“I think we’ve done a good job of repositioning and realigning the business around the tremendous opportunity before us,” Raghuram said in an interview with Protocol. “If I measure it by what our clients are telling us about where they want to go and how our strategy aligns with it, I think we’ve done very well. If I measure it by the alignment of the The level of excitement among our employees is great. The transformation of our products is a work in progress.”
Raghuram had served as VMware’s chief operating officer, overseeing all product development, before becoming its CEO last June. Raghuram started at VMware in 2003 as a product manager for its flagship hypervisor product, VMware ESXi.
Raghuram spoke to Protocol about the demand for VMware’s cross-cloud services (launched last October), how the remote workforce has changed its product strategy, and the demand for on-premises computing to the periphery in a cloudy world.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you talk about VMware’s realignment and what you’re trying to accomplish?
About two or three years ago, we started incubating VMware’s next act as a company, and it grew out of the realization that… our customers… are transforming into digital businesses very quickly. And in doing so, they rewrite their business applications and create many new applications. They were doing it in their data centers, they were doing it in public clouds, multiple public clouds. They do this at the edge of their network.
So there is a new era of computing… which we call the multicloud computing era. This means that customers have many places where they can run their applications. Indeed, 75% of our customers use two or more public clouds on their applications, 40% will use three or more, and they continue to operate their datacenters. And there are companies, many of them, that are also building on the outskirts.
The VMware Opportunity…is [to] help our customers master this complexity of this multi-cloud world, provide them with a consistent way by which they can build new applications faster – wherever they want to build them or run them, however they want – and make it all secure and connected. This is a big part of our goal as a company.
The second area we are focusing on as a company is…many of us…working from home, on the road, obviously working in the office in places where the pandemic is easing. And in the world of hybrid work, IT organizations are looking for new platforms to make their employees more productive in this world, but at the same time, more secure. This is the problem we solve.
What are your top three priorities this year as CEO?
The first priority is to transform our product portfolio to meet this emerging customer need to build, run, manage, connect and secure their applications and users wherever they are – whatever cloud they will be in. , the network they will be in, etc. We’ve done a great job helping our customers in their data centers and helping them manage their end-user devices, so this is the next evolution of the product portfolio. This is priority #1.
This takes the form of three areas where we provide solutions to the client. One is to help them modernize their applications with our Tanzu product portfolio. The second is to help them transform their infrastructure so they can support these applications wherever they run. And the third is [to] transform their end-user computing platform so they can support users in a remote working world. These are the three areas in which we are transforming our portfolio. And along with that, as we begin to serve our customers wherever they are, the best delivery model for them is to increasingly offer our products not as licensed software, but as subscriptions and SaaS offers.
You said the Dell spin-off is positioning VMware to become the “Switzerland of the new multicloud industry.” Can you explain what you mean and how being a stand-alone business enables this?
The “Switzerland of Industry” refers to the fact that we are able to partner with virtually everyone in the industry. We have forged very close partnerships with the main public cloud providers: in particular, AWS, Azure, Google, [Alibaba Cloud], Oracle and IBM, to name a few. We also work in very close partnership with infrastructure providers, such as Dell, and Dell’s competitors, such as HP, Lenovo, etc., as well as software vendors. We don’t take sides; we’re not saying one is better than the other. We actually work with a client and say, “Mr. Client, out of all these different cloud providers and infrastructure providers, tell us who you want to use, and we’ll help you execute and implement your strategy.” from the cloud providers and infrastructure providers of your choice.
Historically, we’ve done this in the context of the data center. We are now able to do this in the context of the data center and the cloud.
When you partner with the big three cloud providers, like VMware Cloud on AWS, do you lose control of the customer relationship?
Not really. In all of these cases, the customer is using VMware software, and they are using this VMware software because of the unique value proposition they are getting. We get to support them, we get to innovate on the software and make those innovations available on those cloud providers. So the most accurate way to put it is that they all become joint customers. It’s not that customers come to AWS and then say, “Hey, VMware, you’re just a small piece inside the big AWS architecture or Azure architecture.” We’re the reason they’re going to use a VMware cloud solution, so we’re front and center with the customer.
