VMware sees competition beyond virtualization

Vendor identifies areas such as cloud application platforms and management tools for virtualized environments as key growth spots as industry moves toward "software-defined data center", exec notes.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

VMware's dominance in the virtualization market can also be seen as its only claim to fame, so the company is looking to differentiate itself by positioning itself as an enabler for enterprise customers to move toward a "software-defined data center" future, a company executive reveals.

Raghu Raghuram, senior vice president and general manager of cloud infrastructure and management at VMware, recalled that during the first decade of the company's existence, its focus was fairly singular in that it looked to "provide the best virtualization platform in the world". To that end, it has been successful so far, but there are still a lot of opportunities remaining that the company is "attacking with full vigor", he told ZDNet Asia in a recent interview.

At the same time, it is not oblivious to the fact that its success in this space might mean the company is recognized solely as a virtualization software vendor, he added.

This is why VMware is now looking to tap the major changes currently unfolding in the IT industry to be a more comprehensive tech provider, Raghuram said. The executive highlighted three areas of investments where the company is focusing--namely, providing tools and services for cloud infrastructure, application platforms, and end-user computing management.

With regard to cloud infrastructure, the executive explained that virtualizing one's data center is only the first step. Companies would then likely build out their private cloud capabilities as well as harness public cloud services to create a hybrid cloud system for their IT environment, and these are areas that it is looking to help customers in, he said.

The "enormous pressure" on IT professionals to deliver real-time experiences to employees amid the rise of multiple devices, BYOD (bring-your-own device), and cloud services today has also created a need for a new class of application platforms, he pointed out. This is another area VMware wants to capitalize on, he said.

As more end-user devices enter the workspace, the challenge of maintaining a level of control over applications and data access, and the need for relevant management tools are also growing. This, in turn, presents opportunities for it to offer virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and other management services such as storage, security and disaster recovery, he noted.

Datacenter transformation vision
Ultimately, Raghuram emphasized that these areas the company is strategizing on were not merely aimed at helping VMware lose its label as merely a virtualization software vendor. Rather, these plans will be competitive differentiators and represent the company's vision of the "software-defined data center", he said.

He elaborated that with server architectures becoming more powerful and virtual machines becoming the norm, IT suppliers are increasingly selling their products such as firewalls and load balancers in the form of software instead of standalone physical boxes or appliances.

"So when an app needs to be scaled or moved, the infrastructure services can scale or move along with it, giving you a very flexible and dynamic data center. With software as the 'brain', [it is about] managing your data center on demand," he said.

Enterprise customers are catching on to this, too, as they see the benefit of implementing policy-based automation of the datacenter infrastructure, he added.

With this in mind, the competition is no longer strictly about virtualization but on how to run a data center, Raghuram noted.

"We're not standing still [in the competition]. It's about how to transform a data center so it has all the attributes of a cloud: the cost-efficiency, the agility, the resiliency, and so on. That's what customers care about. That's really where the game is."

Hypervisor market not dead
Asked if the introduction of several alternatives to VMware's hypervisor signaled the start of commoditization in the market and, with it, negatively impacting the company's business, the executive dismissed the idea.

Rather, he argued that the fact that the presence of alternatives such as Microsoft's Hyper-V, Citrix's Xen and the open source-based KVM meant there has been enough differentiation and choice for customers in the market, and it is contrary to the definition of commodity--which implies non-differentiation.

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