desktop experiences. The complexity that's happenings is that idea that I'm in a single or two locations running a Windows PC has changed. Now, there are questions around: I want access to this app on an iPad; I'm moving around to different locations; adding new capabilities.

End users are starting to be more demanding, so how do I still deliver all those utilities that an end user needs, but do it with the right security and compliance and desired productivity. The target remains very focused; we're just adding more components to offer a more complete solution.

VR: It seems like you're working in a more flexible environment, as opposed to the days when you were focused mainly on Windows solutions. The cloud changes things.
EF: I'd call those days monolithic. People want choice around different types of apps, different locations, different devices. We have a demo where we literally show you going from using a PC at your desk, but then closing it down, taking a phone, plugging it into a monitor and guess what happens? Your entire desktop reappears just as the state you left it. The flexibility of how I access information from any device from any location we can easily see.

Steve Mullaney, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Networking and Security Business Unit
VR: Before we start, can you tell me about the name, Nicira, and also about the naming of the product, NSX? Is there any relation?

Steve Mullaney: The classic thing with startups, where before I even got there, all the domains were taken. Nicira is actually a Sanskrit word meaning "vigilant." The company from the very beginning was very security focused. Martin Casado used to work for the intelligence agencies before he went to get his Ph.D. at Stanford. A lot of our early work was with the NSA and CIA and others, so there's always been a big security bent. So, vigilance and being vigilant says a lot of things from a security perspective. The domain wasn't taken, we liked the word, we took it.

It is interesting, even back then, when you look at network virtualization, the real benefit is you're changing the operational model of networking and security, and not being coupled to the physical infrastructure and creating a programmatic environment such that now you can, in software, decide what you want to go and do. It's like what happened with compute virtualization: Once you decouple, now you can enable innovation. The area that we're going to be focused on probably for the next few years, even maybe a few more, is security. That's going to be a huge push for us at VMworld. Now that you've decoupled and now that you have all this context of the information of where you're at, there's a lot of things we can do from a security perspective that you can't do in a hardware-defined datacenter. That innovation is something we had as a vision back at Nicira.

Here's what is going to happen in a software-defined datacenter: Security is going to be better. Now, once you've decoupled and now once you've created this, where you virtualized all the physical infrastructure, you're now going to be able to make everything better. And the first thing we're going to prove that on is security. It's a huge opportunity.

VR: What does that tell VMware's security partners? Does this become a competitive thing or is there a cooperative opportunity?
SM: That's the great thing about it. I was at Palo Alto Networks for two years. I was interim CEO there, it's my second-favorite company. Guess what? They're a partner of ours. It's probably one of the best partnerships I've been involved in, in my 30 years. In most partnerships, there's someone who kind of mostly wins, and someone who mostly kind of loses. And then it eventually deconstructs; the guy who's losing figures it out.

This [partnership] is actually a win-win situation where it is very complimentary to what we're doing. We're creating an ecosystem where, because of what we're doing, we're actually enabling Palo Alto Networks to plug into our platform and sell the VMware series of their firewall, where before they were having difficulty getting it into datacenters. It didn't have live line rate performance, the operational model wasn't very good... so it was really difficult for people to deploy and it was performance-limiting. Now that they plug into our platform, we handle a lot of the operational model and we can offload them such that only the traffic that needs advanced firewalling, like the app binding, the content ID, we can steer to their VM series only the traffic that needs to get there, so that they're not getting flooded with all that traffic. We can handle all the other stuff with our firewall that's built into NSX. It's a very complimentary solution that customers absolutely love.

And it's a great example to all the ecosystem partners that says, "We're not coming after your business; we're actually going to enable you to sell more." It's also going to enable us to sell more. But think of us as a networking and security virtualization platform, upon which we're going to partner with all kinds of people, and it's going to be a one-pus-one-equals-three type of model.

VR: What's the state of NSX at this point? It's been a year since the acquisition, so how much of your master plan have you seen take shape?
SM: 2013 was all about insertion. It's the classic Geoffrey A. Moore's "Crossing the Chasm." You got a classic transformation, you got new technology, you've got to go to the early adopters. You've got to get them to implement, you've got to prove it, you've got to get customer references, such that the people across the chasm, they won't buy unless the crazy people have bought first. So, 2013 was about getting the crazy people to use it.

