10 Biggest VMware Stories Of 2019 (So Far)

From bold acquisitions to blockbuster integrations, here are the ten biggest VMware stories of 2019 so far.

VMware Making Waves In 2019

The virtualization superstar and emerging hybrid cloud leader is making waves this year through acquisitions, innovation and bold integrations with the likes of Microsoft and Dell Technologies.

From VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger being voted the best CEO in America to laying the groundwork in redefining how the vendor interacts and incentivizes channel partners, the $9 billion Palo Alto, Calif.-based company has been making headlines throughout 2019. VMware recently reported a strong first fiscal quarter 2020 with revenue of $2.27 billion, up 13 percent year over year.

“Good business results, good stock performance – that just puts a smile on everybody’s face,” said Gelsinger in a recent interview with CRN. “I think everybody is just smiling as they look at those results.”

CRN breaks down the ten biggest news stories this year from VMware.

Pat Gelsinger: The Best CEO In America

When not out climbing mountains in Africa to raise money for those in need, VMware’s CEO is beloved by his employees. The highly charitable technology visionary was voted best CEO in America this year by Glassdoor among all U.S. large companies. Gelsinger receiving an astonishing 99 percent approval rating from users on Glassdoor, the popular employment website where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management.

“If you think about it: we spend more of our discretionary time with our work families than we do our personal ones; it is important to me that our team enjoys that time we have together,” said Gelsinger.

Gelsinger rose from being ranked No. 78 in Glassdoor’s 2018 list to the top spot in the 2019 Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards. The award includes reviews by current and former employees with CEOs being rated based on consistency, quantity and quality of the reviews.

Just a few weeks before receiving the award, Gelsinger was participating in a 50-mile charity bike ride to raise money to fight diabetes in the Bay Area where he was the No. 1 fundraiser.

VMware Acquires Bitnami To Boost App And Cloud Capabilities

To boost its ability to package applications for easier deployment in the cloud, VMware acquired Bitnami. The San Francisco-based startup delivers full software stacks for popular open source solutions like WordPress, Drupal and Magento, including pre-configured applications, installers, databases, web servers and encryption tools.

Bitnami says it has more than 1.3 million deployments per month on every major cloud vendor including AWS, Google, Microsoft and Oracle with over 130 open source applications. In terms of channel benefits, Bitnami can be used by partners that operate clouds to create click-to-install application catalogues to bring clouds closer to the marketplaces offered by the likes of Amazon. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Bitnami will enable our customers to easily deploy application packages on any cloud— public or hybrid— and in the most optimal format — virtual machine (VM), containers and Kubernetes helm charts," said VMware's Milin Desai, general manager for cloud services; and Paul Fazzone, senior vice president for cloud-native apps in a blog post. “Bitnami will be able to augment our existing efforts to deliver a curated marketplace to VMware customers that offers a rich set of applications and development environments in addition to infrastructure software.”

Dell Ramps Up VMware Integration

The integration and co-engineering between Dell and VMware has hit an all-time this year which is paying off in big channel sales gains. Dell’s mandate this year was to “be first and best” with VMware in terms of innovation and integration. The two companies have doubled down on hyper-converged infrastructure integration with VxRail, launched a new SD-WAN solution together as well as a joint Unified Workspace end-user computing product. Hundreds of VMware and Dell engineers are now working hand-in-hand to drive innovation together.

“We see that these technologies and the momentum that we’ve built, the solutions that we’ve architected over the last 18 months, is really positioning us like no one else,” said Gelsinger in front of over 4,000 Dell Technologies partners at Dell’s Global Partner Summit this year. “We’re seeing this relationship as gaining momentum. We’re seeing it as enabling these new solutions. We’re partnering across our ecosystem, but this relationship with Dell and VMware is unique and powerful. We have defied gravity.”

VMware Gets Serious About Containers And Kubernetes

At one time, containers appeared to be a threat to the virtualization leader. However, VMware is now the second largest contributor to Kubernetes and doubling down on containers.

“We want to be seen as the enterprise dial-tone for Kubernetes,” said Gelsinger in an interview with CRN. “We’re embracing Kubernetes as the native dial-tone for the VMware stack going forward. So you’ll see us build more and more of those capabilities into the core VMware platform.

Gelsinger said while the number of production deployments of containers is modest at this point, “there is consensus that people are going to move to a container-centric model in the future.”

The company’s container strategy is gaining traction through VMware’s Kubernetes service, PSK, an integrated Kubernetes management service developed with Pivotal Software and Google. Additionally, VMware’s acquisition of Kubernetes star Heptio late last year has boosted the company’s offerings, driving greater adoption in enterprises on-premises and across multi-cloud environments. Heptio was founded in 2016 by Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie, two of the original creators of Kubernetes.

‘Bro Hugs’: VMware And AWS Hold Tighter Hands

VMware and AWS’ strategic relationship became closer than ever this year as the two industry titans drove tighter integration with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud on AWS GovCloud and are preparing for VMware Cloud on AWS Outposts and VMware Cloud Foundation for EC2.

In May, AWS channel partners were allowed to start selling VMware Cloud on AWS, which won CRN’s 2018 Products of the Year Award in the hybrid cloud category. Additionally, VMware recently unleashed a new VMware Cloud on AWS Master Services Competency with the goal of getting more VMware partners trained and certified to sell the hybrid cloud solution.

Gelsinger said VMware’s relationship with AWS has done a complete 180 in recent years. “I like to joke about the fact that, five years ago, I stood on stage and said, ‘If you use Amazon, you’re stupid.’ And [AWS CEO] Andy Jassy would stand on stage and say, ‘If you run a data center, you’re stupid,’” said Gelsinger. “Now we’re doing bro hugs at the Re:Invent stage and declaring a joint, hybrid future. We’ve come a long way.”

