In-Depth

Q&A with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

Gelsinger's take on Dell, cloud computing, his vision for the future and more.

VMware remains the most important company in the virtualization industry, and one of the most important in the entire computer field. That means that CEO Pat Gelsinger is one of the most powerful, influential leaders in the business. Virtualization & Cloud Review conducted an e-mail Q&A to get his take on Dell, cloud computing, his vision for the future and more. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: Virtualization & Cloud Review: How has the transition from EMC ownership to Dell ownership been?
Pat Gelsinger: We are pleased with the progress we are making as a part of Dell Technologies, a collective force comprised of Dell, Dell EMC, Pivotal, RSA, SecureWorks, Virtustream and VMware. This year we expect to see a quarter of the $1 billion revenue in synergies we have projected over the next two years from our alignment with Dell.

We're really pleased with this progress. Through Dell, many of our offerings are performing well, including our compute, vSAN, VxRail and end-user computing products. And we are seeing momentum for a number of other products such as NSX.

One place where customers experienced the power of VMware as a strategically aligned business under Dell Technologies was at this year's Dell EMC World, where I gave a keynote. Two announcements we made at Dell EMC World offer particularly compelling examples of the power of VMware and Dell Technologies. The first example was the launch of Dell EMC VDI Complete Solutions, powered by VMware Horizon. VDI Complete is an end-to-end desktop and application virtualization solution that includes everything you need to get started: the infrastructure appliances, the software, the storage and the endpoints.

VDI Complete is built with best-of-breed technology from Dell Technologies. It leverages proven and trusted infrastructure appliances and endpoints from Dell and Dell EMC. It includes the VxRail Appliance family of fully integrated, preconfigured and pre-tested HCI appliances, powered by VMware vSAN. And VDI Complete takes advantage of Horizon, an industry leader in desktop and application virtualization.

The second example of our compelling strength is the work we are doing with another Dell Technologies company, Pivotal, that's great for both developers and IT operators: developer-ready infrastructure.

Today's new app architectures developers are building put huge pressure on IT teams to deliver a platform that offers an "on-demand and frictionless" experience for developers. But at the same time, IT teams must make sure the infrastructure also provides enterprise-grade security, compliance and scale. By bringing together Pivotal Cloud Foundry with our Software-Defined Datacenter (SDDC) software, we will reduce this friction between developers and IT.

These are just two examples from Dell EMC World. You can expect many more in the months ahead. While many efforts are just getting started, we are seeing great early momentum. And with Dell's mid-market and public sector strength, we see many unique opportunities for VMware.

Q: Has Dell been more hands-on with VMware, or has it allowed your company the same kind of autonomy it had under EMC?
We absolutely remain autonomous. It's really evident if you look at the announcements we've made over the past year with our ecosystem partners, such as our cloud announcements with IBM and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Michael Dell really understands the strength of the VMware partner ecosystem, and encourages us each and every day to innovate with and grow the ecosystem that is truly the lifeblood of our company.

Q: Has the new ownership changed VMware as a company at all? In what ways?
Last year, I would often tell customers, partners and employees that from the VMware perspective, the ownership change was little more than "replacing an 'E' for a 'D.'" And for the most part, that has very much been true. We remain committed to fostering an independent, open ecosystem. Dell Technologies is supportive of this approach and does not place any limits on our ability to partner and innovate.

Q: How has the AWS partnership worked out? Are customers taking advantage?
Currently in limited beta, VMware Cloud on AWS is a vSphere-based cloud service designed to bring together the leader in private cloud with the leader in public cloud, and will make it easier for our customers to run any application using a standard set of familiar software and tools in a consistent hybrid cloud environment.

Customers will be able to run any application across vSphere-based private, public and hybrid cloud environments. It will be delivered, sold, and supported by VMware as an on-demand, elastically scalable service, and customers will be able to leverage the global footprint and breadth of services from AWS.

The customer interest to-date has been overwhelmingly positive, with the beta program significantly oversubscribed. The beta program is going well with early customers now on the platform, who are taking it through its paces. We're excited to bring this to market mid-year.

Q: Was there disappointment that vCloud Air didn't succeed the way it was originally envisioned?
I don't see it that way, and I can't think of a better home for vCloud Air than OVH. OVH is one of the largest Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) providers in the world with more than 1 million customers and 260,000 servers deployed. A longtime VMware vCloud Air Network partner with more than 200,000 VMs from thousands of customers running vSphere Private Cloud, OVH has been recognized as Service Provider of the Year by VMware five of the last six years.

OVH collaborated with us to bring its SDDC as a Service to market last year. And by adopting VMware Cloud Foundation for its Private Cloud SDDC offerings, OVH is the first European partner of VMware to integrate VMware Cloud Foundation and the SDDC platform, bringing together VMware's vSphere, vSAN and NSX into a natively integrated stack, to deliver enterprise-ready cloud infrastructure for the private and public cloud.

