VMware’s Maritz: Mission (virtually) accomplished

Paul Maritz makes his final presentation at VMworld

Paul Maritz makes his final presentation at VMworld

SAN FRANCISCO – VMware CEO Paul Maritz doesn’t have a reputation as a bombastic, hard-driving presenter. Rather, the bearded chief executive tends to present in a confident but understated style, well-researched and well thought-out. He’s not the kind of executive who seems to hang his hat on how he presents, but rather on what he says.

However, one could notice a certain additional tone of reservation and reflection in his brief presentation at VMworld 2012 here this week. It is, after all, his last presentation in his last week as CEO of VMware before he heads across the country to EMC, where he will serve as director of strategy.

An exciting change, sure. But one that obviously – as one of my press row colleagues adeptly noted – clearly was driven home to Maritz as he presented for the last time at CEO to the 20,000 or so customers, partner and employees at the company’s annual virtualization mega-event.

It’s not surprising that Maritz presentation looked back at the last 5 years, since Maritz first took the VMworld stage in 2008. “I have to really thank all of you for an incredible journey and what we’ve been able to achieve over the last since 2008,” Maritz told attendees.

To say there have been some pretty impressive changes in that time would be an understatement. In 2008, the CEO’s slide deck showed, about 25 per cent of all server workloads were running virtually. Today, that figure is more like 60 per cent, putting applications running on virtual machines firmly in the majority.

In 2008, the VMware community was 25,000 certified professionals. Today, that figure stands at 125,000.

And over the same time, the ever-present cloud discussion has changed from “What is the cloud?” to “How can we use the cloud to transform our business?”, Maritz suggested.

They are changes that set the stage for the next wave of value delivered by virtualization, Maritz suggested. Of course, this wave that he sees is already well-represented in the VMware product line – encompassing company’s new strategy for extending server virtualization to data centre wide virtualization, and adding gravitas to client virtualization at a time when the long-available technology seems poised to truly come into its own.

Both changes are driven by what Maritz described as “the imperative to deliver new functionality and new experiences to both end users and end customers,” and not just to continue IT’s “50-year journey to automate most of the paper-based processes in business.”

“There’s going to have to be a fundamental innovation change,” Maritz advised. “These forces are going to have a really big impact over the next four years, and we’re going to get a lot more efficient about using existing IT to go after these new experiences.”

Indeed, Maritz and VMware seem to be thinking about the future of virtualization, and what it means in a world where Windows-based PCs aren’t the only endpoints IT has to think about. In a press conference after his final VMworld keynote, Maritz shared that VMware has working software in its labs that creates virtual machines on smartphones. The upshot for IT: it’s BYOD with a layer of abstraction. Personal data and corporate data still live on the same phone, but corporate data lives within the secured virtual machine, and can’t be accessed by applications the user downloads for personal reasons.

It’s a potential answer to the IT challenges of securing corporate resources in a world where many employees are bringing their own devices. But Maritz tacitly acknowledged that it may be too little, too late – perhaps the Pandora’s Box of BYOD has already been opened too far for users to be willing to accept “a schizophrenic phone in their pocket,” Maritz mused.

While Maritz’ mood was mostly reflective at VMworld, during the press conference, Maritz showed that although he might be departing VMware, his mind is still on the business, taking some time to dissect the strategy of his former employer and current competitor, Microsoft.

Maritz said that Microsoft’s virtualization strategy has always been “our product is good enough,” but suggested that “people’s expectations of what is needed is rapidly changing – particularly as VMware shifts its own focus to centre on virtualization across the data centre.

“This is not about a hypervisor – everyone’s got a hypervisor, and everyone gives it away for free,” Maritz said. “While they’re breathlessly announcing for the third straight release that they’re good enough for server virtualization, we’re announcing that the game’s changed.”