10 Questions, 10 Answers with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

The head honcho dishes on his company's relationship with Microsoft, whether containers will overtake virtual machines, what attendees at VMworld 2015 can expect and more.

At VMworld 2012, VMware CEO Paul Maritz handed over the reins of his company to incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger. At VMworld 2015, Gelsinger will preside over his fourth year as the VMware chief. The company has grown substantially in that time, but still finds itself facing many challenges, including the explosion of cloud computing, and finding its way in a world where its bread and butter -- server virtualization -- will start to become less profitable given its near-ubiquitous status.

To find out what Gelsinger thinks about his company's past, present and future, Virtualization Review asked him 10 questions via e-mail. Here are his responses.

1. Virtualization Review: Wikibon Analyst Stu Miniman said he has serious questions about the future of VMware, given the nearing saturation of server virtualization, and threats from the cloud and free hypervisors. How do you respond?
Pat Gelsinger: Our business is strong and growing rapidly, driven by the benefits that enterprises are gaining through software-defined infrastructure and the agility of business mobility. Together, these represent a brave new world for IT -- one that we're helping customers embrace and extend.

We know that our customers now operate in a business environment where disruption is the norm, and old rigid business models are collapsing. They are increasingly looking to a software-defined infrastructure and the new applications it enables as the basis for future innovations that put them ahead of competitors. This requires a new IT model that VMware is uniquely able to deliver.

Most important, VMware's software-defined platform enables a new level of efficiency, flexibility and power. This allows customers the ability to instantly deploy and manage their applications, and operate their workloads and data seamlessly between their private and public clouds, rapidly architect cloud-native apps and support a full range of management options.

And in 2015, we are not slowing down. We kicked off the year with one of the most significant announcements in VMware's story, as we outlined our One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device strategy, and launched the industry's first unified platform of virtualized compute, network and storage for the hybrid cloud. This platform enables customers to create one consistent environment across private and public clouds to run, manage and protect any cloud-native or traditional enterprise application. It also offers customers openness and choice in how they build and manage their applications in cloud environments.

2. Are you happy with vCloud Air's market performance so far? What needs to happen to get it to the level of Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services? Should that even be a goal?
Absolutely. vCloud Air is positioned for success, and our team is proud to note that the platform supports more than 5,000 applications and over 90 OSes and continues to grow. Customers have been able to take advantage of the security, availability and performance that you'd expect from VMware while leveraging existing investments, processes and expertise.

VMware's vCloud Air supports twice as many OSes as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) combined. Additionally, vCloud Air supports more versions of Windows than Azure, and more versions of Linux than AWS.

As we announced at Partner Exchange 2015, VMware Network Service Provider partners can now leverage vCloud Air as their core infrastructure, and deliver managed services to their customers around the globe. Because VMware vCloud Air is 100 percent compatible with VMware vSphere environments, our customers can leverage existing IT invest­ments, processes and expertise, which certainly helps reduce costs and risks. This inherent agility and expertise assists customers in the expedited setup, testing, deployment, and management of applications and workloads.

It's been an exciting time in the area of cloud services, as we continue to expand our offerings around the world. We announced an agreement with Google to deliver greater enter­prise access to public cloud services via VMware vCloud Air. Our VMware vCloud Government Service, provided by Carpathia, has achieved the provisional authority to operate through the U.S. government's FedRAMP program, and we expanded VMware vCloud Air in Europe and APJ, with general availability of the service in Germany and in Australia through our partnership with Telstra. This new VMware-­operated German datacenter complements our United Kingdom service and provides customers with a Central European location that helps to address German and European Union (EU) compliance and data protection regulations while enabling them to take advantage of VMware's enterprise-class cloud.

3. Mobility is an increasingly important focus for VMware, with the AirWatch acquisition and just-announced Identity Manager. What potential do you see in mobile device management?
While mobile devices have been around for many years, the concept that enterprises should provide smartphone and tablet services for employees and customers -- now considered business mobility -- has just started to gain momentum. An increasing number of companies are adding iOS and Android support to their infrastructures in the hopes of enhancing productivity, speed and cost efficiency. And these investments are clearly paying off.

