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VMware Tuesday confirmed that Pat Gelsinger will be taking over for Paul Maritz as VMware CEO, with Maritz moving over to EMC in the role of chief strategist. The changes will take effect on Sept. 1.
The leadership switch, which CRN first reported on Monday, is aimed at establishing VMware as a force in software-defined networking, big data, and automation and management to support future applications, EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci said in a conference call held to announce the management shift.
Maritz has done a bang-up job of establishing virtualization as the default way to run applications, Tucci said. But, VMware came late to the software-defined networking space and believes new leadership is needed to help it address new priorities in the data center.
However, Maritz is not being pushed out: According to Tucci, Maritz actually recommended Gelsinger for the VMware CEO role, describing him as "a near perfect executive" to lead the company.
"VMware is at the point of embarking on the next leg of its exciting journey. This represents an excellent time to introduce new leadership," Tucci said on the call.
VMware is making the change now because customers are on board with its vision for cloud infrastructure and end-user computing, Tucci said. "One thing I have learned is that the time to make these changes is from a position of strength, when you are performing well and have customers' permission to play in new markets," he said.
Gelsinger, who was previously president and COO of EMC's information infrastructure products division, has extensive experience in the x86 ecosystem from his 30-year career at Intel, which will translate well to VMware's own partner ecosystem, Tucci said.
Maritz is keeping his seat on VMware's board of directors, and he will continue to work with VMware in a strategic capacity. "This transition will free up my time to think about some interesting things that can be done on the new foundation of cloud infrastructure," Maritz said on the call.
Despite the official explanations, the VMware leadership shake-up came as a major shock to VMware partners and analysts. VMware's recent financials have been solid -- revenue grew 25 percent and earnings per share jumped 37 percent in the company's fiscal first quarter -- and its recent hiring of longtime HP channel executive Frank Rauch was interpreted by partners as a promising sign for channel relations.
Yet in discussions with VMware partners, there is a sense that VMware is at a crossroads. Maritz is an engineer at heart, and his leadership of the company to date has been primarily technology focused. But to win the battles that loom in the data center, VMware will need to convince business leaders that the integrated approach it provides is the best path, partners told CRN.