Hedging its bets, VMware embraces brave new IT world
By Edwin Yapp September 23, 2014
- VMware begins executing SDDC, hybrid cloud and end-user computing vision
- Analysts welcome more open approach, but say execution will be challenging
AS the dust settles on the recently-concluded VMworld 2014 held in San Francisco, one thing is clear: Virtualisation and cloud vendor VMware Inc is going deeper into the software-defined-data-centre (SDDC) while trying to relax its hitherto closed approach to the cloud ecosystem.
At the conference held last month, VMware executives were busy selling the idea of being “brave” and how the 16-year-old software company needed to embrace change in today’s highly competitive world, which itself is going through a paradigm shift.
The company’s chief executive Pat Gelsinger (pic above) took the stage and set the tone by telling the over 20,000-strong audience that today’s world is a lot more fluid, and the speed at which business is being conducted demands that information technology (IT) too needs to be as fluid.
Two years after taking the reins, the head honcho of the Palo Alto, California-based company continued to articulate his vision of the software-defined data centre (SDDC) and the hybrid cloud offering vCloud Hybrid Service, recently renamed VMware vCloud Air.
He also touted the company as one that is transforming itself into a complete one-stop-shop cloud provider.
“Every day, I challenge our engineers in our company to transform, deliver, innovate, and enable value for our customers,” he said in his keynote address.
Underpinning Gelsinger’s vision is VMware’s desire to empower its existing customers and potential ones with access to choice, especially in an increasingly open cloud-based enterprise world.
Gelsinger said that with VMware’s vision of the SDDC and vCloud Air, its customers need not be hemmed in by what he terms as the tyranny of ‘the or’ but would be able to embrace the power of ‘the and’ and the choices it presents.
Customers, he claimed, need no longer be forced to choose between “on-premise or off-premise, traditional apps or cloud apps; to satisfy IT or software developers; or to have an open or a safe, secure compliant environment.”
“We are the bridge between these two worlds,” proclaimed the 30-year IT industry veteran and former chief technical officer at Intel Corp.
“VMware has the unique power to be the ‘and’ between these two worlds,” he said.
The landscape described by the 54-year-old chief executive is a result of changes in enterprise IT and the data centre over the past decade, driven by two major developments.
The first was the continual virtualisation of data centres as organisations from financial services industries (FSIs), manufacturers, telcos, retail, and even the public sector sought to consolidate their server farms and reduce physical hardware in a bid to cut cost and improve efficiency.
The second was the rise of public cloud computing, with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace providing alternatives to enterprises, doing away with the need for such customers to run their own data centres.
A pioneer in virtualisation software, VMware has for the most part benefited from the first trend through its ability to help large enterprises run multiple operating systems and applications on top of their growing x86 infrastructure user base.
At the same time, VMware’s offerings allowed enterprises to balance IT workloads by pooling their resources together, and to act in concert.
VMware’s software lies deep in the heart of data centres, most of which are privately owned and operated by large companies.
But as public cloud computing took hold, the second trend began to disrupt companies such as VMware, providing alternatives to large enterprises looking to minimise their IT complexity.
Cognisant of this, VMware has in the last three years begun repositioning itself not merely as a virtualisation player but one that is able to be an end-to-end cloud player. This is also why Gelsinger and his top lieutenants spoke about a series of new initiatives at VMworld 2014.
These initiatives include offering original equipment manufactured hardware-based products; the extension of its vCloud Air hybrid cloud services to customers including those in China and Japan; the accommodation of OpenStack open source framework in its product roadmap; and working with open source initiatives such as Docker.
“It’s important for everyone in this room [to know] that I will hold VMware accountable and to be brave – to push forward and disrupt [the industry] for the benefit of our customers,” said Gelsinger.
“We’ve got your back, we are here delivering the tools to go forward in this new world of brave IT,” he added.
In a research note, Forrester Research said that VMware’s strategy is consistent with what enterprises should be considering by being more resolute in migrating away from a heavy IT agenda and toward more of a ‘business technology agenda’ in the age of the customer.
“This is a brave message for VMware to send, as the vendor owes its very existence to the people it’s now exhorting to change,” read its Quick Take: Breaking down VMworld 2014 report released recently.
The research firm said VMware made a positive move by taking pains to shed its proprietary reputation, stressing that this would help customers manage, integrate, and optimise anything the company doesn’t make itself.
“No other strategy makes sense and VMware seems to understand that. But it will take time for customers to trust VMware … as the industry remains leery of VMware because of its dogmatic past.
“We see promise for VMware in this direction, but it has a lot of hard work to do to live up to its ‘better on VMware’ vision,” the Forrester report said.
Next up: VMware's hybrid cloud strategy and where it stands