VMware CMO Latest -- And Biggest -- Exec To Leave For Cloud Rival

Rick Jackson

The number of VMware executives jumping ship for competitors continues as Rick Jackson moves to take over the chief marketing role at Rackspace.

Cloud services provider Rackspace on Monday said that Jackson, who served as rival VMware's CMO for the last four-and-a-half years, is now Rackspace's new CMO, where he is slated to manage global marketing around the company's hybrid cloud business.

Jackson takes over the Rackspace CMO position from Suaad Sait, who has been at that role for over two years. Sait for now appears to be staying at Rackspace, although Rackspace declined to discuss his current position.

[Related: VMware Gives Partners Financial Incentive To Go From Virtualization To Cloud ]

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A VMware spokesperson said Robin Matlock is now serving as acting CMO for that company. Matlock has served the last four years as vice president of corporate marketing for VMware, the spokesperson said. As of press time, Jackson was still listed on VMware's website as CMO.

Jackson is the latest -- and most significant -- high-profile departure from VMware in the last few months.

Red Hat, another VMware rival in the cloud business, on Monday said it has hired Scott Musson, previously senior director of global strategic alliances at VMware, as its new vice president of global strategic alliances.

Others who have recently left VMware include channel veteran Doug Smith, who is now vice president of global partner sales at Virtual Instruments; former CTO Stephen Herrod, who went to a venture capital firm; and former COO Tod Nielsen, who last month joined startup cloud application developer Heroku as CEO.

Other VMware execs, including former President and CEO Paul Maritz and former Channel Chief Scott Aronson left VMware for Pivotal, the big data analytics startup formed by VMware and parent company EMC.

The departure of Jackson, and indeed of so many VMware executives, stems from how the industry as a whole is changing, said Jamie Shepard, regional vice president at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and EMC partner.

"Everyone seems to be blaming [VMware President and CEO Pat] Gelsinger," Shepard said. "But I don't think that's the case. It's more of an industry issue."

In Jackson's situation, Shepard said, it is a case of a highly regarded executive who has left former positions at Borland Software and BEA, and now VMware, while these companies were at the peak of their industry, and sees an opportunity to ride a new wave.

"When Rick joined VMware in 2009, everything was going virtual," he said. "Now he sees an opportunity to go with the cloud."

While VMware is also moving toward a hybrid cloud business, the company is still very heavily tied to its virtualization product lines, Shepard said.

"If I were him, my goal would be to move on to where the company will be in the next four to five years," he said. "VMware still has to support all its products. By going to Rackspace, he can focus 100 percent on the cloud, and not on other products."