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As technology industry CEOs go, VMware's Paul Maritz is as unassuming as they come. But don't be fooled by his low-key disposition and kindly college professor demeanor. Maritz is a stone-cold assassin -- at least when it comes to dealing with IT industry competition. As it turns out, this skill is very well suited to the evolving chess game known as cloud computing, in which VMware and its rivals are essentially starting out at square one.
At Microsoft, Maritz was widely considered the No. 3 executive behind Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, and by the time he left the software giant in 2000 his canny ability to checkmate one competitor after another -- think WordPerfect, Lotus and Netscape -- had become the stuff of company legend. During Maritz's tenure, Microsoft also came to realize that office productivity software was best sold as an integrated suite, as opposed to point products, and this led to the creation of Office.
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Maritz and company have just released the largest simultaneous product update in the company's 13-year history, which includes VMware vSphere 5, the first major update to its cloud operating system. Other parts of VMware's cloud infrastructure stack, including vShield, vCloud Director and Site Recovery Manager, part of the vCenter product family, have been imbued with features that automate IT processes that used to require human intervention. In other words, VMware has made them more cloudlike.
Maritz would probably cringe at the comparison, but there's an argument to be made that VMware is becoming the Microsoft of the cloud -- with a hand in everything from the cloud operating system to the applications -- collecting tolls for all the services it provides along the way. At any rate, VMware's aggressive charge into the cloud stands to dramatically impact the balance sheet of solution providers that have built huge services business around VMware virtualization software.
If virtualization is a cloud stepping stone, then VMware's updated cloud infrastructure stack represents a smoothly paved roadway, one that gives customers and partners the performance and scalability to build cloud services businesses and the security and disaster recovery to maintain IT operations on the back end.
If that weren't enough, Maritz has been busy gobbling up some of the industry's best and brightest IT talent, recruiting two of Google's top engineers to help build Cloud Foundry, a Platform-as-a-Service for the next generation of cloud applications.
"We're trying to shoot ahead and take some risks," said Maritz in an interview with CRN in late June. "We think there are big changes coming in both how applications are developed and how they're provisioned and consumed. And this is the time to try and get ahead."
Just how far ahead does Maritz want to get? To say he has his troops thinking big would be an understatement. In a YouTube recruiting video from the Americas Partner Operation Sales team, Bob Crissman, senior director, Americas partner operation sales team, said he sees no reason why the company can't move from $3 billion to $50 billion in annual revenue.
"We are not going to be just the infrastructure for the cloud," said Crissman. "We are going to be the cloud."
This kind of ambition comes with a price, however. In the case of vSphere 5, VMware customers are angry over licensing changes that will require some to pay more for the virtualization infrastructure they already have in place. VMware previously pegged vSphere licensing to the number of server cores, but vSphere 5 licensing is based on the amount of memory that customers allocate to virtual machines on the host.
VMware said the new licensing model better reflects the cloud delivery model. But selling the future is no easy proposition, and while VMware channel partners can grasp the significance of VMware's cloud infrastructure stack updates, not all are ready to commit to the investment that deploying it will require.
"Cloud is still an issue where people still don't quite know what it's going to mean for their organization, in terms of how to manage IT, structure internal IT departments, etc.," said Maritz.
NEXT: VMware's Cloud Conundrum