VMware May Be Going Mobile, But It's Not Going Consumer

NEWS ANALYSIS:  Virtualization leader simply wants to make all its virtualized infrastructure easy for everybody -- consumers and business folks alike -- to use.

VMware, longtime king of business IT virtualization, has been using some unfamiliar messaging the past several months.

The terms "consumer" and "mobile" have been slipping into its nomenclature. "Consumer-simple, enterprise secure" has become the company's mantra during the last few months. The consumer part is foreign terminology to anybody who knows VMware.

VMware has been putting a lot of stock into so-called end-user computing lately, whereas it built its reputation on virtual machines, hypervisors, enterprise platforms and other stuff that tends to cause consumers' eyes to glaze. Anyway, who are end users but you and I: consumers of both enterprise and consumer apps on a daily basis?

So is this somehow an indicator that VMware, that crusading, cross-platform monarch of the virtualized enterprise IT system, is about to jump the chasm into the consumer realm?

New markets on the horizon?

For example, would it ever consider using its substantial warehouse of end-user IP to build and market platforms for handhelds and laptops that could operate and secure consumer games and shopping apps inside virtual machines? How about virtualizing consumer devices? Or virtualizing home entertainment systems to take on the road? What new markets might that open up?

There's an argument that companies shouldn't get stereotyped into one segment because it can cramp their creativity. Might VMware be thinking about busting out of its own mold? After all, it has 17,100 full-time employees to keep busy.

Well, the answer is a flat no, and those 17,100 people are already busy enough. VMware is using that consumer-type terminology, but in a way that refers to its central business: enterprise.

VMware's campaign now is to make its enterprise platforms as simple as possible for everyone to use. "Talk to me as though I were a third-grader," Dunder Mifflin's Michael Scott famously said on "The Office."

It's easy to mistake VMware for an apps company when it is, in fact, an IT infrastructure company. CEO Pat Gelsinger (pictured), for one important decision-maker, is quite single-minded about his company's mission.

Sometimes hard to separate consumer and enterprise

"My simple answer is: I'm an enterprise company," Gelsinger told eWEEK. "With the things that we do, it gets increasingly hard to differentiate where consumers stop and enterprises begin. That's been the gray area all along.

"I wasn't born like Steve Jobs with the consumer gene. Some people are; that's not what we are as a company. The other thing that I'd emphasize is the total market that we've laid out for VMware in the segments that we're in today is over $60 billion. If I'm a $6 billion-plus-dollar company aiming at a market that's $60 billion-plus of TAM (total addressable market) that I've already laid out -- how many things do you want me to take on?"

"We're trying to be pretty focused on the things that we can accomplish, will accomplish, and still be the VMware brand. We've established this incredible set of products, our support is second to none in the industry, and we deliver radical, disruptive technology. I can't go take on everything at once."

Fair enough. That $60 billion-dollar-plus enterprise market looks like plenty -- for now.

"It's important to lay out what we are and what we're not," Gelsinger said. "We've said we're one cloud, any app, any device. We're the software layer delivered on and off premise, in the hybrid cloud. We're this old and new EUC (end-user computing) for PCs and Macs, mobile devices, et cetera. Essentially, we are the infrastructure software layer for the enterprise. I'm trying to tie that bow together as tightly as I possibly can. I'm not hardware; I'm software infrastructure. I'm not applications. I'm not consumer. It's that box that sits in the middle of every aspect of virtualization, of security, of management. And that software bucket in the middle, that's what I'm aiming at.”

Tying the strategy together

"We're now tying the NSX (virtualization management) box together with AirWatch (mobile infrastructure),” Gelsinger continued. “Integration of all the management is what we're doing. I can manage VMs the same way I manage bytes. To me it's critical to keep tying that strategy together, so that we don't diffuse the multiple dimensions of what we do," Gelsinger said.

"We're pretty clear on what our priorities are. These are the four things I'm going to get done this year: We're going to deliver the software-defined data center, lead in the hybrid cloud, be the leader in business mobility, and transform the network. That's it."

Okay. We've got the messaging, and clearly.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...