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VMware's surprise CEO pick brings cloud tech chops

VMware has named a new CEO in Rangarajan (Raghu) Raghuram, who will be a familiar face to longtime customers. Raghuram takes over the top job on June 1.

VMware has named a veteran company executive as its new CEO amid plans for the virtualization giant's spinoff from Dell.

Rangarajan (Raghu) Raghuram will take the top job June 1, VMware said. He now serves as EVP and chief operating officer of products and cloud services. He joined the company in 2003.

"I am thrilled to have Raghu step into the role of CEO at VMware. Throughout his career, he has led with integrity and conviction, playing an instrumental role in the success of VMware," VMware board chairman Michael Dell said in a statement.

Rangarajan Raghuram, CEO of VMwareRangarajan Raghuram

Raghuram succeeds interim CEO Zane Rowe, who remains VMware's CFO. But he is also tasked with carrying on the legacy of longtime VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, who was named CEO of Intel in January.

VMware will be an independent company by the end of this year, following Dell's move to spin off its 81% equity stake in the vendor, although the companies will continue working closely together.

Raghuram's appointment as CEO resulted in an executive shakeup, with Sanjay Poonen, chief operating officer of customer operations, leaving VMware after seven years. VMware described Poonen's departure as "a personal decision." Poonen had reportedly sought the CEO job.

"It was even money between Raghu and Sanjay Poonen as to who would get the job," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC. "They did an extensive search outside the company, but [Raghuram] has been there a long time and knows where the company has been and where it is now."

Who is Rangarajan Raghuram?

During his VMware career, Raghuram played roles in developing the company's virtualization product line, software-defined data center technology and other areas, according to a statement.

Raghuram is "a technologist through and through," said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. "It shows that the board sees tech challenges coming up."

One of the biggest challenges VMware faces is the IT industry shift toward clouds and containers. "They are the biggest transitions the company will have to make," Chen said. "It will be interesting to see how he handles this."

[Clouds and containers] are the biggest transitions the company will have to make. It will be interesting to see how [Raghuram] handles this.
Gary ChenAnalyst, IDC

Raghuram's appointment doesn't portend any dramatic shakeup, which is the message VMware wants to send, said Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC.

"Let's face it, VMware has had a license to print money for some time now and that's not going to stop," Gardner said. "The question, however, is has the company peaked and will [Raghuram] be the man to take them into the next generation of products?"

IDC's Chen believes Raghuram has the technical chops to guide VMware into the next generation of technology and he could just as easily serve in the role of CTO. But he will be a more understated personality than his predecessor, Pat Gelsinger, he added.

"He's a thoughtful, intellectual person, but is not as dynamic and outgoing as Pat [Gelsinger] was," Chen said. "He has been more the guy in the background doing important work but not necessarily the guy who steps into the spotlight."

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