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The Wolf of VMware: A Q&A with VMware's Chris Wolf

From Virtualization Review (kind of) to VMware Americas CTO, Chris Wolf runs to the top of the virtualization ranks.

Chris Wolf is one of the most recognizable names in virtualization. A former columnist for Virtualization Review, he's worked as an analyst for the Burton Group and Gartner Inc., and his opinions are highly regarded in the industry. Now he's taken on a new challenge with VMware Inc. Wolf shared some of his thoughts on the state of the industry and his new job with Editor in Chief Keith Ward.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you hear from customers regarding their virtualization efforts?
A: Chris Wolf: Organizations are often challenged with taking the next step. They have highly mature virtualization deployments, and want to realize the full benefits of a software-defined enterprise. They often see a future in running applications on lower cost x86 infrastructure that provides most compute, storage, network and security services. While they strive to reach the end state, they're unsure of how to safely navigate to it. Great use cases as entry points to a pure software-defined datacenter (SDDC) include development and test, tier-4 workloads such as back-end IT reporting applications, and modern Web-scale applications that run on a resilient application platform.

When the application stack is natively redundant, there's no value in running that stack on enterprise hardware with additional and unnecessary redundancy. As an IT team gains confidence with operating the software-defined environment, it can add additional workloads. This is a journey that will take several years, and finding the right use cases to be able to take that first step is critical.

Q: What are the most important future areas of virtualization, as server virtualization is well established now?
A: IT organizations are increasingly getting pressured to significantly improve agility. In most environments, storage, networking and security remain the primary provisioning bottlenecks. Virtualization and software-defined infrastructure can shorten infrastructure provisioning from weeks to minutes or even seconds. You can also drastically reduce complexity... why are we still basing security decisions on an IP address, which is an arbitrary number that can change? That degree of complexity is unnecessary and illogical with today's technology. Once enterprises shift their security controls to be based on application containers instead of IP addresses, they often ask, "Why didn't I do this sooner?"

Q: How does VMware overcome the fear that some organizations have of vendor lock-in?
A: Lock-in fears are often driven by an IT services industry that wants enterprises to have complex environments so that they can sell them additional services and maintenance. I often tell VMware clients that complexity is great for profits, just not their profits. Fear over lock-in, combined with bad advice, can lead organizations to focus so much on capex savings that they're blind to significantly higher opex costs associated with integrating and operating several diverse platforms. Public cloud providers are highly standardized for a reason -- they achieve greater scale and reliability at lower costs.

While basic math can tell anyone that fewer variables in a datacenter enables automation at lower costs, we understand that many enterprises require choice. VMware provides choice in multiple areas through our cloud management platform, vCloud Automation Center (vCAC). vCAC allows organizations to deploy applications and services to multiple cloud providers and to multiple virtualization platforms within their datacenters. On vCAC, our vSphere platform is just one supported platform of many.

Q: What do you do with VMware, and why did you join the company?
A: As the Americas CTO, I do many of the same things I did at Gartner. I work closely with the key decision makers at end-user organizations across the Americas and collaborate on their current and future needs. By staying in lock-step with our clients' strategic thinking, I'm able to work closely with our product teams to ensure that we're delivering the right technology solutions at the right time. My position allows me to have a direct influence on shaping technology's future, and that certainly motivates me to come to work every day.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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