Business mobility is transforming everything, from traditional processes such as enterprise workforce management to entire industries like education, health care and retail. But the best part is that we're only just scratching the surface of what it can do. As technology continues to improve, the opportunities made possible through our iPads, Android devices, wearables and other mobile gadgets will only increase.

This era of business mobility demands a brave new model for IT, and our One Cloud, Any Application, Any Device architecture uniquely empowers enterprises to drive new levels of business process innovation. By enabling any mobile application to be delivered to any device across the enterprise in a secure, dependable and compliant way, VMware gives enterprises the ability to create new business processes that will empower their workforces and create new, delightful experiences for their customers.

In recognition of VMware's innovation, Gartner positioned AirWatch as a "Leader" in the 2015 Enterprise Mobility Management Suites Magic Quadrant, a position it has enjoyed since the inception of the report in 2011. Out of the 12 vendors evaluated, Gartner positioned AirWatch highest on the "Ability to Execute" axis for the third consecutive year.

"We know that our customers now operate in a business environment where disruption is the norm, and old rigid business models are collapsing."

Pat Gelsinger

4. Will VDI ever truly go mainstream, or will it continue to be mostly a niche play for specific enterprises?
Despite the mass adoption of mobile platforms in the enter­prise, particularly smartphones and tablets, the desktop computer will remain a core computing asset for businesses. Yet the traditional standalone desktop architecture is signif­icantly flawed, particularly in the era of virtualization and the cloud. It's costly, insecure and inflexible. In order for desktop computing to evolve beyond its current limitations and successfully enter the modern era, the next-generation desktop must be inspired by mobility.

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is one delivery model that can be utilized for this next-generation workspace, but organizations need to embrace a more fluid one that mixes different virtualization and cloud technologies including VDI, application publishing and cloud-based apps.

The adoption of virtual desktops will be most useful to enterprises with a specific user population -- one that currently uses PCs and can only access their desktops and apps from a fixed location. Today, there are about 250 million such users across various industries. In industries such as customer service, financial services, government, and health care, and in businesses with graphic-intensive applications, we are seeing very high adoption and deployment of VDI because of the need for high availability, security, and centralization of large data files. While we don't believe that virtual desktops are a solution for 100 percent of any given user population, the addressable market for virtual desktops is only 25 percent penetrated to date.

VMware recently introduced a few new products that will accelerate virtual desktop adoption and reduce the cost of infrastructure across a wide range of enterprises, including App Volumes, desktop as a service (DaaS), EVO:RAIL and Virtual SAN.

5. One cloud CTO said that containers are now "Doing to VMs what VMs did to physical machines." Is he right -- are virtual machines being marginalized in favor of lighter-weight, more-scalable containers? If so, is this a concern for VMware?
Not at all! As we discussed at last year's VMworld, it's not an either/or question. In fact, the two technologies work together to provide even greater value than either on its own. Our strategy is "Containers without Compromise." The two are clearly better together: VMs deliver security and management with minimal overhead, while containers efficiently handle application delivery and lifecycle management.

VMware is very focused on the cloud and continues to build infrastructure technologies to open, common standards including containers. We're particularly excited about three new open source projects designed to enable enterprise adoption of cloud-native applications. Pivotal launched Project Lattice, which packages open source components from cloud foundry, for deploying and managing containerized workflows. VMware most recently announced two new technology previews: VMware AppCatalyst, an API and command-line Interface (CLI)-driven hypervisor that's purpose-­built for developers; and Project Bonneville, a technology preview that enables the seamless integration of Docker containers into the VMware vSphere platform and allows virtual administrators to use their existing operational and management processes and tools without the need for new tools or additional training.

VMware also announced the launch of two new open source projects: Project Lightwave, an enterprise identity and access management solution which also enables scalable security for containers; and Project Photon, a lightweight Linux OS focused on container and cloud-native applications. Together, these new projects will help enterprises develop, run and manage secure cloud-native applications and can provide security and governance for container workloads.

6. How close are we to the promise of the 100 percent SDDC? Is there a limit to what "software-defined xyz" can do?
According to IDC, over 70 percent of midsize to large organizations will initiate major network redesigns over the next three years. We're seeing that momentum today.

