James: In an era when we are all shifting to applications and containers and away from virtual machines, how do you respond to that as a business? Is VMware still relevant?
Lee: I think that’s a great question. That is the after effect of our name: VMWare still creates conversations of virtual machines and vMotion. I have been with VMware 14.5 years and I think it’s great looking at what we started doing back in the late 90s, in terms of taking resources like CPU memory and making them fluid in delivery to application and operating systems. But then wind the clock forward to now and that’s really been our core journey from that day.
Although we didn’t know it back then. We didn’t know the term digital transformation, software abstraction or software-defined networking or storage. But that’s really where we started.
We used to have a slide years ago that showed an old RAID 5 configuration over the top of a datacentre. That was our goal back then: to create an operating system for the datacentre that makes the datacentre invisible. It is amazing how as we have evolved through the noughties and into where we are now, that whole mindset about delivering resources to applications fluidly is still the driving force in everything we do.
James: I guess HCI (hyperconverged Infrastructure) is the ultimate expression of that and we’ve seen a lot of traction in that space this year. I suppose what’s interesting is why are customers buying it?
Lee: It is about removing complexity. If you look at what an application needs, applications are not that dissimilar to human beings. We all need certain things to survive. Applications and developers need computer memory resource, network resource and they need storage resource. The HCI part of that is about customers moving to that model to allow them to deliver that resource on-demand.
James: What would you say are the key investments VMware is making to help customers take the benefits of IT agility and flexibility beyond simplifying your existing IT infrastructure? To helping customers to manage that in a broader way across public cloud and containers and so forth?
Lee: There are two very simple concepts there: consistent operations and consistent infrastructure. One of the reasons it has taken us the amount of time and the level of investment – to build a platform that can span any location, whether its public cloud, cloud provider, on-premises – is that to do that effectively you need a platform that gives you that consistency. Without that consistency, and what we’ve seen with some of our existing customers, is that they end up reintroducing the silos that they spent 15 years trying to get out of with virtualisation.
Without that consistency, and what we’ve seen with some of our existing customers, is that they end up reintroducing the silos that they spent 15 years trying to get out of with virtualisation.
James: VMware is traditionally associated with ESX and vSphere, but you’ve made lots of new acquisitions in recent times. At VMworld you were talking about Project Pacific and the acquisition of Heptio. What des that tell us about where VMware is going next? What should customers be thinking about and looking out for?
Lee: The thing for customers to realise is the investment we’ve made in Heptio or Bitnami. A lot of our traditional customers are quite apprehensive about this new world of cloud native applications and kurbenetes and what it means for them. They want to know if they will still have a role in this brave new world.
The short answer to that is absolutely, yes. The investments we are making from an engineering point of view are to simply ensure that the platform they have in their hands today, will be there ready for them to support any application and any workload type.
A lot of our traditional customers are quite apprehensive about this new world of cloud native applications and kurbenetes and what it means for them
We all know that we are going to have to keep the lights on for things like Exchange, Oracle and SQL. That’s not going away anytime soon. But side by side with that, the number one ask we get from operations teams and customers is: ‘give me a platform that also allows me to land other stacks on top of it – that I am being bombarded with’. Whether that is orchestration stack for Kubernetes (like a kind of open-shift stack). Whatever it is, they just need a platform that allows them to manage everything in the same way. And with the right level of security, automation, simplicity. They need to move away from what they may have spent the past 10 years doing, which is perhaps just keeping the lights on.
James: Ultimately, it is all about people so how do you think IT teams should refocus their efforts to move more quickly?
Lee: I think if you had asked me that question a few years ago, I would have said that it is still in the early days of people coming together. What was really refreshing at the last two VMworld events in San Francisco and Barcelona, was to see that more and more customers from all walks of life have really cottoned on to this idea of becoming infrastructure teams where everybody has a bit of knowledge about everybody else’s role. That way they can work effectively to deliver the platform.
James: So converged teams and multiple skills sets working together?
Lee: Absolutely. And if you don’t do that, you are really going to struggle to evolve with the needs of your own business and your internal or external customers. The one thing I would say is don’t be scared. Don’t try and boil the ocean. Get the team in place first and get the team working together. Breakdown the silos within your own organisation. Work with a great partner like Trustmarque. Then you will get the best value out of the platform and deliver some real value to the business.
Work with a great partner like Trustmarque. Then you will get the best value out of the platform and deliver some real value to the business.
Lee Dilworth on the XPO North panel discussing collaboration