VMware CEO: Cloud Now Unstoppable Even Without VMware

VMware's top executive said the IT industry has embraced virtualization to the point where the move to adopt cloud computing will happen with or without VMware, but that is not stopping the company from doing whatever it takes to lead the charge.

Paul Maritz, president and CEO of VMware, said 2009 was a tipping point in that the number of virtual machines exceeded the number of physical servers deployed for the first time, laying the groundwork for the adoption of cloud computing.

"This is going to happen with or without VMware," Maritz said, in a keynote Tuesday. "This is the tide coming in."

Maritz, speaking at the VMworld conference, held this week in San Francisco, said that 2010 will see the number of virtual deployments growing by 28 percent over last year.

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As a result, there are now more copies of traditional operating systems being deployed that no longer directly touch the hardware, and that the virtualization layer is now more likely than not mediating access to computing, storage, and networking resources, Maritz said.

"The virtualization layer is the new infrastructure," he said.

Moving beyond virtualization towards the adoption of cloud computing will require investment in technology that moves beyond improving hardware efficiency and instead uses automation and management tools to improve operational efficiency, Maritz said.

It also requires a new way of looking at security that goes beyond the traditional physical boundaries of IT to focus on logical boundaries, which are always shifting, he said.

The adoption of cloud computing is also bringing a host of new questions to businesses, such as the question of just who owns the physical infrastructure on which a cloud runs, and whether cloud access can be purchased on a just-in-time basis.

Maritz said such questions will force businesses to seek new ways to acquire IT infrastructure, both for developing their own private clouds and working with a variety of new types of external, or public, cloud partners.

However, he said, if the way a business works with internal clouds is different from how it works with external clouds, that will only increase the complexity and expense of cloud computing. That, in turn, will push customers to adopt a hybrid cloud model which gives them the ability to move between private and public clouds as well as move in and out of a public cloud at will, he said.

Next: New Applications And User Devices Will Impact The Cloud

Changing the IT infrastructure to prepare for cloud computing is only part of the story. Maritz said that adopting the "new infrastructure" will open the gates for a new way to develop applications that adds scalability, security, and flexibility to a software development process that is only now moving away from 30-year focus on batch-oriented code.

That is leading to a boom in the adoption of new ways of developing applications, including the growth in use of technology from SpringSource, which VMware acquired last year, as well as Ruby on Rails and other developer tools.

The immediate future will see the emergence of new cloud providers, and VMware will do whatever it can to provide the necessary technology to make it possible to move operations between private clouds and public clouds at will, including such consumer-oriented clouds like Google, Maritz said.

He also said it is inevitable that software-as-a-service applications will move into the business world whether a company is ready or not.

For instance, Maritz said that he recently found out that VMware is running about 15 SaaS applications. "I didn't approve a single one of them. But they're there. And they're multiplying."

Finally, Maritz said that businesses will have to deal with new end-user devices such as the iPad which their employees are bringing into the workplace.

"We can't keep pace with the newest devices," he said. "(Apple CEO) Steve Jobs will try to sell you a new iPad every six months."