This is a win for vCloud Air customers, who benefit from greater choice as they select from the OVH's global datacenters across four continents and experience faster workloads through the company's thousands of miles of dark fiber and 32 points of presence worldwide.

I mentioned that OVH is one of our vCloud Air Network partners. The vCloud Air Network has become a strong area of growth for VMware. There are today more than 4,400 partners in the network, and they continue to increase in numbers and size. This partner network is very diverse and they're successful because they have unique specializations, whether it be geography, vertical or skill sets. We are very committed to continuing to deliver new and unique hybrid cloud capabilities across the entire vCloud Air Network ecosystem.

Q: How do you see VMware's role in the public cloud evolving?
VMware's cloud strategy continues to evolve based on the needs of our customers and the industry landscape. Our strategy is to bring the strength of our SDDC architecture to public clouds with our VMware Cloud Foundation, which will be delivered through our network of vCloud Air Network partners, including some big players like IBM and OVH, as well as with AWS. Given the overwhelmingly positive response from customers so far, I think we are onto something big here. We believe we offer the world's most complete and capable hybrid cloud architecture, providing customers freedom and control in their infrastructure decisions.

Another element of our Cross-Cloud Architecture, VMware Cross-Cloud Services, will extend our hybrid cloud strategy to enable our customers to run, manage, secure and connect all their applications across all clouds and all devices, regardless of whether the underlying infrastructure is VMware-based. We are on track to deliver an initial set of cross-cloud services soon. One way we will be accelerating the delivery of cross-cloud management services is through our acquisition of Wavefront, an ultra-high-performance metrics monitoring service for cloud and modern application environments. Look for some really interesting stuff in the months ahead.

Q: What are VMware's top priorities for the next 2-3 years?
Cloud and mobility continue to be the trends that will drive VMware for years to come. You will see us deliver technology that will strengthen our leadership in the private cloud, embrace the public cloud and win mindshare for enterprises living in a hybrid cloud world. Our continued innovations in SDDC will help position enterprises to securely leverage this hybrid-cloud world and navigate the mobile-cloud era.

We will continue to deliver the best solutions for enterprise mobility, as we extend our leadership in empowering digital workspaces through our end-user computing offerings.

And, finally, we will continue to define the future of networking through NSX. Networking has been long overdue for innovation, and the approach we bring to the table empowers IT to become a business enabler and provide more security and productivity.

Aside from the technology we'll be delivering over the next few years, I have two other priorities that continue to drive VMware's success. One is to expand our partner ecosystem.

The second priority will be to drive new and expanded opportunities with the businesses that comprise Dell Technologies. As I said before, we're well on track to achieve the synergies we've aimed for, but there's still much work to be done.

Q: Do you foresee containers overtaking virtual machines (VMs) in the future, or will there always be a role for VMs?
Containers and VMs are highly complementary—we think of them as better together.

Developers and operations engineers can leverage container technology to quickly build next-generation applications. But in an enterprise, these applications need to be managed and secured alongside traditional applications. VMware offers the platforms that can allow developers to build, test and run containerized applications, while enabling IT to retain security, control and performance of these applications within their infrastructure.

Containers running on VMware VMs, on a common platform (infrastructure and management), deliver the agility that developers want and the control and efficiency that IT Ops require. Developers get the same containerized workflows for build-test that they are using today, while IT Ops can manage, operationalize and enforce compliance of production deployments of containerized apps using existing tools and processes.

For companies engaged in digital transformation, it's not uncommon for infrastructure teams to be at odds with application development teams. Typically, the development team is focused on agility, innovation, and the creation of cloud-native apps to drive the business forward. The infrastructure team is responsible for functionality and uptime, and is often engaged in supporting legacy systems critical to the business. At VMware, we're addressing this friction through developer-ready infrastructure—the concept of providing a common infrastructure for both the business and application development. We're very excited about our collaboration with Pivotal in this area.

Q: What is VMware's strategy for the Internet of Things (IoT)?
It is no question that IoT will transform industries around the globe. But there are challenges of connecting thousands of devices to traditional operations environments. As enterprises prepare for the onslaught of upcoming IoT use cases, VMware IoT solutions will ensure that IT is ready to support them. VMware can help simplify IoT complexity, improve the reliability and security of an enterprise IoT infrastructure, and accelerate the ROI of these IoT use cases.

This is a natural for us due to our expertise in device management, operational analytics, security and cloud management. And we will work with IoT partners such as Dell, Fujitsu, Harmon and Samsung and others.

This year at Dell EMC World, we announced our first IoT offering, VMware Pulse IoT Center, a secure, enterprise grade, IoT infrastructure management solution that will enable IT and operational technology (OT) teams to have complete control of their IoT infrastructure. The first solution in a new family of VMware IoT offerings, VMware Pulse IoT Center will help customers to more efficiently manage, operate, scale and protect their IoT projects from the edge to the cloud.

