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Author Interview: Rick Jackson

Rick Jackson, Chief Markgeting Officer VMware, spoke to us about VMware and cloud computing.

theCloudTutorial: What have been the key historic milestones in the history of VMware?

Rick Jackson: VMware was founded in 1998. Interestingly, our first products were focused on desktop virtualization – VMware Workstation for Linux and Windows released in 1999. In 2001, we entered the server market as well with ESX Server and GSX Server, and established major OEM relationships with IBM, Dell, Compaq and HP. In 2003, we introduced the market to vMotion, the ability to perform live migrations of running applications in a virtual machine, from one physical host to another. This type of innovation has continued here at VMware, and last year we launched the most significant and most complete virtualization platform – vSphere 4, which is being leveraged by thousands of customers as the foundation for their cloud computing environments.

theCloudTutorial: Tell us something about how VMware introduced virtualization on the PCs market.

Rick Jackson: VMware was founded in 1998 by Mendel Rosenblum, Diane Greene, Edward Wang, Scott Devine, and Edouard Bugnion with a plan to bring a modernized version of virtualization to industry-standard desktops and servers. VMware's first product, VMware Workstation – software that allows users to run multiple OSes on one PC – was introduced in 1999. VMWare Workstation kick-started the modern virtualization industry.

In the ten years since the launch of VMware Workstation, VMware has continued its focus on delivering innovative products to market - expanding beyond the desktop to provide a suite of products to help customers fully utilize, secure, and manage their entire IT infrastructure.

theCloudTutorial: What are the major products that VMware supports?

Rick Jackson: VMware solutions can best be characterized as cloud infrastructure leveraging a common virtualization platform – vSphere. Our solutions span the desktop to the datacenter, supporting both private and public clouds.

VMware vSphere is our core virtualization platform. It is the industry’s most widely used virtualization solution for datacenters. Gartner estimates that 83.7% of all application workloads virtualized in the world at the end of 2009 are virtualized by VMware’s platform. So we just like to say that it's simply the most customer-proven virtualization platform.

VMware View extends the vSphere platform to enable desktop virtualization, through virtual desktop infrastructure. Just like vSphere significantly reduces the complexity of datacenter provisioning and management, View does the same for desktops. This is a fast and growing market for VMware, as customers build on their successful datacenter virtualization projects to tackle the sprawl and complexity of desktop computing. We also complement this product with VMware ThinApp – application virtualization and delivery. And of course many customers know us for VMware Fusion, the market leading product to enable us Mac users to seamlessly run Windows, and other PC-based operating systems.

To better manage in a virtualized environment, we have a suite of solutions in our VMware vCenter family. These products focus on delivering better manageability, automation, and business continuity.

VMware acquired SpringSource in 2009, expanding our portfolio to include the programming model for cloud computing. Developers can leverage the most used Java application framework – Spring – to build business applications that will be cloud enabled, optimized in VMware virtualized clouds, yet remain cloud independent.

Finally, VMware has just completed the acquisition of Zimbra, an open-source based email and collaboration suite that will be delivered as a cloud-ready, virtual appliance to our customers, and through our vCloud service provider partners.

theCloudTutorial: What platforms does VMware support?

Rick Jackson: VMware supports the x86 platform. VMware has strong partnerships with leading technology companies at all levels of the stack, including AMD, Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, Intel and NetApp, in order to ensure infrastructure interoperability.

theCloudTutorial: What role has VMware played in the growth of cloud computing?

Rick Jackson: I believe we are still in the nascent stages of cloud computing. To put some perspective on this, let's first define cloud computing, because the common mis-perception is that cloud computing is a destination. It is not, it is an architectural approach to how IT is delivered. In the same way that the web completely changed how we as users consume IT services, cloud computing will completely change the way that those services are delivered. At its core, cloud computing leverages a pool of shared, elastic resources. This is the very foundation of cloud computing, and this is exactly what virtualization does. At least those virtualization solutions that understand pooling, and the dynamic sharing of compute, memory, storage and networking. This is why we see so many public clouds leveraging virtualization at their core. VMware now has over 1700 cloud providers leveraging VMware virtualization solutions.

But we are also seeing tremendous growth and opportunity for the development of private clouds, inside the firewall of enterprises. The model that will evolve is hybrid cloud computing, where internal private clouds will be capable of bridging to and interoperating with external public clouds. That means that IT has to quickly evolve their own strategies to embrace the cloud computing model. They are starting with virtualization, and they are choosing VMware.

theCloudTutorial: What are the major technical advances that VMware is planning in the year 2010?

Rick Jackson: Every year we deliver new capabilities that typically set the benchmark in our industry. As you can imagine, we will be significantly advancing our solutions to support the build out and deployment of cloud infrastructures, as well as bringing desktop computing into the cloud model. Beyond that, you’ll have to wait and see…

theCloudTutorial: Which cloud computing vendors other than yourselves, do you see growing exponentially in the next couple of years?

Rick Jackson: The fastest growth right now is in the service provider space, or cloud providers. We are seeing managed service providers jump into the market, and many new upstarts. I view our business as the supplier of picks and shovels during the gold rush. We’re providing the infrastructure and the tools, and thus our business is growing in combination with the many vendors. But I think we’re all going to be surprised at how quickly enterprises are going to shift and begin to build out private clouds!

theCloudTutorial: Any cloud computing products that you use yourself?

Rick Jackson: Yes and no, and let me explain. I happen to use Gmail as my personal email account. Because I'm in the business, I know that Google has built out a very significant cloud infrastructure. But as a user do I care? No. It’s just a web-based application I can easily access, without any IT hurdles. Does Google care? Yes, because it’s provided them incredible economics and scale. theCloudTutorial: Is the hype around cloud computing justified?

Rick Jackson: In some respects, that remains to be seen. Here is what we do know. The current model for IT is broken. Over the decades we have introduced so much complexity and diversity that IT spends, on average, 70% of their resources just trying to keep things up and running. That leaves very little resource on innovation, supporting the business in new and changing ways, and driving top-line revenue growth. That metric has been a constant over the last decade. Does cloud solve all of the issues faced by IT? No. That’s why the hype is dangerous. However, we know from customers that moving to a cloud model has significantly reduced the complexity of their environments, and thus dramatically reduced their operating expenses and resources allocated to maintaining the infrastructure. It is without a doubt a better way to approach IT. I do believe we are entering a new era in IT based on this approach, and it’s about time!

theCloudTutorial: Any cloud computing products that you use yourself?

Rick Jackson: The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr

theCloudTutorial: Which trends do you see in this decade for cloud computing?

Rick Jackson:

  1. There will be as much, if not more, activity inside the firewall, focused on evolving IT to a private cloud model. Through standardization efforts, such as those driven by VMware, we will see application portability between clouds, thus giving IT a myriad of choices for how and where to deploy applications.
  2. We will see the emergence of industry-specific cloud offerings, that will contemplate and enforce industry regulation and compliance in a public cloud infrastructure. E.g. in the areas of healthcare.
  3. We will see the emergence of desktop delivery cloud services. Imagine never having to buy a desktop computer again, never having to install (or re-install) an operating system again, and never having to worry about managing device drivers! Instead, you will pay monthly for Desktop-as-a-Service, which includes a free access device, internet service, and a managed desktop / application environment, all delivered via a public cloud. Even back-up and recovery will be provided for you. I can’t wait!