VMware CEO pledges cloud computing freedom

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

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JG: I just want to make sure that we understand that, the minus-two-year thing. You feel at this point that VMware has delivered to customers everything they need to have a true software-defined data center covering compute, storage, network?

Unequivocal yes. I now have hundreds of customers that are running that at scale and we’ll have a handful of reference customers, relevant brands who are describing their use of exactly that. Let’s build that timeline a little bit. vSphere: Got it. NSX. We started shipping NSX approximately three years ago. It took a while to get it really robust and scalable, but now we’re at 1,700-plus customers running who have bought it, hundreds of customers who are now in production. VSAN, another key ingredient, we now have just in the last quarter 5,000-plus customers running VSAN. VRealize automation and operation, thousands of customers running it. If we take the Venn diagram of all of those pieces together, we clearly have hundreds of customers now who are running the full SDDC stack, all of the elements that I described in production, at scale.

JG: I’ll take a different angle on that. If you’re minus two years into it, how far away are your competitors from delivering on that full SDDC vision?

Well, not speaking on behalf of my competitors but none of them is there. If you say you have to do those four things at scale in production, being able to automate and operate at the management plane, virtualize the network, being able to have fully software-driven storage for enterprise-grade workloads and, of course, the compute virtualization, no one else can deliver all those components.

JG: How much lead time do you think you have in the SDDC market?

NSX is years ahead of anybody else in the marketplace and I know of no plans from anyone that gets them within years of NSX. We have leadership positions in all four and NSX, VSAN, management, you add up those components, every one of those is at least a year or more ahead of its competition. I’ll argue NSX is a couple years ahead of anybody else in the marketplace.

Again, it’s not just about “the ingredients” but now we’ve fully brought them together with automation, lifecycle management. That’s what the Cloud Foundation is about. And we’re also delivering them as a service. That’s what the IBM and the vCAN announcement is about, where people can consume those in as-a-service models on other people’s hardware, other people’s data centers and yet have all of the robustness, security, networking complexity, etc., addressed. This is a pretty powerful combination.

BB: I wanted to drill down on the software-defined networking piece of that and the NSX product. From your vantage point, where would you say we are in terms of adoption of that?

If I go back to the facts here, we said 1,700-plus customers, hundreds of customers now in production, deployment, year on year. We’re up 400% since the beginning of last year in terms of deployment. We’re clearly now, in Geoffrey Moore terms, in the tornado. Customer adoption is vibrant and accelerating, use cases are expanding. We have customers at scale that are running thousands of virtual machines in a fully virtual network environment. We’ve got multiple use cases across industries, across geographies. At the same time, we’ve got a lot of stuff to do yet.

As I described NSX, we have just barely done the first vMotion if I were to pair it in vSphere terms. This is a rich, rich domain for innovation for years to come and obviously, it’s part of the cross-cloud services. We’re now describing the next phase of the NSX evolution because we’re presenting it as a service. We’re allowing it to operate across clouds. We’re enabling a common network environment that fully embraces the rapid growth of the public clouds like Amazon, Azure and yet combining it with the private cloud and traditional networking environments.

This is absolutely game changing and unique. As thrilled as I am about being in the tornado, the numbers are showing to me what the next decade portends here is even more powerful. We’re seeing the ecosystem reflect that, with more and more ecosystem partnerships. Obviously, Palo Alto has been a great partner and just this morning I was reading Juniper announced their increased support for NSX. Obviously, Cisco has become more favorable, acknowledged the role and importance of NSX to their customers. Several of the SDDC announcements that we’ll have at VMworld specifically are Cisco-plus-NSX customers so it really is gaining traction in multiple dimensions.

BB: You mentioned the news at SDN World around using NSX as a multi-cloud platform. What are the advantages of customers using a software-defined networking platform as a hybrid cloud management tool?

Right now, how are people accessing their public cloud resources? They’re simply setting up some kind of gateway to interface between their private environments and public environments, and there’s very little connectivity between those. What we are enabling with NSX is literally that my microsegment environment can now stretch across any dimension. I could, in fact, set up a virtual overlay network at the L2, L3 level where my IP domain is consistent across my public/private cloud environment.

I can move things around as I choose to across my public cloud environment or from public to private, be firewalled across those environments in a common, software-driven, scalable and resilient fashion and never change any aspect of my development environment that I’m taking advantage of today, which may have private cloud as well as public elements. That’s absolutely game changing. As we’ve engaged with customers about that, it’s like Einstein walking in and describing E equals mc2. It’s like -- Aha. It just changes their perspective of what’s now possible.


BB: I wanted to ask you about the Cisco and VMware relationship. You mentioned Cisco and the integrations within NSX. Do you view Cisco as a competitor or a partner at this point?

They’re clearly in the coopetition phase where they have the ACI product that they position in the marketplace covering some of the NSX use cases and we’ve clearly said there are aspects of ACI that we’re never going to do. We’re never going to do automated physical fabric management. That’s not our space and we’re never going to do that better than Cisco or the networking vendor would do. There are clearly some places where they would say ACI can do some of the things NSX is doing. But the vast majority of use cases sit above that layer and that’s where we’re finding the great resonance and value to a very broad and growing set of NSX customers.

It’s things like distributed firewalls, application agility, cross-cloud management and connectivity, being able to rebuild a DR [disaster recovery] architecture or a DMZ, taking advantage of this software-driven networking approach. Those are things that are just game changing and absolutely not overlapping with anything that Cisco is doing. They wouldn’t acknowledge the product if they could deliver their own but they’re seeing these use cases from a growing set of their customers. There are these complementary cases and our customers are asking us to support that.


JG: Pat, you mentioned that Michael Dell will be at the event and as that Dell/EMC merger approaches finalization, we want readers to understand exactly what that means for VMware and for them as customers. What does it mean?

Michael is going to stand on stage and he’s going to say: I love the vibrant ecosystem of VMware and I support it. I’m going to grow my business with VMware and I’m committed to go do that with Pat and the VMware team but I hope all of you grow faster than I do. I’m going to continue to support them working with and partnering with this rich ecosystem of vendors, some of which they compete with, some of which they partner with as well. It continues to be reinforcing the independence of VMware, the ecosystem of VMware and the acceleration of VMware. We’ll have, as I said, the VMware Cloud Foundation, they’ll stand up and commit to the support of that and the EMC/Dell product line going forward as one example of that acceleration.

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