VMware Pulse IoT Center will simplify the complexity of managing customers' IoT infrastructures and their diverse types of things as easily as one. The solution will help improve reliability of infrastructure by providing accurate and real-time visibility of "thing" health to enable customers to proactively address anomalies before they arise. Additionally, VMware Pulse IoT Center will accelerate ROI by streamlining how IoT projects get deployed and scaled while securing IoT infrastructure across things, edge, network and applications.

Q: What area of IT holds the most potential for VMware going forward?
As customers embark on their digital transformation journeys, there are a number of areas where VMware can help customers.

The first is with modernizing datacenters and integrating public clouds. Modernized datacenters create the infrastructure agility, security and scalability to support business innovation and growth. But at the same time, it's important to give developers cloud freedom of choice while ensuring that their companies use those clouds as effectively as possible.

When enterprises talk about IT agility, they look to Web-scale companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon as models of efficiency and low-cost operators at large scale.

These companies run full SDDCs, where they virtualize compute, storage and networking of general-purpose, commodity x86 hardware to create massive pools of commodity resources. They leverage virtualization to its fullest so they can focus on building and deploying the apps and app platforms that are the core of their businesses.

The software-defined architecture approach is standardized, modular, and scalable, and it ultimately enables the enterprise to streamline datacenter operations, cut costs, and build its flexibility. And no one can deliver this better than VMware.

And at the same time, enterprises need a way to integrate public clouds with the freedom to choose which public cloud to use and the control to see what's going on with it. This is something that VMware makes possible with the VMware Cross-Cloud Architecture.

Another area that VMware plays a leading role is with helping enterprises create exceptional customer experiences—no easy task. In most enterprises, a wide variety of apps can result in inconsistent user experiences, security postures and support requirements. Device proliferation and varying device-ownership models can complicate endpoint management. And legacy PC lifecycle management and Windows OS management is often complex, costly and restrictive. Our end-user computing offerings can simplify application management and access, unify endpoint management and transform Windows delivery.

Finally, I have to talk about the role VMware plays in transforming security. The increase in security breaches demonstrates that current security solutions aren't working. We need a new approach. The virtualization layer is the key to a security architecture. This is a primary reason we are seeing so much customer momentum for VMware NSX.

Q: Is VMware a viable option for small/midsize businesses? Why?
Small and midsize organizations face unique IT challenges. Your entire company runs on a few important applications, but reliable business technology can be complex and expensive. VMware makes IT simpler to manage and use, highly reliable and a lot less costly—for tens of thousands of small and midsize companies.

There are a number of reasons small and midsize businesses trust VMware so that they can stay focused on managing and growing their business. For example, VMware can help businesses empower employees by delivering flexible, anywhere, any-device access to their applications and data. They can simplify IT and save money with our solutions that help manage their IT infrastructure. They can protect their business with solutions that increase availability and security while simplifying business continuity and disaster. They can move application workloads to the cloud through our trusted, high-performance cloud platform. And, of course, they can consolidate their apps on fewer physical servers.

As we move forward, you will see more solutions that take the best of our technology and bring it to small and midsize organizations. And in collaboration with Dell, who has a strong midmarket presence, you will see offerings specifically for this market.

Q: What can attendees of VMworld 2017 U.S. look forward to?
Oh, I could go on for days here. I think of VMworld as a few things. Sure, it's a great education destination. Some of the brightest, most experienced instructors lead training courses in everything from virtualization, to unified hybrid cloud, cloud management and services, hyper-converged infrastructure and many more relevant topics. Attendees can receive certifications, and walk away with new skills and expert insights to make the most of their VMware investment. Partic­ipants can empower their career and reinvent the future by attending hundreds of breakout sessions on the technologies and best practices that will create a new world of possibilities.

When it comes to education, one place I always tell folks to check out is our Hands-On Labs, where attendees unleash their inner mad scientist. Here you can roll up your sleeves and see for yourself the latest and greatest from VMware. This year's Hands-On Labs will be pretty special, as they will be delivered through the VMware Cross-Cloud Architecture, powered by VMware's private cloud, VMware Cloud Foundation on IBM Cloud and VMware Cloud on AWS. We'll also be featuring some much-anticipated labs featuring VMware NSX, our new Pulse IoT Center, and so much more.

But I also see VMworld as a thought leadership event. You will see the industry's top leaders and subject-matter experts come together with IT professionals to immerse themselves in the latest technology. Attendees can hear expert industry perspectives on what matters most today in IT, and what's coming next.

That said, for me, it's the community that makes VMworld a great experience. I spend so much time networking with peers, and engaging in strong dialogue with so many friends, that VMworld feels very much like an annual homecoming event.

Finally, it wouldn't be VMworld without some fun. Attendees can head to our Solutions Exchange for demonstrations, contests and giveaways from hundreds of VMware partners; enjoy interactive games and entertainment in VMvillage; and they should save some energy for our must-attend VMworld Customer Appreciation Party.

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