Shortly before this year’s VMworld U.S., I celebrated my one-year anniversary at VMware. In fact, my 12 months with the company has been bookended with VMworld 2017 and VMworld 2018. With that in mind, I wanted to share my impressions with you so far—VMware’s secret sauce for success and what’s next.
VMware’s Secret Sauce: Culture and Community
Many years ago, one of my former Gartner colleagues wrote, Just a Thought: Will VMware Become the Next Novell? Given what happened to Novell with its previous industry dominance, it seemed like a fair question. Indeed, until a few years ago, it seemed there was doubt about VMware’s long-term viability.
What makes VMware succeed (and grow) when companies of similar status stalled or even failed?
Given my interactions with clients (and even analysts) at the two most recent VMworlds, the answer is simple: VMware customers, partners and employees all share a culture of passionate innovation. There are a few things that I’ve identified that I believe that keeps us—our entire unified community of customers, partners and employees—at the top of the IT ladder.
1. We share a cultural philosophy called EPIC2:
I observe the impact of this daily, from a leadership team that “walks the walk” to inspired employees who use their own time to help in their communities. What I’m perhaps most proud of is that this culture extends beyond our office walls and into our customers and partners. The vibe at VMworld is so powerful, with everyone working passionately together to help each other meet their goals and build their vision for the future.
It is said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” meaning that culture can hinder a company’s business initiatives. But in our case, culture is the petri dish from which our strategy—and innovative drive—emanates.
2. We are all continuously learning. That’s what VMware is all about. VMworld is the biggest example, with tens of thousands of people coming together to take hands-on labs, attend sessions, join round tables and generally network with fellow experts. Year round and around the globe, our community constantly works to grow their skillsets, improve their businesses through technology and help others find success.
3. Our DNA delivers intrinsic value. We have been characterised as a virtualisation company, but that’s incorrect. As a broad VMware community, we do three things well—over and over again:
- We abstract, which enables us to deliver consistency across heterogenous environments. At first it was simply servers, but now we abstract clouds and even now reach out to the edge.
- We aggregate, which enables us to enable better resource optimisation via clustering and pooling of resources.
- We automate, which provides for the scaling of human resources. This becomes more and more critical as the IT landscape continues to expand, become more ephemeral and business demands continuously change.
4. Our “why” makes us enduring. Simon Sinek coined this concept. If you have time, you should watch his inspiring TED Talk video. Interestingly, I came across our why when one day I was looking at the pieces of plastic behind my employee badge. A statement says, “We solve the hard problems that others can’t or won’t solve.” From the earliest days of x86 virtualisation to VMware vMotion to now cross-cloud vMotion, our entire community of customers, partners and employees
tries to do things many thought impossible. And if nothing else, this VMware-wide cultural attribute ensures that we continue to remain critical to businesses in the future.
What Have We Done Lately? Innovate and Execute
Up until five years ago, you would be pretty close to correct when stating that VMware primarily abstracted compute resources. But since then, we’ve done the same thing with storage and networking. We’re not stopping there.
Some of the most important announcements or introductions we’ve made in the past year (most recently at VMworld U.S.) position us as a driving force for the entire technology industry.
- Cloud: Since VMware Cloud on AWS, we’ve had five continuous quarters of new features and capabilities. We even made our roadmap publicly available. We expanded geographic reach. We previewed the integration of VMware capabilities with native services for vSAN leveraging of Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS). We even brought the concept of availability zones to on premise environments via Amazon RDS on vSphere.
- Containers: We delivered VMware Pivotal Container Services (PKS) for both on premise and the cloud. We also introduced the public beta of VMware Kubernetes Engine (VKE). Of course, we already had VMware vSphere Integrated Containers, so we offer choice on how containers are consumed by end users.
- Networks: We’ve actually been a networking company for many years, going back to the initial VMware vSwitch found in ESX. And while we built on that to become a leader in software-defined networking (SDN), we didn’t think that was bold enough. Thus, we introduced the concept of the Virtual Cloud Network. Virtual Cloud Network provides a programmable, secure and ubiquitous networking fabric stretching from the data centre to the cloud and out onto the edge.
- Digital Workspace: I like to talk about VMware Workspace ONE the most. I use its capabilities every day, and I can’t see how I ever lived without it in my previous jobs. Once more, VMware redefined a market. We pioneered the transition from simple device management to a holistic end-user experience based on the concept of enabling a digital workspace. As part of this effort, we added increased monitoring and security intelligence capabilities. We also enable enterprises to break away from legacy management concepts and to leverage modern management capabilities.
- Edge: VMware defines the edge as where the virtual meets the physical. I’ve already had many conversations with business leaders who see the edge playing a critical role in, for example, retail establishments. To that end, we announced and made generally available VMware Pulse IoT Center to deliver enterprise-grade IoT device lifecycle management and monitoring. To provide a secure and highly performant edge platform, we recently previewed Project Dimension. Project Dimension enables the consolidation of many heterogeneous edge gateways, while providing the compute necessary for analytics-intensive applications.
- Security: Since I could almost go on forever, let me stop with one last area. Sometimes it’s better not to be first to market, because you have an opportunity to see what does and doesn’t work. And to net it out, a lot of security doesn’t seem to work, because it focuses on solving the unsolvable. We decided to take a different (and more scalable) approach: focus on identifying and enforcing “good” versus “bad” application behavior. And this is exactly what VMware AppDefense does.
Extending Innovation to New Technology Horizons
We’ve accomplished quite a bit over the past year or so. However, as I indicated above, we focus on continuous learning and innovation. So, let me wrap this up with a quick look at two other efforts that take us where we believe technology is going:
- Blockchain: We announced Project Concord at VMworld U.S. We have some of the top blockchain researchers in the world working on this technology. From an enterprise standpoint, we want to enable secure, trusted exchanges between enterprises. And maybe even more importantly, we have a moral mission to reduce the impact that current blockchain techniques impose on the environment.
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: While not a moral imperative, we see the use of advanced analytics technology as a technological imperative to combat ever-increasing IT complexity. To that end, we announced Project Magna, which is designed to take us from a software-defined data centre to a self-driving data centre. We’re not there yet, of course, but we’re hard at work on the deep-learning technology that will hopefully get us closer to our goal.
It’s ironic to say after all this writing, but I’m actually speechless by all that the VMware community accomplished in the past 12 months or so. So, let me close with this final set of thoughts.
As many of you may know, VMware celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. And while we’ve had a tremendous run over this time, I think we were just warming up. The future looks bright not only for us, but also for our entire community—customers, partners, employees and friends—as we work together to solve the hard problems others can’t or won’t solve.