Customers are increasingly seeking to transform their network and security operations due to the current limitations of the network architectures in their datacenters. The pipeline for our network virtualization solution, VMware NSX, continues to grow, and the number of customers doing proof-of-concept is accelerating every single quarter. And this is being driven by budgets beyond compute. In fact, a VMware customer study earlier this year showed that the funds used to purchase NSX have been predominately coming from cloud, networking and security budgets.

On the storage side, we continue to see customers from many different industries and market segments adopting our Virtual SAN solution for its unprecedented benefits, including operational efficiency, ease of management and flexibility. vSAN is a key component of our hyper-converged infrastructure solution, EVO:RAIL, a first-of-its-kind for the industry. Built on the VMware software stack, EVO:RAIL delivers the SDDC promise in an efficient, predictable and cost-effective way.

Finally, we continue to see strong customer interest and demand across all three of our cloud management products: vRealize Operation, vRealize Automation and vRealize Business. To date, just 15 percent of our install base has deployed our cloud management products, so there's plenty of headroom for growth in this market.

7. Microsoft: Friend, foe or frienemy? And why?
It's no secret that we have offerings that compete with each other. That said, we support our customers and partners on any platform. VMware has numerous offerings that help enterprises get the most out of their Microsoft applications, platforms and devices. We are a committed and active contributor to the Microsoft community through our support of Windows enterprise customers, including IT groups developing, testing and deploying Windows-based applications. And as Windows 10 is rolled out across enterprises, AirWatch can best secure and manage all Windows devices -- desktop, notebook, tablets and phones, along with devices from other platforms.

8. In five years, what would you like VMware's three main revenue generators to be?
Let's consider the three areas where I think our customers will derive the most significant value today, as they also happen to be our most promising and important revenue sources.

First, we're pleased with the breadth and sheer volume of clients embracing the vCloud Air platform, and the speed at which they're implementing it. We're happy to note that it's been deployed by companies across all verticals and regions and of all sizes. It's also important to note that our clients achieve breakthrough benefits from the platform due to its unique compatibility and deep integration with their existing environments.

Second, we're seeing a rapid increase in SDDC adoption over the last year and that business unit is poised to grow even faster this year. Our customers expect us to deliver a wide variety of networking solutions that either support infrastructure they currently have in place, or to help further build out their existing networks. Our recent networking announcements demonstrate our commitment to our customers and we will continue to deliver on our networking promise in the years to come. This is a huge opportunity for VMware, as it spans compute, networking, storage and automation.

Finally, I see an enormous opportunity with our End-User Computing (EUC) portfolio due to the growing interest in business mobility. Through our EUC solutions, VMware gives enterprises the ability to truly innovate in their business processes and work at the "speed of life."

9. What are the key takeaways you want to make sure attendees get from VMworld 2015?
Our VMworld theme this year is "Ready for Any" -- and that's how we'd like each attendee to feel.

We're all working hard to create an amazing experience for the tens of thousands of customers and partners from around the world who will attend our signature events this year, from our flagship event, VMworld 2015 U.S. starting on Aug. 30, and VMworld Europe in October to our vForum events throughout the Asia Pacific region. Here's what Ready for Any means:

  • Ready with our One Cloud, Any Applications, Any Device architecture, which empowers our customers to develop, deploy, and consume all applications, quickly and securely.
  • Ready for a unified hybrid cloud that allows our customers to innovate like a startup and execute like an enterprise.
  • Ready to transform business processes with business mobility.Armed with these capabilities, our customers can implement anytime, anywhere, to solve any IT problem. We look forward to showcasing this at VMworld 2015.

10. What's the best thing about running a quickly growing company? The worst?
Best: Never a dull moment. VMware is in the middle of everything going on in the industry, software-defined everything, cloud, mobile, Big Data, containers, the list goes on. We play a role in every one of these exciting, disruptive and dynamic areas. We have teams and projects engaging and driving many of these technologies. Customers expect an unprecedented level of support and reliability from our software, and strategic vision in how to navigate these changes. The energy and the passion is palpable. I love my job, my company and the people most of all as they are energized by that same, frenetic energy.

Worst: Being a publicly traded company that's underway in transition to its "second act," we're under intense scrutiny in the public market. Investors second guess everything, both the bulls and the bears, sell and buy siders. Every new technology or idea of the tech industry is being questioned if this is the one that will undermine our future. That said, it's a very exciting time at VMware, and I am truly proud to lead this amazing company


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