VMware-Nutanix Rivalry Heats Up

The rivalry between VMware and Nutanix in the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) market turned up a notch in 2018 and is being taken even further this year.

“I think Nutanix has sort of reached the end of their strategy. Where do they go from here?” said Gelsinger in a recent interview with CRN. “With their offerings, [Nutanix’s] ability to scale further from where they are is a challenge. I think our scale and capacity is almost unlimited [in] where we’re going from where we already are. ... We’ve been building on our position with VxRail with vSAN. We respect Nutanix as a competitor, they helped create the category, but now I’d say we have a better product, a better strategy and a much better vision of where that’s going.”

Earlier this year, Nutanix CEO and founder Dheeraj Pandey said he needed to take a stand against alleged bullying tactics from VMware towards Nutanix customers. He wrote a popular blog dubbed, ‘Stop Being A Bully, VMware!’ The two companies have traded barbs this year from everything from acquisition strategies to customer mindshare.

VMware is the worldwide market share leading with 41 percent share in terms of hyper-converged systems based on HCI software, according to first quarter 2019 data from IDC, followed by Nutanix at 29 percent share.

Microsoft Azure Alliance Created

The highly anticipated cloud alliance between VMware and Microsoft became official in May at Dell Technologies World as the IT giants unveiled a joint solution that will natively bring VMware environments into the Azure Cloud.

Azure VMware Solutions will hit the market later this year and compete directly against VMware Cloud on AWS. The solution will include all technologies in VMware Cloud Foundation -- including vSphere, NSX and vSAN -- to provide native and certified VMware infrastructure on Microsoft Azure. Because the service integrates with native Azure services, it will simplify the process of adding capabilities like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things into VMware-based applications.

Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell was bullish about the alliance, saying there’s “lots of demand for” the VMware-Microsoft solution. "We hear you. You want choice and flexibility. You want multi-cloud made easy,” said Dell on stage in front of thousands at Dell Technologies World. “As you can see, we're innovating a whole new level of cloud-agnostic interoperability for your workloads.”

Other solutions expected to stem from the partnership include a jointly integrated Microsoft 365 and VMware Workspace ONE solution.

Avi Networks To Boost NSX, Application Delivery Innovation

VMware acquired multi-cloud application delivery startup Avi Networks to bring public cloud experience to the data center by creating what the company dubs as the “industry’s only complete software-defined networking stack” built for the modern multi-cloud era.

Founded in 2012 by former Cisco executives, Santa Clara, Calif.-based Avi Networks is deployed in hundreds of global enterprises with customers such as Cisco, Deutsche Bank, Hulu, Telegraph Media Group, and Palo Alto Networks. Avi’s platform enables organizations to overcome the complexity and rigidness of legacy systems and application delivery controller (ADC) appliances with modern, software-defined application services. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

VMware’s broad goal is to implement Avi into VMware’s Virtual Cloud Network strategy that seeks to create a digital business fabric for connecting and securing applications, data, and users across the entire network in a multi-cloud world. VMware said it will offer both built-in load balancing capabilities as part of NSX Data Center as well as advanced standalone ADC. “Customers will be able to benefit from a full set of software-defined [Layer 2 to Layer 7] application networking and security services, on-demand elasticity, real time insights, simplified troubleshooting, and developer self-service,” said Avi Networks CEO Amit Pandey.

VMware Cloud On Dell EMC

VMware and Dell unveiled this year perhaps its most significant cloud collaboration ever with the Dell Technologies Cloud. The foundation of the new hybrid cloud platform is VMware Cloud on Dell EMC hardware.

The platform includes VxRail and VMware Cloud Foundation in two similar offerings: Cloud Data Center as-a-Service and the Dell Technologies Cloud Platforms. Cloud Data Center as-a-Service is a consumption-based management service for VMware Cloud on VxRail that is fully managed by Dell Technologies, while Cloud Platforms can be a mix of various Dell EMC infrastructure and Dell Technologies solutions – such as from Pivotal, RSA or VirtuStream -- with VMware Cloud that is managed by customers or partners.

“We’re combining the innovations of Dell EMC, VMware and Pivotal to create a developer friendly, highly-automated, intelligent and efficient cloud architecture,” said Michael Dell on stage at Dell Technologies World. “VMware brings the power of virtualizing all your infrastructure, including the network, and delivering a software-defined future from the edge to the core to multi-cloud.”

The top use cases for VMware Cloud on Dell EMC are infrastructure modernization, application modernization and for sensitive workloads that are either latency-sensitive or apps that must be kept in a specific geography for compliance reasons.

‘Redefining’ VMware’s Channel Strategy

Dubbed as a channel “game-changer” by VMware’s global channel chief Jenni Flinders (above), VMware’s new partner program will redefine how the company interacts and conducts business with solution providers.

VMware Partner Connect aims to simplify the company’s current channel programs by replacing them with a single program and a single agreement with a common incentive model, fee structure and requirements. The new program is geared toward partners who achieve Master Services Competencies by providing them with the most rewards including deployment and consumption incentives, co-selling opportunities and prioritization for joint-business planning with VMware.

VMware Partner Connect, which will not be fully implemented until early 2020, was designed from the ground up to align to each partners’ individual business model. The program allows partners to specialize in certain aspects of VMware – such as hybrid cloud, networking and security, or digital workspace -- compared to needing to fulfill VMware requirements that don’t align to the partners’ business strategy.

“The new program is redefining the way VMware does partnering,” said Flinders, vice president and VMware’s Global Channel Chief. “This is giving the partners flexibility. This is really a game-changer for us. We have something pretty unique here that we’re super excited about.”