An interview with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

VMware has been riding the virtualisation bandwagon since it was granted U.S. Patent 6,397,242 which described a virtualisation system including a virtual machine monitor for a computer with a segmented architecture. The following year it introduced VMware Virtual Platform for the Intel IA-32 architecture.

VMware CEO, Pat Gelsinger, shares his views around virtualisation, software defined future, the company’s recent acquisition strategies, and the competitive landscape.

DSA: Some analysts think that server virtualisation is old story and that the next area to virtualize will be storage and networks. What is your assessment of this from the perspective of your customers?
PG: I do not think that server virtualisation is an old story and that the next area to virtualize will be storage and networks. I come to see it as a holistic approach to the software-defined datacentre (SDDC).
There are essentially four pillars to the SDDC, the most advanced aspect of SDDC portfolio is compute. However, there are still many workloads at ASEAN customers that are not virtualized yet such as Hadoop, Big Data, ERP, database, Microsoft Office, etc… According to IDC, ASEAN markets are still less than 20 percent virtualized from a compute perspective and have only begun to look at storage and network. There is lots of room to grow.
The second most mature pillar of our SDDC approach is management.  In this space, we see it moving from management to automation and allowing the policy-driven, self-service portals, big data telemetry aspects in management. That business is well underway for us and we are quite excited with the business results we’ve seen in the last couple of quarters.
Two exciting new areas for us are networking and storage. With networking, it includes the whole net stack, everything associated with infrastructure, security and all the Layer 2-7 services. With our Nicira acquisition in 2013, we were able to launch VMware NSX this year as our network virtualisation and security platform for the SDDC.
The software-defined datacentre with compute and network virtualisation forms a foundation that enables enterprises to address their modern business and security needs in a profound new way.
The fourth pillar of our SDDC vision is the virtual storage architecture. We recently set a major milestone with the launch of VMware Virtual SAN in February, a radically new and simple storage solution optimized for virtual environments. With VMware Virtual SAN, we have delivered our first software-defined storage, representing the last remaining piece of our SDDC strategy.
Those four taken together truly allow us to execute on the complete SDDC – covering compute, network, security and storage, all being delivered through automation.
DSA: What is your view on cross-platform virtualisation?
PG: The concept of cross platform software has been around for a long time and has incredible value, allowing applications to run on different cloud computing environments. vCloud Automation Center enables agility by automating the delivery of personalized IT services.  Through a self-service catalogue, users request and manage a wide range of multi-vendor, multi-cloud applications, infrastructure, and custom services.
We believe that giving organisations choice allows them to better respond to these needs
vCloud Automation Center, through a highly customisable, self-service portal, also gives ability to provision physical servers from major vendors (e.g. Cisco, Dell, HP, and more), as well as provision workloads on hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix.  With extensibility to hybrid and public cloud services (such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and VMware’s own vCloud Hybrid Service), you gain the economics of cloud computing, while maintaining flexibility and control.
VMware’s goal it to establish IT as a broker of services, across their on premise and cloud computing environments.
DSA: What are vendors like VMware doing to alleviate performance bottlenecks in virtualized environments?
PG: vCenter Operations Management Suite, our solution that allows IT organisations to standardize on a single operations management platform designed to enable higher quality of service, operational efficiency, control and compliance across all applications and services in virtual, physical and cloud environments. This is particularly important in a multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment in which each solution has its own set of tools and requires specific skills to manage.
Performance bottlenecks in a virtualized environment are to be expected, and IT organisations looking to achieve high levels of service need to reduce the Mean Time to Identification (MTTI). vCenter Operations Management collects performance data from virtual, physical, public clouds and other hypervisors and uses self-learning analytics to proactively detect and avoid incidents up to 24 hours in advance.  Through a single pane of glass, vCenter Operations Management reduces false alerts by up to 90% to improve availability and uptime of systems.
The solution also offers enhanced performance analytics for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL Server, introduce analytics for a broad range of storage vendors and devices and provide deeper visibility into applications running on Microsoft Hyper-V and Amazon Web Services.
DSA: Open-source KVM is currently the default hypervisor for OpenStack cloud software. What is VMware’s position on this?
GP: OpenStack is an open framework for interfaces that allow people to construct a cloud. VMware has and will continue to support the OpenStack interfaces and make contributions to extend those to our best-of-breed VMware technologies.
