When Raghu Raghuram was appointed CEO of VMware in May, analysts generally expressed surprise. They'd expected the company to select an outsider, as they did with Raghuram's predecessor, Pat Gelsinger, or to select Sanjay Poonen, VMware's COO at the time.
Someone who was not surprised was Raghuram himself. "No," he said flatly in response to whether he was surprised. "The board took their time and made their decision.''
He may have good cause to express confidence. Raghuram is a 17-year veteran of VMware who most recently served as vice president and general manager of VMware's software-defined data center division. He guided the company in transforming its applications into cloud services and bringing them to market.
Raghuram also played a part in shaping VMware's core virtualization business and played a central role in driving the company's merger and acquisition strategy, including partnerships with Dell Technologies, cloud hyperscalers and a handful of top-tier server hardware vendors.
In this Q&A interview, Raghuram discusses the company's partnership strategy and technology focus for the years ahead.
Now that VMware is an independent company, what technology areas might you look [at] to pursue new partnerships that you couldn't before?
Raghu Raghuram: As a standalone company, we truly get to be the Switzerland of the industry. We have great partnerships with the hyperscalers, hardware vendors and others across the technology ecosystem now. But what you'll see us do is engage strategically even more deeply with them than we did in the past. Some have expressed a willingness to do a lot more joint research and development and joint solutions with us. We'll be looking for new partners as well.
Would the recent deal with Kyndryl be an example of a new partnership?
Raghuram: Kyndryl has been a partner back when they were part of IBM. They helped manage a lot of VMware customer environments. From that point of view, it's a natural outgrowth. They have been talking to customers about moving them to the cloud, taking advantage of multiple clouds, and doing so with our technology.
It's becoming a tangled web with all these relationships, some of whom you partner with, some you are in co-opetition with. How difficult is it these days to piece together an overarching strategy among these relationships?
Raghuram: Any medium or large customer that uses us is likely to also use IBM, or to have multiple cloud providers in their shop, or use both HP and Dell hardware servers. It's all becoming even more heterogeneous out there. Simply put, it's all being driven by what customers want us to do for them.
Recently you said Tanzu is one of your top priorities moving forward. What sort of technology evolution do you envision for it?
Raghuram: The challenge customers have with modernizing applications is turning them into cloud-native applications that run on any cloud. There are two parts involved. The first is the Tanzu Application Platform, now in beta, which helps developers accelerate the path to production for their applications on the cloud of their choice. The second part of Tanzu is more Kubernetes-centric and aimed at users already running modern applications.
The second part is for customers already running modern applications but who also have some applications running on premises, or on AWS, or on Azure. With this level of diversity, users are wondering how they can control all of them, and more easily network, manage and secure them. That's our offering called Tanzu Kubernetes Operations. We are very bullish about this aspect of Tanzu.
You have a committed strategy for hybrid clouds. Talk about your relationship with public cloud providers.
Raghuram: AWS is our preferred cloud partner, but we have found good partnerships with Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBM… We are working well with them all. But the AWS relationship is the deepest one of all.
Earlier this year Nvidia launched an integrated AI platform for VMware vSphere 7. What has been the reception of that among your corporate users?
Raghuram: Enterprise users have a lot of data still sitting on premises and they use that data to drive decision-making, both predictive and reactive, requiring a lot of machine learning. But historically machine learning has been very expensive because the capacity for it is not flexible. There was no easy way for multiple business groups to share a set of machine learning resources. Nvidia has come up with a way to solve that problem by bringing machine learning to the data. So far, we have got a good response and the project is going well.
NSX is largely a networking product, but with its microsegmentation, it can be tailored to provide security. Where does it fit in with your overall security strategy?
Raghu RaghuramCEO, VMware
Raghuram: Not many people recognize NSX as a security technology, but yes, it is a very important part of our security strategy going forward. The killer use case [for NSX] besides network automation has been around security because, as it turns out, there is no effective way to protect and control traffic between applications. And there will be even more traffic with so many users now deploying containers. So even someone with stolen credentials trying to access enterprise data, admins can quickly put policies in to protect traffic traveling between applications. And with [NSX] working with our Carbon Black acquisition securing the endpoints, we feel we have a comprehensive security story to sell.
You recently announced a new subscription plan tailored for people deploying hybrid clouds. What sort of feedback have you received so far?
Raghuram: It's been positive so far. Customers like the idea of somebody else managing and delivering software to them on a subscription basis. Having said that, there are still lots of customers that like Capex model, too. You don't want to tell customers they have to buy a product only one way. If they want to buy through the traditional license, great. If they want to buy it through subscriptions, we can do that, too.
What's your vision for VMware over the next five years?
Raghuram: The industry is moving toward a world of highly distributed, multi-cloud computing and a distributed workforce. In this world, our goal is to provide customers with the combination of freedom and choice but also control over where they want to run their applications and how they want to connect it all together. We want to be in the business of solving our customers' problems associated with wide-ranging heterogeneity with a platform that makes all his happen.