In The Moment at VMworld

I just got back from VMworld, and so much went on it was tough to select a blog topic. Still, one moment stuck with me since it happened.

During the keynote by Paul Maritz, VMware’s CEO since 2008, he introduced new CEO Pat Gelsinger. Right there on stage, Maritz essentially turned over the reigns of the virtualization giant to the new guy. Maritz has confidence in the move since he’s known Gelsinger for decades dating back to their days together at Intel in the 1980s. I’m not even a virtualization guy, but that moment almost gave me chills.

“I’m very happy today to formally hand over the custodianship of this community to Pat Gelsinger,” Maritz announced.

The moment was not lost on the audience of thousands of VMware fanboys who assembled in San Francisco’s huge Moscone Center for VMworld. They were probably more prepared to hear about the death of vRAM or some highly anticipated new product releases like 5.1 upgrades to vSphere, vCenter, and vCloud Director. What they got was a dramatic changing of the guard for VMware.

As he passed the baton to Gelsinger, Maritz speculated on the past, present, and future of the virtualization industry.

Nearly 25% of the world’s Intel-based server applications were running on a virtualized foundation back in 2008. Today, Maritz said, that number is greater than 60%.

“In other words, in the space of four years, we’ve been able to take virtualization from an interesting and growing approach to transformation of the data center and turn it into the default way of running applications,” he said.

“Now that hasn’t been done purely by technology. At the same time it’s being done by this growing army of VMware-certified professionals that have increased five-fold in that same four-year span,” he continued.

“This is really the body of people who enabled this change, and I’d like to recognize and thank them for the crucial role that they played in our industry. So for all of you VCPs in the audience here, thank you very much,” Maritz said, as the crowd consisting of more than a few VCPs responded in thunderous applause.

He mentioned that the attendance of the VMworld event itself has grown 50% since 2008. “It’s to the point where this is now the preeminent forum for coming together and discussing and learning about virtualization and all of the technologies that surround it,” he said.

“Back in 2008, we were asking ourselves, ‘What the hell is it?’ Now we’re really asking ourselves, ‘How do we actually implement it?’ but not as much the technology as it is all the things that cloud can affect and, in particular, people and processes,” he continued.

Maritz said VMware is currently working to provide the latest in virtualization technology to actually implement clouds and “to complement that for the first time with a wealth of information based on how to use the technology—how to transform your operations to take advantage of it.”

“So what’s going to happen in the next four years time? Where are we going with this technology?” Maritz asked.

“I believe that where we’re going is influenced by an enormous set of forces that are working through our industry—a set of forces that go beyond any of the buzzwords that we normally like to associate with virtualization like cloud, mobilization, social, etc.,” he said. “I also believe that what’s really happening is that we’re coming to advanced stages of a very successful 50-year journey to automate most of the paper-based processes of the world.”

He noted that businesses today have automated most paper-based processes, including general ledger, accounting, customer relations, catalog sales, and messaging.

“All of that has successfully been turned into computer-based processes,” he added. “Every business in the world is expected to deliver these processes. What’s happening now is the imperative to deliver fundamentally new experiences to both end-users and end customers. People want to experience information in fundamentally different ways.”

He used the banking industry as en example. “If you’re a bank, simply being able to present a monthly statement as a web page instead of sending us a piece of paper—that is no longer innovative,” he said.

According to Maritz, businesses need to look at new ways of providing access to information in real-time, while above all keeping that in the context of what people are doing. This will have profound implications, since a lot of these new experiences can’t be directly delivered via today’s IT infrastructure.

“There’s going to have to be fundamental innovation and change to bring together different streams of information,” he said. “This will present a much more relevant experience to users in the context of who they are, where they are, and what they’re doing.”

He added, “It’s these forces that I think are going to have a big impact on our industry during the next four years.” My guess is we won’t have to wait until VMworld 2016 to find out.

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