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February 26, 2009

Bullish VMware articulates vision

Not worried about Microsoft, Google, Amazon

By CBR Staff Writer

Virtualisation vendor VMware has been outlining its roadmap at VMworld Europe 2009 in Cannes and suggests it is very confident about the challenges it may face over the next few years.

“We want people to know that we are going to be a long-term part of their infrastructure. We have a vision that goes beyond our current product,” COO Tod Nielsen told CBR during a wide-ranging interview.

VMware’s revamped vSphere range of products shifted the focus more towards management, which according to Nielsen is a logical step for the company to take.

“It’s a new world when you’re not counting physical servers, but you’ve got virtual machines flying around,” Nielsen said. “In physical world management, you wouldn’t think about having a server for just two days. In a virtual world, if you’re not careful you can have all kinds of sprawl and you need a cohesive view of what is going on – which ones are online, offline, what is underutilised.”

VMware takes a different view to the future development of cloud computing to the likes of Google, Amazon and Microsoft – who believe that there will a small number of huge clouds dominating the sphere, Nielsen said.

“We think there will be a network of thousands of smaller cloud providers that will each offer their unique differentiation,” he said. “These service providers are coming to us because they feel like they’ve had war declared on them – they’ve never had to compete with Google before.”

Smaller cloud service providers would be better positioned to help companies comply with laws and regulations regarding data storage – something that huge cloud providers such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon may not be able to do, Nielsen argues.

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“I think their view is a little naïve with this reality,” Nielsen said. “For example, in the European Union, you cannot move personal data outside of the EU. In a disaster recovery scenario, if Microsoft were to take one of their data centres and move it over to the US, they could in violation of that policy. A local provider may not have that problem.”

Microsoft in particular has recently made moves in VMware’s space, but Nielsen insists that the company is well-placed to fight off any challenge from the Redmond giant. “They bought their first Hypervisor company in 2001 and are just now coming out with something we shipped three years ago,” he said.

Nielsen and VMware CEO Paul Maritz are former Microsoft employees, so are familiar with how the company is likely to approach the virtualisation battle. “Microsoft gets a laser-lock on a competitor and they just watch,” Nielsen said. “The minute the competitor makes a mistake they pounce. So as long as we execute flawlessly, we can stay ahead of them.”

Nielsen maintains that VMware’s virtualisation technology is “generations” ahead of Microsoft’s and its investment in R&D should maintain that lead.

VMware now has about 2,500 people working in its R&D department and the company boasts nearly 7,000 employees worldwide. Nielsen suggests that the growth of the company has meant a fundamental change in mindset is needed.

“Right now we still act and think like a Palo Alto, California company, instead of realising it’s a big world out there.” he said. “There are things we need to fix in terms of thinking globally, like making sure doing business with us internationally is easy. For example, we still do business only in US currency.”

The company is taking steps to improve its globalisation approach – three new regional managers have been appointed in EMEA, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

VMware maintains it is in a very good position to tackle any challenges that are thrown its way over the next few years, whether it is competition from Microsoft or the economic situation, but it must ensure that its confidence does not morph into arrogance if it is to win the virtualisation war.

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