VMware CTO Departs To Focus On Early-Stage Startups

Herrod, who disclosed his departure late Tuesday in a post to VMware's Office of the CTO blog, is moving on to become managing director at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm with offices in Cambridge, Mass., and Palo Alto, Calif.

In his new role, Herrod says he intends to leverage his experience building engineering teams at VMware to identify promising ideas and help bring them to fruition as products.

[Related: VMware CTO Sets Sights On Hadoop, Network Virtualization Challenges ]

"My primary focus will be finding, supporting, and developing great technical entrepreneurs as they build the products and companies that they've always dreamt of building," Herrod said in the blog post.

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VMware has begun its search for Herrod's replacement and will consider both internal and external candidates, a VMware spokesperson said in an email.

VMware and EMC Ventures, EMC's investment arm, will be exploring joint investments with General Catalyst in early-stage startups, provided they "help advance VMware's vision and ecosystem," the spokesperson said.

Herrod will continue serving as a technical advisor to VMware, though it is unclear what level of involvement this role will entail, and the VMware spokesperson declined to elaborate.

Herrod's departure comes as a shock to VMware partners who've grown accustomed to his dynamic presentations at VMware events and industry conferences. Several partners told CRN that Herrod, more than any other VMware executive, was able to clearly explain how VMware's early investments in emerging technologies would pay dividends down the road.

"In my opinion, this is a significant loss and a very tough set of shoes to fill," Jason Nash, data center solutions principal at Varrow, a Greensboro, N.C.-based VMware partner, told CRN. "From a technical leadership viewpoint, Steve is 'one of us,' and that's apparent in how he guides VMware products and strategy."

Herrod, who joined VMware in 2001 as director of R&D, was part of the original team that transformed VMware from startup status to a vendor that essentially defined the server virtualization space. He was also the public face for VMware's cloud computing, software-defined networking and big data initiatives.

VMware is in the midst of a major transition, one that began in earnest last July when Pat Gelsinger was named to replace Paul Maritz as CEO. As the lines blur between EMC and VMware, Herrod may have decided the time is right to go out and identify startups with VMware-like potential, one partner told CRN.

Whatever Herrod's motivations for leaving, it's clear he'll be missed by longtime VMware loyalists.

"Herrod was that objective, reasonable voice and should be credited with taking VMware to where it is today," Jamie Shepard, principal at Lumenate, a Dallas-based solution provider and EMC partner, told CRN.