VMware Stares Down Virtualization Rivals

In this eWEEK interview, Paul Maritz, the new chief of VMware, the No. 1 vendor of virtualization technology, discusses the hypercompetitive world of the hypervisor.

The world around VMware is changing, but CEO Paul Maritz, who took control of the company earlier this year after co-founder Diane Greene was ousted, is looking to ensure that VMware remains the No. 1 vendor of virtualization technology. In addition to the challenges of keeping its virtualization fresh in an ever-changing IT world, VMware is facing stiff competition from the likes of Microsoft with its Hyper-V hypervisor.

eWEEK Staff Writer Scott Ferguson caught up with Maritz at VMworld in Las Vegas last month. Maritz discussed the future of virtualization, what VMware is doing to maintain its position as king of the x86 virtualization hill and why the company can never stand still.

Why is VMware focusing so heavily on the cloud, as opposed to updating what it already has or some products that could come out in six months?

Key point to correct there-the cloud is not our only focus.

The three key initiatives are, No. 1, the virtual data center operating system, No. 2, vCloud, No. 3, vClient.

So our key initiative really is the virtual data center operating system, not the cloud. There's a cloud dimension to it, but our focus is really on how we allow our customers to build upon the technology we already have to strengthen their use of virtualization, to achieve much more fundamentally efficient and flexible usage of their computing infrastructure.

We believe that, in doing so, it will open up opportunities for them to federate with the external cloud, but it starts, first and foremost, with the virtual data center operating system.

Why did you decide to go with the term "operating system"?

This was a debate, and the reason we did it is because, even though we looked at many other terms, in the final analysis, when we talked to our customers and outlined what we were trying to do for them technically, they sort of looked at us and said, "Oh, I see-you're building a data center operating system." And so we eventually said, "Yes, that's what we're doing."

Did you worry at all that that would be confusing, or take away from what Linux does or what Microsoft does?

Yeah, we were obviously concerned about that because we're not directly competing with either Linux or Windows; we're building an infrastructure that fits in and around, underneath, both Windows and Linux and future application strategies or approaches.

These concepts, these three "V's" that you talked about, is that something that VMware was working toward before you came on, or was that something that you decided to bring on when you came over from EMC?

Clearly, the seeds of all those were there. What I've tried to do is to help formalize and more clearly articulate them, and relate them to what we see as the major customer needs and forces in the industry today. So you can view it as an elaboration and a crispening of what was there before.

On one side you said you have the cloud, and you have the sort of very dynamic data center. What's the vision that VMware has about pulling all of these different things together?

First and foremost, we believe our customers need to have a way whereby they can essentially start using their internal resources as a giant computer and, in doing so, get maximum efficiency and flexibility out of it.

Now, they can't afford to rewrite all of their applications to do that, and the only strategy, really, to reach for that state is through increased use of virtualization. As we do that, though, we have to make sure that that strategy is open to all of the other partners who play in the data center-and, hence, the need for a virtual data center operating system.

It's that layer of software that allows our customers to start treating all of their internal resources as a giant pool that they can provision loads onto. It addresses both existing approaches to writing applications, like Windows and Linux, as well as future ways of writing applications. And it provides a way whereby specialized infrastructure vendors-whether they be storage or networking-can plug into that environment.