VMware CEO pledges cloud computing freedom

Heading into VMworld, Pat Gelsinger talks software-defined data centers, Cisco coopetition and Dell/EMC turbocharging

In what’s become something of an annual tradition, we talked with VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger at the outset of the virtualization leader’s VMworld 2016 conference. In this interview with Network World Senior Writer Brandon Butler and IDG Chief Content Officer John Gallant, Gelsinger shared the big news from the event, including new tools that make it easier for customers to build cross-cloud environments, as well as an expanded partnership with IBM. With finalization of the Dell/EMC merger just over the horizon, Gelsinger reassured VMware customers about the company’s independence but said the resources available from that powerful ally will put ‘turbochargers’ on VMware’s back. He discussed the state of the software-defined data center and where customers stand in the deployment of virtual networks.

BRANDON BUTLER: What is the big message from VMware and VMworld 2016?

The big message is clearly this idea of the Cross-Cloud Architecture that enables our customers to have cloud freedom, control and simplicity. With that, we’re making two big area announcements. One is the VMware Cloud Foundation, bringing together all the core technologies to build and operate clouds and make them simpler to build and run, as well as a new set of cross-cloud services - largely built on the capabilities of NSX vRealize - enabling our customers to manage, run and connect workloads on any cloud, including major public clouds that aren’t built on VMware technologies at their core, like Amazon, [Microsoft] Azure, etc. That’s the big headline: changing the way people can take advantage of cloud for the future.

VMware Cloud Foundation is a unified SDDC [software-defined data center] platform and we are announcing with IBM that they are the first customer to take advantage of that to build and accelerate their cloud offerings. It’s an extension of what we announced earlier with them but now IBM with SoftLayer will be bringing a new offering forward that allows people to essentially instantiate a full VMware SDDC environment in minutes. That used to take days.

Also at the show, we will have updates on NSX, our storage, our products, VxRail and the VxRack products. We’ll have Michael Dell there affirming both his commitment to the ecosystem as well as his embrace and use of the vCloud Foundation products, and we will be rolling out our VMware integrated container offering as well. This is making containers great on VMware environments, making it easy for container development but also robust, manageable, secure from the IT shop. Those will be some of the big, top-level messages.

+ MORE FROM VMWORLD 2016 VMware ‘Cloud Foundation’ integrates virtual compute, network and storage systems +

BB: I wanted to dig in on the Cloud Foundation product. What’s the idea behind that? Is this at all an acknowledgement of the struggles that customers are having building private clouds?

Making private clouds easy and it’s that simple. People say: Boy, cloud is easy. Well, cloud is easy if you do easy things but if you want to now start setting up complex networks, security domains, connect old apps to new apps, those are not easy. What VMware Cloud Foundation is doing is bringing together all those pieces to make it easy for day one as well as for day two; lifecycle management of the stack, patch, upgrade, etc. That VMware Cloud Foundation technology will be represented in two ways. It will be available as an on premise product.

As I mentioned before, Michael will say that he’s making that available as part of the Dell/EMC family of rack products. It’s also the foundation of IBM and they’re delivering their service offering based on the SDDC stack. IBM will be standing up and saying: We’re taking the VMware Cloud Foundation as a core part of how we’re building the VMware SDDC offering from IBM SoftLayer and the broad set of vCloud Air Network partners. We expect many of them to take that same technology to make the full as-a-service offering easy for customers to be able to consume.

If you’re an IT guy and your complex applications are running in a VMware environment, now you can easily have all of the same services, networking, security, management, etc., and I’m doing it on somebody else’s data center, somebody else’s hardware. Wow! That’s a powerful new set of flexible choices that they’re offering. If I bring it back to the beginning of the discussion, that’s what we mean by cloud freedom and control. It might be private, might be public. I have the freedom and the same controlled management security mechanisms that I know and love from VMware for the last decade plus.


JOHN GALLANT: Pat, you’ve talked with us for several years now about the concept of the software-defined data center. How far away are we from that being a reality?

I’d say minus two years. I’m being a little bit flip but I’ll describe the journey of the SDDC. We declared the SDDC almost exactly five years ago. It’s when Raghu Raghuram (VMware EVP and GM, SDDC Division) and Steve Herrod (formerly VMware CTO and SVP of Research and Development, now managing director at General Catalyst) stood up and described the concept of the software-defined data center and really laid out that vision. We then spent three years putting the pieces together and now we’re about two years along and people are instantiating full SDDC environments.

I’ll have a customer montage [at VMworld] that will show a handful of customers who are now operating SDDC at scale. I was just reading one last night where they were describing the hundreds of man-years of savings, the cost savings, which in their mind was half of what it was costing them before; the reduction in patch, reduction in incidence tickets, etc., that are resulting because of the full deployment of SDDC. As I said, we’ll have those customers in the video montage. People saying: It’s real. I’m doing it and it is delivering great results for me.

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