VMware Execs: Our Software-Defined Data Center Is A 'Bridge To The Future' For Customers

VMware has been talking about its software-defined data strategy for the past couple of years, but to many partners, this was basically the old "buy everything from one vendor" message in new clothing.

Now VMware has some data to support its claims that customers are indeed seeing the benefits of virtualizing their servers, storage and networking infrastructure using its software.

While vSphere used to be VMware's flagship product, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based vendor said it's now transitioning to selling suites of products, and that's putting the focus on its newer products.

"We have to learn our second DNA," VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger said in a keynote Tuesday at the opening of VMware's Partner Exchange conference in downtown San Francisco.

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[Related: With vSphere 6, VMware Gives Its Server Virtualization Cash Cow A Makeover]

In 2015, VMware will look to get more customers onto its vCloud Air public cloud, win the networking battle with Cisco, and be a leader in business mobility and delivering apps on any device, Gelsinger said.

VMware feels its footprint in private and public cloud gives it the unique ability to run both old and new apps. Other legacy vendors, Gelsinger said, are "building a bridge to nowhere" with clouds that don't have the same capabilities.

VMware has a "steady growth rate" for its vCloud Air business, with more than 4,000 service provider partners selling vSphere-based public cloud services, including CenturyLink, Telstra and SoftBank, Gelsinger said.

Collectively, VMware and these partners are generating well over $2 billion in cloud services revenue, said Gelsinger.

VMware inked a partnership with Google last week to make some of the search giant's develop-focused services available to vCloud Air customers, and Gelsinger said this is "the first of many" cloud partnerships VMware is pursuing.

Raghu Raghuram, general manager of VMware's software-defined data center unit, said this business saw a twentyfold increase in adoption during 2014, a trend that he said bodes well for channel partners.

AdvizeX, a VMware partner based in Boston, is using VMware software to deliver application and middleware services to partners in minutes, a process that used to take weeks or even months, Raghuram said.

Other VMware partners can use SDDC to drive services business, Raghuram said. "Deploying SDDC is a significant opportunity to hold the hands of the customer, which makes it a significant opportunity for the channel," he said.

With its software-defined data center strategy, it's now clear that VMware is setting its sights on public cloud vendors like AWS, networking leader Cisco, as well as newer disruptive players like Nutanix, said Chris Saso, senior vice president of technology at Dasher Technologies, a VMware partner in Campbell, Calif.

"We've benefited from their continued product line expansion with acquisitions like AirWatch and vCloud air offerings," Saso told CRN.

NEXT: VMware Touts Progress With NSX, AirWatch Products

VMware's NSX software-defined networking technology has lots of potential for network security, according to Raghuram.

Around 80 percent of security spending is on network traffic going in and out of the data center, but securing traffic that travels within the data center -- which NSX is designed for -- is a relatively untapped opportunity, Raghuram said.

VMware said it's also making progress with integrating AirWatch, the mobile device management vendor it acquired last year for $1.5 billion.

VMware COO Carl Eschenbach said AirWatch is "one of the most successful acquisitions" in VMware's history.

Sanjay Poonen, head of VMware's end-user computing unit, said 2014 was a "gangbuster" year for AirWatch, which now has more than 15,000 customers and a $200 million bookings run-rate.

For partners, selling AirWatch is a good way to get the attention of enterprise CIOs struggling with tons of different devices and operating systems in their environments, Poonen said.

"You need a Switzerland-type player that can manage all kinds of devices and operating systems," Poonen said at the event.

Ira Grossman, CTO of end user and mobile computing for MCPc, a Cleveland-based VMware partner, told CRN VMware has shown a strong channel commitment to AirWatch since the acquisition.

"We’ve seen additional staffing, focus and better collaboration at the street level, and the AirWatch channel program is now integrated with the VMware program," said Grossman.

VMware still has more work to do to get customers on board with its software-defined data center strategy, but based on the insight its executives shared at the conference, it's making some decent headway.