VMware CEO Paul Maritz Leaves Behind a Vision of IT Transformation

Friday marks the end of an era, as outgoing VMware CEO Paul Maritz hands the reins to incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger.

VMWare
"I'm very happy to today formally hand over the custodianship of this community to Pat Gelsinger," Maritz told the audience during the opening keynote to VMworld 2012 on Monday as he ceremonially passed leadership of the virtualization titan to Gelsinger. He noted that Gelsinger, formerly the president and chief operating officer of EMC (owner of a majority stake in VMware) and before that a 30-year veteran of Intel, has been a friend and colleague for 30 years.

Turning to Gelsinger, Maritz gestured to the audience and told him, "Take good care of them."

Maritz left the stage to a standing ovation led by Gelsinger.

Maritz Has Been a Visionary Leader for VMware

Filling Maritz's shoes will be no easy task. Maritz has long been a luminary of the industry. He was president and general manager of EMC's Cloud Computing Division before his appointment as CEO of VMware in 2008. Prior to that, he spent 14 years at Microsoft and was widely regarded as the third-ranking executive at the software behemoth, behind Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. He was in charge of Microsoft's desktop and server software, overseeing the development of Windows 95, Windows NT and Internet Explorer.

During his four years as CEO of VMware, Maritz helped dramatically increase the company's fortunes. When he took charge in 2008, about 25 percent of the world's Intel-based applications were running on a virtualized base. Four years later, that figure is 60 percent. In that same period, the number of VMware certified professionals has risen from 25,000 to 125,000.

"Back in 2008, we were asking ourselves what the hell is it," Maritz said of cloud computing. "Now we're asking ourselves: What do we do about it? How do we actually implement it? How do you transform your operations to take full advantage of it? What's going to happen in four years' time? Where are we going with this technology?"

"Where we are going is influenced by an enormous set of forces that are affecting our industry," he added. "We're coming to the mature stages of a very successful 50-year journey to automate most of the paper-based processes in the world. Businesses are absolutely dependent on these capabilities and they're not going to go away. At this point they're just table stakes. What's happening now is the imperative to deliver fundamentally new experiences to both end users and end customers."

But these new experiences can't be delivered on today's IT infrastructure, he said. To meet the future, he said, IT needs to be even more efficient and more agile.

"We are going to see an equal transition in IT over the next four years that we've seen over the past four years," he said. Maritz believes that to deliver the agility and efficiency required to meet the future, transformation is required at every level of IT from infrastructure to applications to access.

Slideshow: Hot Products at VMworld 2012

Cloud and the Software-Defined Data Center are the Future of Infrastructure

Cloud is the foundation of the infrastructure piece of the puzzle in Maritz's view. He believes all infrastructure must be virtualized and delivered as a service, and the control of the data center at the heart must be entirely automated by software: a concept VMware dubs the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC).

The core idea behind the SDDC is extend the benefits of virtualization to every domain in the data center--compute, storage and networking--and the associated availability and security services.

"The Software-Defined Data Center enables us to think even more broadly about the process of provisioning workloads," says VMware CTO Steve Herrod. "The initial phases of virtualization have made it very easy (and affordable!) to spin up virtual machines quite quickly. But when deploying workloads into a production environment, there are so many additional steps as their network identity is created, monitoring probes are installed and security policies are enforced."

"In an ideal world, no longer do we need to order some specialized hardware, then hire a consultant to install it and program the device in its specialized language," he adds. "Instead, we'll simply define an application and all of the resources that it needs, including all of its compute, storage, networking and security needs, then group all of those things together to create a logical application. There's work ahead, but I see the Software-Defined Data Center as enabling this dramatic simplification."

As enumerated by VMware, the SDDC has five core tenets:

  • It's standardized. It consists of homogenous infrastructure delivered as software services across pools of standard, x86 hardware.
  • It's adaptive. It offers virtualized infrastructure services provided on-demand, unconstrained by physical topology, dynamically adapting to application scale and location.
  • It's automated. It features built-in intelligence that automates provisioning, placement, configuration and control based on defined policies.
  • It's holistic. It's a platform optimized for the entire data center fabric, providing comprehensive infrastructure services capable of supporting any and all applications.
  • It's resilient. It's software-based architecture and approach compensates for failing hardware, providing failover, redundancy and fault tolerance to critical operations.

As Maritz prepares to move on from the company he has shepherded for the past four years, VMware has begun to deliver on this vision. On Monday, it unveiled VMware vCloud Suite 5.1, integrating the company's virtualization, cloud infrastructure and management portfolio in an integrated suite intended to deliver the SDDC.

The Transformation of Applications Depends on Cloud

On the applications side, Maritz's vision encompasses a dramatic change in the way organizations build, run and deliver enterprise applications. This vision too, depends on cloud.

"Our customers are standardizing on our cloud infrastructure to not only reduce costs in their data centers, but also to enable their developers with an agile and scalable platform on which to build new applications," says Jerry Chen, vice president of Cloud and Applications Services at VMware. "We've seen a fundamental change in the way our customers are building and running modern applications and the products within the cloud application platform portfolio are designed to address today's application development needs while providing a path to tomorrow.

At the application layer, VMware is counting on a triad of technologies: Cloud Foundry, the open-source Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) project it released under Apache License 2.0 last year; Spring, the open-source Java application development framework; and its recently released vFabric suite, a lightweight, scalable, integrated middleware suite for developing data-intensive custom applications.

Access is About Answering the BYOD Challenge

In some ways, VMware's answer to the transformation of the access layer brings it full circle to its very beginnings with desktop virtualization. But the vision now extends far beyond the desktop to enable organizations to deliver applications and content to any device in the BYOD era. VMware plans to accomplish this with a combination of VMware View for desktop virtualization, Wanova Mirage to provide central management of virtual desktops with local execution, and Horizon Suite, an integrated solution for managing devices, applications and data.

The Changing of the Guard

Of course, as Maritz moves on to his new position as chief strategist at EMC (which owns a 79 percent stake in VMware), the question is how much incoming VMware CEO Gelsinger will alter the vision laid out by Maritz. For his part, Gelsinger has given every indication that he intends to stay the course.

"I've known VMware for many years," Gelsinger said. "This is a period of great disruption in the industry. The infrastructure, applications and access layer are all being changed simultaneously. Personally, I'm committed to the strategy that Paul has laid out. I want to accelerate, define and deliver on this powerful vision that has been described."

During the four years of Maritz's watch, the percentage of Intel-based applications running on a virtualized base increased from 25 percent to 60 percent. Gelsinger says his goal is to push that number to 90+ percent in the next three to four years. He also says that he intends to push further dramatic improvements in provisioning, giving organizations the ability to deliver in minutes or seconds what today takes hours or days.

Thor Olavsrud covers IT Security, Big Data, Open Source, Microsoft Tools and Servers for CIO.com. Follow Thor on Twitter @ThorOlavsrud. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Thor at tolavsrud@cio.com

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