The Hypervisor's the Thing for VMware's Rosenblum

VMware's chief scientist discusses how the firm is evolving its virtualization model, especially in light of new challenges from Microsoft, Citrix and Oracle. 

Mendel Rosenblum still straddles two worlds.

A professor within Stanford University's Computer Science department, Rosenblum teaches and studies how modern operating systems work. He's also chief scientist at VMware, a company he helped start 10 years ago (and where his wife, Diane Greene, is president and CEO).

While 2007 was breakout year for Rosenblum's once-small startup venture, this year promises to bring new challenges. Microsoft, Citrix and Oracle are making their way into the virtualization space with formidable products that look to challenge VMware's role as the dominant player in a growing industry.

Rosenblum sat down with eWEEK staff writer Scott Ferguson to discuss topics ranging from the future of VMware to the role of the hypervisor to how the company plans to work in areas traditionally controlled by Microsoft and other operating system providers.

Can you tell us where virtualization technology is now and where you see it going in the next five to 10 years?

In some sense, we built out certain pieces, like virtual infrastructure, where we can go in and take over all of the computing from some organization. Obviously, we are going to keep pushing so we can go into any organization and do all of their computing in virtual machines regardless of how much resources are consumed.

The change that we are seeing now seems like it's going to be even bigger than the change we got by taking over the hardware-we are seeing the ability to repackage the way software is distributed.

The way I like to think about it is that you used to buy a computer and then you install the operating system and then you install the applications and then you would configure it. If you stood back and looked at that, it's an awful lot of self-assembly in terms of it taking a lot of time.

One of the things we have been able to do with the virtualization layer is basically say, why don't you get someone else to do all that-the assembly work-and then just drop down the whole working virtual machine?

If you look at the history ... people were buying virtualization with the idea of being able to consolidate a whole bunch of servers onto one. You had fewer boxes to manage and you could manage it all with fewer people. It became a very easy argument for an IT person to make that it basically saves money by doing it this way.

Now what we are seeing is pushing it the step further and, rather than having to spend all your time building these sort of environments up, have someone who really knows what they are doing-an expert-and actually have them build the environment for you and hand it to you.

We were initially calling it virtual appliances, and that seems to have caught on and people are excited about it. At VMworld, I sort of demoed our vision of it and where it's going to. So instead of just a virtual machine, you are talking about whole services.

What is VMware's vision and focus now that the company is starting its 10th year?

When we started this thing, no one else was really excited about virtualization.

A lot of the effort was to sort of convince people who thought it was a cool idea [wondered whether] it was useful. So we kind of transitioned out of that.

Now it's pretty widely established that [virtualization] is a better way of doing things. So, as we got bigger and more aggressive, we started to get more aggressive about the problems we took on. It's always been sort of the focus of the company to look around and see what the big pain points of the customers are and how can we solve them through this virtualization technology.

If you look at the early days, we weren't really exactly sure what we were going to do with the technology, and one of the reasons we didn't have [venture capital] funding was because they wanted to see the big thing we were going to do. They said, 'Oh, that's cool technology, but what's it good for?' And I would [give them] a list of 10 things it's good for and they would say, 'No, we want one thing it is good for, not 10 things,' and it turns out that's what we did.