VMworld Opens with Leadership, Licensing and Technology Changes

The ninth annual VMworld conference in San Francisco on Monday was marked by an acknowledgment of the coming leadership change at VMware.

Paul Maritz, who led VMware as chief executive over the last four years, will be stepping down. VMware's parent company, EMC Corp., had announced plans in July to move Maritz to the role of chief strategist at EMC. Pat Gelsinger, who has been serving as EMC's president and COO, will be taking the CEO spot at VMware and the top chair position at EMC. That change goes into effect on September 1, and Maritz will keep his VMware board seat.

"I'm happy to be formally turning over custodianship of this community to Pat Gelsinger," Maritz told the VMworld crowd as his successor took the stage. "Nobody can accuse Pat of being laid back."

But this switch is more of an executive shuffle than a changing of the guard, said Dana Gardner, principle analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

"Maritz is not getting pushed out," Gardner said. "He's getting pushed up. This has been a very nondisruptive change. It didn't bother Wall Street. And the community and ecosystem seems to be accepting it. I think there's trust, knowledge and affinity with the new CEO, just as there was with the old."

Before becoming CEO of VMware in July 2008, Maritz served as president and general manager of EMC's Cloud Infrastructure and Services Division. Before that, he spent 14 years working for Microsoft. Before joining EMC, Gelsinger spent approximately 30 years at Intel Corp.

Although it was a smooth executive handoff, Gardner pointed out that it comes at a time when VMware sales are flagging and competition is up -- especially from Cisco, the world's largest maker of computer networking gear.

Software-Defined Datacenter
After the handoff, Gelsinger and CTO Steve Herrod made a number of announcements, all around the company's current strategy/buzzphrase: "the software-defined datacenter," which Maritz had described earlier: "Corporate datacenters will look like those big public clouds," he explained. "We're trying to pool all the technology, including server virtualization, management, a user portal and, increasingly, storage and networking, which you need to build your own cloud."

The software-defined data center aims to make IT infrastructure more efficient and agile by extending virtualization and abstraction to the storage and networking portions of the datacenter.

Herrod pointed to the company's $1.26 billion acquisition of networking virtualization start-up Nicira, as a key component of this strategy going forward. The company gives VMware new network virtualization capabilities to take on the demands of Big Data.

Licensing and Suite Changes
Gelsinger also disclosed VMware's plan to kill the unpopular and often confusing vRAM licensing model in favor of a simpler per-CPU/per-core model. He also said that his company will expand its support for OpenStack and a "multi-cloud world."

He also unveiled the company's vCloud Suite 5.1, which includes a set of products that "apply the virtualization principles of abstraction, pooling, and automation to the domains of storage, networking, security and availability in a bundled package for the cloud era." The suite combines vSphere 5.1, with new features for app and support for VMs with up to 64 virtual CPUs. It also includes enhancements to the vSphere Distributed Switch and vSphere Motion, which enables live migration of VMs without the need for shared storage. The new vCloud Suite is also designed to simplify and automate the management of vCloud Director 5.1, vCloud Connector, the vCenter Operations Management Suite, and vFabric Application Director.

This release of the suite also "redefines the network" with the new 5.1 version of vCloud Networking and Security, and it comes with a set of automated disaster recover tools.

During his introduction, Maritz cited some statistics to make the case that virtualization is a mature and in-demand technology. More than 60 percent of workloads are virtualized, he said, which means that virtualization has become "the default way for organizations to deploy servers." Over the next three to four years, VMware expects this percentage to grow to between 80 percent and 90 percent, he said.

Given these numbers, said Gardner, it's no wonder VMware is able to list so many partnering organizations.

"Virtualization is not a sideshow," he said. "It's the main show. And so these other ecosystem players are really jumping into this transformed-data-center era. I see momentum that tells me that this is a very strong market globally, and that others are going to bet their businesses on it."

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC is the world's largest maker of storage computers. The company acquired a controlling interest in VMware in 2004.

Organizers of the annual VMworld event are reporting the largest turnout to date, including 20,000 attendees, with an additional 10,000 tuning in via the Web to watch remote streams of keynotes.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].


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