VMware CEO talks software-defined data centers, OpenStack and dueling Amazon

At the helm for a year now, Pat Gelsinger says his company is well positioned

As a top executive at Intel and EMC, Pat Gelsinger helped build the data centers of today. Now, as CEO of VMware, he’s promising to deliver the data centers of tomorrow. In this installment of the IDG Enterprise CEO Interview Series, Gelsinger spoke with Chief Content Officer John Gallant and Network World Senior Writer Brandon Butler about what he’s accomplished one year into his tenure, and why the company is uniquely positioned to deliver on the vision of software-defined data centers. Gelsinger detailed the company’s plans for its upcoming infrastructure-as-a-service offerings and how it will out-duel early leader Amazon in that market. He also discussed VMware’s plans to simplify mobility and explained how, rather than threatening the company, OpenStack is widening VMware’s market. (Oh, one other thing about OpenStack: He doesn’t see it gaining traction in the enterprise.) Gelsinger also shared thoughts on VMware’s competitors and discussed how he’ll work with former VMware CEO Paul Maritz’s new Pivotal spin off.

John Gallant:     What did you set out to change at the company and what have you accomplished so far?

Pat Gelsinger:    Coming into the company, a number of things were obvious.  One was this choreographed plan of the formation of Pivotal and moving the assets from EMC together to do that. I came in here, stepped in to take over as the leader.  That freed up Paul [Maritz] to go develop the Pivotal plan, and then we executed on that plan.  April 1st was the formal launch of it.  But also it was clear that VMware, as we moved those assets out, we needed to simultaneously clarify what it was that we were going to do going forward. We had the core virtualization platform that has been extraordinary for the compute [layer], but we had to lay out very clearly what our next vision was going to be as a company.  And we did that, our three priorities for the company, and then got everything aligned against those priorities.  We restructured the company, we sold off assets.  And really our Q2 earnings call, to me, was sort of the marker: OK, we’re done with all that stuff.  We’ve clarified the earnings, we clarified what’s in and what’s out, where we’re going for the future, and obviously, the good financial numbers helped us sort of snap the line in saying: OK, we’re ready for up-and-to-the-right for the next decade like we did for the last.


JG:         What does the coming year hold for the company and what are some of the milestones we should expect along the way?

PG:         Well, we’ve laid out a bold agenda. Let’s just briefly walk through the three elements.  Obviously, for software-defined data center, take what we’ve done in compute and now execute on management, storage, network and security, and deliver that whole capability as a suite of integrated solutions, our vCloud suite offering. Really virtualize the data center.  Number two is do that both on-premise and in the cloud.  That’s what our hybrid service is about, launching ourselves into the infrastructure-as-a-service business, but then uniquely binding on- and off-premise, given our core position in the enterprise workloads, and being able to combine that in the cloud. We think that really uniquely allows us to execute on the hybrid value proposition.  The third, of course, is the end-user computing, which we have a good position for virtual desktop.  But the world is moving to mobile. We say that the entire computing landscape has moved from client/server to mobile cloud, and we will be uniquely positioned as the infrastructure provider for mobile and for hybrid cloud on and off-premise. Those three things, to us, form the triangle of complete strategy that allows us to be the infrastructure provider for enterprise. That allows them to both build that new infrastructure, but also we can help them save money in their old, if they’re transforming and building efficiencies in their old environment.  That strategy has been laid out.  We’ve communicated it clearly internally and externally, and now we’ve just got to execute like crazy on making it happen.

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