You mentioned the hybrid work environment. It’s been about a year since you launched VMware Anywhere Workspace. How’s it going?
Things are going well. Historically we’ve always had the capability or the value proposition for what the industry calls unified endpoint management, which basically means that as a business you probably have a lot of employees who very often carry different types of devices. We have provided the best management solution in these environments.
What we did was realize, during the pandemic, that was not enough; it was necessary, but not sufficient, because in this new post-pandemic world, many of us are working from home and elsewhere. In fact, one of our clients told me that he considers the perimeter of his network to be his employees’ living room… i.e. making a Zoom call and Teams calls and all.
The network is becoming very critical, so we have extended our network technology using our SD-WAN technology and integrated it into the Anywhere workspace. If you’re calling from home, you can still enjoy a great Zoom or Teams experience, with no call drops, etc. We have worked with these companies and products to optimize the network experience.
Likewise, network security is becoming a very important thing, and there is a category of zero plus products called SASE: securely accessing enterprise applications from home. We have integrated this technology and integrated network experience management technology. As an end user, we know exactly what your experience is so that IT teams can proactively support your issues without you generating trouble tickets or otherwise.
How is VMware Tanzu doing and can you explain why it is better than Red Hat OpenShift or any of the big three cloud vendor offerings when it comes to Kubernetes?
Tanzu is doing very well for several different reasons. One is that it’s truly cloud or underlying platform agnostic, which means the Tanzu Kubernetes stack runs wherever you want it to.
The second is that the wallet is a fairly large wallet. It’s not just a Kubernetes distribution. It includes features for managing Kubernetes environments wherever they are. A customer can use Tanzu’s management capabilities to manage the AWS Kubernetes environment, manage applications that their customers deploy on the AWS Kubernetes environment or on OpenShift or on a VMware stack. It allows the customer to unify the networking management that must occur when customers have applications in AWS and applications on-premises. We do it better than anyone.
The third reason is [that] it’s modular. It’s not an all-or-nothing solution like OpenShift. The customer might say, “Listen, I don’t want to use VMware as a Kubernetes distribution, but I want to use VMware Management or VMware Networking.” You can literally choose whatever you want. We don’t impose some sort of monolithic thing on an architecture.
The final advantage over on-premises OpenShift is that customers often run their on-premises Kubernetes applications on top of a vSphere environment, and we’ve invested heavily in integrating and simplifying the task of running Tanzu at the above a VMware hypervisor or a VMware network environment. All of this translates into cost of ownership benefits, flexibility benefits, and vendor independence benefits in terms of security and resiliency.
How strong is the demand for premises at the moment?
When we talk about on-premises, there are two places: one is the classic data center, and the other is the edge.
In the data center, customers have built what they call the private cloud, and what they are achieving is [that] instead of cloud-first, they are all adopting a smart cloud strategy. They look at their application portfolio and decide which applications live on cloud one, cloud two, which applications live on private cloud. Because of this, the…enterprise data center is also growing. They are higher in the single digits than the public cloud double digits, but it is growing.
The other exciting thing happening is that enterprises are rethinking the network edge. If you are a retail business and want to deploy cashierless stores in your retail stores, now you can install many cameras that can track what shoppers want to buy. All images must be processed, so they must be processed locally. And people are building clouds and apps that go into those clouds at the edge. If you are a manufacturing company and want to introduce a new level of automation to your manufacturing floor, or if you are a logistics and supply chain company, and you are relocating and offshoring your supply chain, and you rebuild a lot of new things – all these activities cause an increase in the advantage. Or you are a telecommunications operator and you are building the 5G network.
The network edge is, in many ways, what we would classify as on-premises. It’s growing very, very fast. In fact, it is growing faster than the cloud.