​Pat Gelsinger on the future of VMware

As his company celebrates turning 20, the CEO told ZDNet that VMware is 'just getting started' on its role in the enterprise, and that it will remain very much its own company under the Dell Technologies brand.

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The slew of announcements made at VMworld 2018 this week paint a company future that looks vastly different to the original business proposition of 20 years ago, but CEO Pat Gelsinger, making good on his "any device, any application, any cloud" play, told ZDNet that VMware is "just getting started".

Gelsinger joined EMC in 2009 from Intel, where he was the company's first CTO. Following the resignation of the chip giant's chief Brian Krzanich in June, speculation grew around a Gelsinger return.

He shut that down via Twitter, however, pledging his commitment to VMware.

"I love being CEO @vmware and not going anywhere else. The future is software!!!" he wrote.

Michael Dell responded with a cartoon picture of him holding a shield that read "You're the best".

The Dell-EMC merger officially closed in September 2016, but the two chiefs have a relationship far outdating that.

The VMware of the future is one under the Dell Technologies stack, but Gelsinger is still very much in charge.

The CEO even opened the day one keynote on Monday highlighting his commitment, showing the audience a "badass tattoo" -- albeit a temporary one -- of the company name on his arm.

"Think about where we are -- this year, we'll be about $9 billion in revenue, clearly with momentum we'll be $10 billion and well beyond, lots of growth potential in the company," he told ZDNet.

"I feel extremely good about where we are, but we also believe many of these areas we're just getting started. NSX -- wow, think how big we could be in networking; storage, great momentum, but we're just getting started; multi-cloud; management; networking -- just getting started in those areas."

According to Gelsinger, his company is well aware of the market opportunities being opened up, and said VMware has "firmly planted stakes in the ground".

The CEO would argue that in many respects, no other vendor is better positioned to do multi-cloud management than VMware.

"With respect to Michael [Dell] and Dell, the way it characterises is this: They're running a superb hardware business, the number that they're seeing for their growth rate are dramatically larger than their competitors ... Michael's never had a successful software business and looks at me and says, 'You seem to have it figured out'," he explained.

Gelsinger, however, maintains that the direction of the company is one that benefits VMware and its customers first and foremost.

"We've laid out a multi-year strategy and we're executing on it. That said, we also see this interdependency that's being highly beneficial to both companies -- the best example of that is VxRail today, which is now experiencing triple-digit growth in that product. When you're number one in that category and we're seeing triple-digit growth ... twice as fast as number two -- that's pretty good right?" he said.

"When we do come together [with] engineering products, there's a clear customer value proposition with our software and their hardware, we can build a lot of value for customers in the market quite rapidly. You're going to see us do more of those things."

Gelsinger pointed to the launch of the Dell client integration with WorkspaceOne this week as one example.

"You're going to see more, but we're going to remain as an independent company," he continued.

Two important relationships VMware has recently announced have been with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and IBM, and Gelsinger told ZDNet that both are going "super well".

"How much money does Dell Technologies make from AWS or IBM? Approximately zero; a lot of things I do, I don't even let the board know," he said.

Must read: VMware wanted Amazon dead, but now they're partners: Here's why (TechRepublic)

"But those were two I had to go to the board with strategic material and investment commitments -- Michael was a huge cheerleader for, 'It's the right thing for VMware, go faster Pat'.

"Even though Dell [Technologies] gets no benefit from them -- it may be negative. You know, making Amazon more successful might be construed as negative.

"I think that the reality is we have demonstrated both the synergy and the independence and the value we can create for both."

Dell joined Gelsinger to speak with media during VMworld, touching on the relationship from a financial perspective.

"We have expanded the technical collaboration across pretty much all parts of Dell Technologies," he said. "The interoperability and togetherness ... we're planning at a technical level together, there's always more to do, but the technical collaboration is at an all-time high and it's what customers tell us they want and appreciate, and we've also seen as an outcome of that customers have rewarded us very strongly with cross-Dell Technologies wins.

"The revenue synergies have been quite strong."

The "just getting started" idea of Gelsinger's could appear as VMware having too many hands in the technology pie, taking as examples the move into the cloud, now the edge, and even blockchain as VP and CTO Ray O'Farrell has this week been discussing.

But as somewhat of a company evangelist, Peder Ulander from VMware's Networking and Security Business Unit told ZDNet the business strategy makes sense.

"There's no question that the first act of vSphere or ESX phenomenal, that set us on a path that many have tried to unseat unsuccessfully -- it's the core foundation of what we've built," he said.

"But as technology has evolved, this is where we see where are our opportunities to play. If you virtualise compute, now you can build new services; one of the biggest demands for virtualised compute was having to deal with end-user computing because now what you can do is rather than give everybody a laptop, you can offload all of your core critical stuff and bring it back in the datacentre, secure it, and operate it at scale -- that was the number one use case for virtualisation beyond dev/test."

He said a similar thing about growth in the desktop space, calling the move aligned with the VMware strategy purely because it was the use case that made sense.

The software-defined datacentre was a similar vision -- people want to be more cloud-like in how they operate their own datacentres, he said.

"If all you're doing is compute, customers go, 'Wait a minute, where's network, where's storage, do I have to go figure that out?' so our opportunity to grow into that was just start putting those things in and focus on what network needs are or what storage needs are," Ulander continued.

"Then you see what we're building from a cloud management perspective or datacentre management perspective -- all those assets are set up to basically ensure that infrastructure becomes automated and can run at scale, but at the same time, it's manageable when you're dealing with the endpoints and end-user computing stuff, so I think the evolution of the company, all of these things are tied together."

Ulander dismissed the idea that VMware is spreading itself too thin.

"I came from Citrix -- you want to talk about a company that bought everything it thought was cool?" he said.

"We're in a very fortunate position that we have one sales force that can sell the entire stack because it's all based on the same principals of how do I make IT run better."

Disclosure: Asha McLean travelled as a guest of VMware to VMworld in Las Vegas

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