VMware CEO: We've Got To Make Software-Defined Data Center Easy

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger was living in the Bay Area in October 1989 when the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake struck on an unseasonably warm Tuesday afternoon. He recalls a clock falling off the wall at his home, and his son, who was playing in a sandbox at the time, asking him why the ground was moving.

Gelsinger, in a keynote Wednesday at VMware's Partner Exchange conference in San Francisco, drew parallels between that tectonic shift and the one taking place right now in the IT industry, where software is playing a key role in turning enterprises into efficient, well-oiled machines of productivity.

VMware's "software-defined data center" vision is an example of such a shift, Gelsinger told attendees. In it, storage and networking resources are abstracted from the underlying hardware into resource "pools," with the goal of enabling enterprises to run faster and more efficiently than in the past.

[Related: VMware Poised To Unleash VSAN Storage Tech, But Pricing Still Unclear ]

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But while the concept of virtualizing networking and storage in the same way as servers makes sense to most enterprises, actually getting there will require a lot of work, Gelsinger said.

"It takes about a minute or two to convince a customer" of the value the software-defined data center can bring, but that's the simple part, Gelsinger said. "The sale is easy, but the implementation is hard. We've got to make it easy."

VMware's software-defined data center vision contrasts with "those arguing for the past, for a hardware-defined data center," Gelsinger said, referring to Cisco and its Insieme software-defined networking approach, in which software is tied to proprietary hardware.

Jamie Shepard, regional vice president at Lumenate, a Dallas-based partner who's working with VMware's VSAN storage technology, a key part of the software-defined data center, said his customers are already seeing the benefits.

"We are helping folks extend their VMware investments within the data center, articulating the idea that VMware now sits at the top of the stack of standardization," Shepard told CRN. "We are actually helping companies become an actual service provider to their end users. "

The fact that Gelsinger is leading a vendor that's using software in a transformative way is ironic, since Gelsinger, during a three-decade career at Intel, spent most of his time focused on semiconductors. "I spent 30 years of my life building silicon and hardware, [and thought] those software guys were lunatics," Gelsinger said.