We are working hard to ensure that customers who choose OpenStack have the ability to run it on VMware technology.  We have already integrated VMware vSphere and VMware NSX, and are taking further steps to make sure the automation and operations management in the VMware vCloud Suite are fully integrated with OpenStack as well.   Customers will be able to leverage their existing investments in VMware infrastructure, knowledge, and tools to benefit from new innovations like VMware NSX, VMware Virtual SAN, and VMware vCenter Operations Management Suite all while using OpenStack.
We are finding that customers like the openness of those interfaces but are finding VMware component technologies the best choices they have to build and deploy their cloud environment. An example is PayPal. They chose OpenStack management interfaces and essentially did a Nova controller-like solution, and are happy with ESX’s Hypervisor underneath it.  We have a great attach rate for OpenStack environments against the NSX and NVP [Nicira Network Virtualisation Platform] and OVS [Open vSwitch] technologies. We are actually seeing OpenStack as an opportunity to extend our position.
DSA: Given the direction towards cloud-provision of compute (and everything else), what is the future role for VMware?
PG: The business environment is evolving faster than any other time in history. And technology is under pressure to drive value and differentiate businesses more than ever before.  How businesses adapt to modern and future technology requirements can mean the difference between success and failure.
VMware’s goal is to help drive business transformation via IT by helping enterprises move towards IT as a Service (ITaaS). Our customers are progressively evolving their IT infrastructure from the client-server era to the mobile cloud era.
With our three key business pillars: SDDC, hybrid cloud and end-user computing, VMware is best positioned to extend the role of virtualisation to every piece of infrastructure, not just compute virtualisation but network, security, management, end-user computing and the public and private cloud. With virtualisation software companies have a powerful way to build their future architecture for the mobile cloud world while building efficiencies and transforming their existing environments. Virtualisation is the key technology, and VMware is uniquely positioned to enable enterprises to accomplish that transition.
DSA: How significant is “acquisition” as a growth strategy for VMware? How much autonomy do you have on this given that EMC owns VMware? (note: Since 2013 VMware has acquired 7 companies).
In recent months, one of our major announcements was the acquisition of AirWatch, the leading provider of enterprise mobile management and security solutions. This acquisition, coupled with the recent launch of our Horizon 6 solution, positions us as a leader in the end-user computing space.
Also, one of our biggest moves in the last year was our 1.2 billion dollar acquisition of Nicira, which extends our network virtualisation capability to open source environments.  This is a tremendously strategic acquisition for us and we expect to do for networking what we’ve done for compute over the last ten years.
Another key acquisition in the infrastructure space was DynamicOps, which provides IT services across multi-cloud, multi-platform and multi-vendor environments. This is a sign of our maturity is reaching the stage where we can go heterogeneous and serve customers that don’t only have vSphere. Taking a heterogeneous approach is not only essential to the software-defined datacentre – it is essential to operating alongside all the other IT companies.
VMware is a wholly independent company and traded publically. We have a continuing partnership with EMC particularly in areas like DR and software-defined storage.
In areas like networking, there is a whole new ecosystem of partners that become more important to us going forward. The VMware, Cisco and EMC (VCE) joint venture continues to show rapid growth as do the long term relationships we have with HP, IBM and Dell.  VMware has been structured in such a way that it allows us to work with our ecosystem partners in an independent and effective manner.
VMware has always had an extensive partner ecosystem including the likes of NetApp, Hitachi, HP, F5, Cisco, IBM, etc… This is what customers and the market expect and is something that is not going to change.
DSA: VMware’s traditional competitors are Microsoft, Oracle and Citrix. Do you ever see large cloud service vendors (Azure, AWS, Google) are becoming your competitors as VMware pushes its hybrid cloud offering?
PG: Our hybrid cloud offering, VMware vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) does not compete directly with Amazon Web Services. vCHS is a compatible extension to the VMware vCloud Suite on-premise, uniquely built and optimised for enterprise and business workloads. Amazon Web Services is focused on applications that are born in the cloud or only offered in the cloud with their proprietary services. Amazon has clearly been an innovator and leader in public cloud services, which we appreciate. However, they don't meet the unique needs of most enterprise customers and this is an area where vCHS is getting great traction.
DSA: What is your view of the Software Defined Future, how long will that last, and what future will VMware play in this SDF?
PG: The Software Defined Future is real. This notion of a software-defined approach to all that we do in IT is core to VMware’s strategy and how we deliver optimal value to our customers. By the end of 2016, every relevant IT organisation will have standardised on a software-defined approach to IT, the key to creating an agile enterprise. VMware’s task is to help our customers transform to this new model as fast as possible.

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