Where we're at now in 2014, I don't know if I'd say we're fully across the chasm, but we are for sure just about across. It's not the crazy people anymore. It's everyday enterprises. We've pretty much been, since the start of 2014, integrating it into the VMware sales organization. That's pretty much all I've spent my time on. It's now about ramping and scaling. This is the crossing-the-chasm type of thing, we're we saying this thing needs to scale, which means we need to empower VMware, we need to empower the VMware channels. It's hitting across all verticals. It's kind of in that mode right now where we're getting tremendous pull from the market.

Mathew Lodge, Vice President, Cloud Services
VR: Can you give us a year-later assessment of VMware's standing among the competition of hybrid cloud players?
Matthew Lodge: Clearly there has been an uptake in interest among customers of the hybrid cloud over the last 12 months. When you look at the surveys from Gartner and Forrester Research, the one message that comes through clearly is that customers are much more interested in hybrid cloud. Part of the reason for that is, they realize that they're going to have an array of datacenters plus cloud technology, and they're going to want the best of both worlds.

I think what has happened as a result is that essentially we can go and talk about cloud washing, and maybe folks like IBM can claim that their hosting is just like cloud -- well, no, not really. The thing about the cloud being about programmatic control, APIs and not using tickets like having service on the Internet, I think the same thing is going on with hybrid cloud. The thing that matters to customers is the integration between the two worlds. They're in datacenters, what they're doing in public clouds, that's what's interesting and valuable to them. Hybrid cloud is not just like saying, well, you have your datacenter and I have a cloud, can we put the two together? In terms of the state of the hybrid cloud, that's where we are.

What we see from our customers, VMware has a very interesting value proposition for them in terms of making it easier to adopt public cloud and making it much easier to extend what they currently do and therefore keep their costs down. We remove a lot of the barriers to cloud adoption and at the same time open up a pathway for them to transform how they build and run applications, modernize and build new applications, and take advantage of cloud infrastructure.

In terms of companies being really successful with hybrid cloud outside of VMware, Microsoft is giving it a strong play with Azure. I think Rackspace was very much on the hybrid track, but that's been very challenging for them. The fact that they're for sale is dampening their ability to execute.

VR: You mention Gartner, and we follow its numbers. What it says is that vCloud Hybrid Service competes directly with Amazon Web Services. Does that type of competition shape your strategy or have any bearing on what your plans are moving forward?
ML: We don't have a strategy of chasing anybody. Our objective is to understand what our customers do and then execute on that as quickly as we can and as strongly as we can. There's no point trying to focus on any particular competitor because you'll just always be behind because you'll never understand what your customers want.

What we saw from our customer base is that customers like the idea of a public cloud, but the challenge was it was radically different in how it operated in the View model of applications, how they managed it, how they did networking, how storage works... all of those things were all different. What that led to was very niche adoption for enterprises. They didn't have a clean plate. It was very hard to adopt. So, you basically had to build something from scratch in order to do anything. So what we saw was some value that we could deliver to customers that want all the benefits of public cloud, the ability to adopt it very easily, the dynamic nature of the agility, but at the same time you also want to be able to leverage your existing investment in applications, data and infrastructure in your team. That was the problem we set out to solve, and that led us to implement and do different things.

I wrote a blog post, turned out to be one of the most popular blog posts of all time, which is about, "Here are the 10 things you can do on vHCS that you can't do with AWS." It's a very concrete way of encapsulating how we're solving a different problem.

VR: That brings me to my last question. Can you let us peek into your plans moving forward as you approach VMworld 2014?
ML: We've been very clear about the geographic expansion. We added the New Jersey location to the U.S.... and we're continuing our expansion into EMEA and APJ. We're going to continue to do that. We've come a long way in nine months from when we first talked about capabilities last year and that's a very important thing to our customers. The other thing is we're going to continue to deliver hybrid capabilities. Hybridity is a core value proposition for vHCS. It's very easy for organizations to bring along what they already have, link their existing applications to the public cloud and do that in a very seamless fashion.

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