A Brave New World: Pat Gelsinger Leads VMware Into The Multi-Cloud Era

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Gelsinger first met his new chairman back in 1986, when the budding Texas businessman looking to get his PC startup off the ground came to Intel for a good bulk deal on microprocessors.

Gelsinger, at the time on the x86 engineering team, remembers legendary Intel CEO Andy Grove giving Dell a shot, perhaps having learned from the mistake a couple years earlier of dismissing "this other young, college, pimple-faced guy named Steve Jobs"(probably resulting in Apple using non-Intel chips the next 15 years), he told CRN.

More than 30 years later, Michael Dell's acumen and expertise are invaluable assets helping shape VMware's future, Gelsinger said. At the same time, the tech tycoon understands that an independent company must have an independent CEO.

"He's involved. He's the chair of the board. He's also an inquisitive, technical guy," Gelsinger said of Michael Dell. "But I run the company."

Partnering With The Enemy

The team here, everybody, Pat, [COO for products and cloud services] Raghu [Raghuram], myself, primarily on the cloud part, began to really hunker down."

Those sessions resulted in Poonen contacting Jassy and opening discussions that led to "some very important engineering investments we made," he said.

When Gelsinger and Jassy stood together on a San Francisco stage in October 2016 to unveil a collaborative project called VMware Cloud on AWS, many in the industry couldn't believe what they were seeing.

VMware had telegraphed a major pivot earlier that year with a deal bringing hosted vSphere environments into IBM's SoftLayer cloud — a surprising alliance given SoftLayer's commitment to OpenStack, a rival cloud-building technology.

But the AWS deal was an even bolder move, leaving no doubt as to VMware's seriousness about partnering with former rivals. "As we went into this, obviously, we didn't start out with the greatest relationship between Amazon and VMware, so there was a bit of trepidation on both sides," Gelsinger told CRN.

But a mutual dedication to quality engineering fostered a highly productive joint development process for VMware Cloud on AWS, Gelsinger said. The hybrid cloud service went live at the end of August. Since first partnering with Amazon, VMware has made deals with Microsoft and Google as well. Each alliance has focused on a technology the cloud partner is best suited to deliver, Gelsinger said. Since most VDI workloads are Windows-based, the Microsoft deal involved hosting Horizon, VMware's virtual desktop platform, on the Azure cloud.

With Google, the world's largest container operator and original developer of the Kubernetes platform, VMware, joined by Pivotal, recently introduced PKS. The Kubernetes service is the latest offering through which VMware has embraced containers rather than taking an adversarial posture to the technology. "As you look at those four [IBM, AWS, Microsoft and Google], we've structured relationships that are very unique and leveraged around the core capabilities of each one of those mega-partners," Gelsinger told CRN.

As VMware continues to expand integrated services with each of those hyper-scale providers, the company's channel, especially partners with multi-cloud practices, are closely watching. "Right now, I see VMware wanting to change. Because they know they need to change," David Klee, founder and chief architect at Heraflux Technologies, Scarborough, Maine, told CRN. "For years they didn't want anything to do with public cloud. Now they want to be the big bad integrator out there between other people's clouds," he said.

Not many enterprises are looking to migrate all workloads to the public cloud, Klee said, but hybrid is becoming "a really big point of discussion" for use cases ranging from disaster recovery, burst capacity, dev/test, and production workloads. "I see [VMware] wanting to be the conduit between all these things," Klee said.

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