When Raghu Raghuram was named CEO of VMware in May, analysts generally expressed surprise. They expected the company to select a foreigner, 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 emphatically in response to the question of whether he was surprised. âThe board took its time and made its decision.
He may have good reasons to express his confidence. Raghuram is a VMware 17 year veteran 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 role in shaping VMware’s core virtualization business and played a pivotal role in driving the company’s merger and acquisition strategy, including partnerships with Dell Technologies, cloud hyperscalers and a handful of top server hardware vendors.
In this question-and-answer interview, Raghuram discusses the partnership strategy and the technological direction of the company for the years to come.
Now that VMware is an independent company, what technology areas might you look for [at] pursue new partnerships that you couldn’t before?
Raghu Raghuram: As an autonomous company, we are truly becoming the Switzerland of industry. We now have great partnerships with hyperscalers, hardware vendors and others across the tech ecosystem. But what you’ll see us doing is strategically engaging even more deeply with them than in the past. Some have expressed their willingness to do a lot more joint research and development and joint solutions with us. We will also be looking for new partners.
Could the recent deal with Kyndryl be an example of a new partnership?
Raghuram: Kyndryl was a partner when they were part of IBM. They have helped manage many VMware customer environments. From this point of view, it is a natural outgrowth. They discussed with customers the possibility of migrating them to the cloud, leveraging multiple clouds and doing it with our technology.
It becomes a tangled web with all these relationships, some with which you are in partnership, others with which you are in coopetition. How difficult is it nowadays to develop a comprehensive strategy among these relationships?
Raghuram: Any medium or large customer who uses us is likely to also use IBM, or have multiple cloud providers in their store, or use both HP and Dell hardware servers. Everything becomes even more heterogeneous there. Simply put, it’s all driven by what customers want us to do for them.
Recently you said that Tanzu is one of your top priorities for the future. What sort of technological evolution do you envision for this?
Raghuram: The challenge for customers with application modernization is to transform them into cloud native applications that run on any cloud. There are two parties involved. The first is the Tanzu Apps Platform, now in beta, which helps developers accelerate the path to production of their apps 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 who are 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 wonder how they can control them all, and more easily network, manage and secure them. This is our offering called Tanzu Kubernetes Operations. We are very optimistic 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’ve found some good partnerships with Microsoft, Google, Oracle and IBMâ¦ We work well with them all. But the AWS relationship is the deepest of all.
Earlier this year, Nvidia launched a AI Platform for VMware vSphere seven. How has this been received among your corporate users?
Raghuram: Enterprise users still have a lot of data on premise and they use that data to make decisions, both predictive and responsive, which requires a lot of machine learning. But historically machine learning has been very expensive because its capacity is not flexible. There was no easy way for multiple business groups to share a set of machine learning resources. Nvidia has found a way to solve this problem by integrating machine learning with data. So far we have had a good response and the project is progressing well.
NSX is largely a networking product, but with its microsegmentation, it can be adapted to ensure safety. Where does it fit into 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] In addition, network automation has been focused on security because, at the end of the day, 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 corporate data, administrators can quickly put policies in place to protect the traffic flowing between applications. And with [NSX] by working with our acquisition of Carbon Black securing endpoints, we believe we have a comprehensive security story to sell.
You recently announced a new subscription tailored plan for people deploying hybrid clouds. What kind of feedback have you received so far?
Raghuram: It’s positive so far. Customers like the idea of ââsomeone else managing and delivering software to them on a subscription basis. That said, there are still a lot of customers who also like the Capex model. You don’t want to tell customers that they have to buy a product only one way. If they want to buy through the traditional license, so much the better. If they want to buy it through subscriptions, we can do that too.
What is your vision for VMware for the next five years?
Raghuram: The industry is moving towards a world of highly distributed multi-cloud computing and a distributed workforce. In this world, our goal is to provide customers with a combination of freedom and choice, but also to control where they want to run their applications and how they want to connect them together. We want to solve our customers’ problems associated with great heterogeneity with a platform that makes it all possible.