Here Are 5 People Who Could Be VMware’s New CEO

Here are five industry titans who could become the next CEO of VMware as the $12 billion company enters its third month without a permanent leader.

The 5 Candidates Who Could Take Over VMware

It’s been more than three months since VMware’s former CEO Pat Gelsinger announced he was leaving to helm Intel and yet VMware still hasn’t selected a new CEO.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtualization and hybrid cloud software superstar has been searching globally for a new CEO since January led by VMware’s board, with VMware Chief Financial Officer Zane Rowe taking on the interim CEO role after Geisinger’s official departure in February.

However, with Dell Technologies’ spin-off of its majority stake in VMware now officially on the books to take place later this year, the time could soon be approaching when VMware unveils its new permanent CEO.

“I’m guessing that they wanted to wait until the spin-off deal was finalized so the new CEO wouldn’t have to deal or worry about any of that,” said Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst at ZK Research. “So it’s about time VMware picked somebody.”

CRN breaks down five top IT executives who could take over the reins as CEO of VMware, which has a market cap of $68 billion.

Jim Whitehurst



Jim Whitehurst was the former president and CEO of Red Hat, a top leader in open source enterprise software, before IBM acquired Red Hat in July 2019 for a whopping $34 billion. It’s approaching two years now since Whitehurst joined IBM as president, responsible for IBM Cloud and Cognitive Software, and Corporate Strategy.

“You could say Jim has reached his peak at IBM. He’s been there now for a while since the Red Hat acquisition,” said Kerravala. “There’s logic to him becoming CEO of VMware with all that cloud knowledge he has.”

At Red Hat, Whitehurst grew its influence with key milestones including becoming the first $1 billion revenue open source software company in 2012. He grew revenue at Red Hat from $500 million in its 2008 fiscal year to $3.4 billion for its 2019 fiscal year before selling it to IBM. He also has vast expertise in business development, finance and global operations.

“Jim makes sense for VMware,” said Kerravala.

Sanjay Poonen


Chief Operating Officer, Customer Operations

One of the most obvious choices VMware could go with is Sanjay Poonen, who’s been a major figurehead at the company for nearly eight years. As COO of VMware, Sanjay leads customer operations for all front-office functions including sales, marketing, services, support and alliances for the $12 billion company. He is also responsible for the security strategy and business at VMware, which is as critical as ever.

“Sanjay is the obvious pick. He’s been COO and second in command all these years. He’s the odds-on favorite to become the CEO because he’s the next in line and just has a lot of experience and industry knowledge,” said Kerravala.

Prior to his COO role, Poonen was general manager of VMware’s End-User Computing (EUC) business responsible for strategy, products, engineering and sales. That expertise and knowledge could greatly help VMware as the new remote workforce takes shape. Since Gelsinger’s departure, Poonen has also taken over some responsibilities during VMware’s financial quarterly earnings report with media and analysts.

Scott Guthrie


Executive Vice President, Microsoft Cloud Group

With VMware striving to become the dominant hybrid cloud software kingpin, longtime Microsoft star Scott Guthrie could accelerate VMware into that market leading position.

“He knows cloud and the AI markets as much as anyone. Those are the two big emerging technologies VMware needs and wants,” said Kerravala. “There’s enough core virtualization talent at VMware that you don’t need to bring someone onboard with that type of talent, but they need to bring somebody in who is an absolutely expert in these emerging areas. Scott would be a good fit.”

Guthrie has been with Microsoft for nearly a quarter of a century, holding titles such as corporate vice president leading Microsoft Azure Team. He currently runs Microsoft’s Cloud and Artificial Intelligence Group, responsible for the software giant’s cloud computing fabric, AI platform, and its digital transformation strategy – spanning products and services from Microsoft Azure to developer tools.

Kerravala said taking over VMware could be worth leaving Microsoft for Guthrie. “[Microsoft CEO] Satya Nadella isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” he said.

Gerri Elliott


Executive Vice President, Chief Customer and Partner Officer

Gerri Elliott has more than 40 years of top IT experience working for tech giants like IBM, Microsoft and Juniper Networks. In 2018, she became Cisco’s first-ever executive vice president, chief customer and partner officer, taking over responsibility for Cisco’s worldwide sales and marketing, field operations and partnerships across the globe.

“Cisco’s got great partnerships with all the cloud vendors. You think about where VMware is making their investments: they’ve invested a lot of money in the SD-WAN space, the SASE space. The world is becoming more network-centric as we’ve become cloud-centric. Cisco has been an executing machine ever since Gerri Elliott arrived there,” said Kerravala. “I would think that being No. 2 at Cisco would parallel nicely into running VMware. I’ve talked to [Cisco CEO] Chuck Robbins about her. He once told me that he thought Cisco moved fast until they hired Gerri Elliot, ‘Now they move fast,’ he said.”

Elliott has led large-scale and complex global sales organizations and is a recognized expert in go-to-market and customer care strategies. As Juniper Networks’ Chief Customer Officer, she led a global organization of direct and indirect sales, systems engineering, marketing, advanced technologies, channel partners and alliances, field operations, services and support. Prior to that, Elliott was Microsoft‘s Corporate Vice President for its worldwide public sector, where she oversaw sales and marketing teams serving government, education and health care customers across more than 100 countries.

Raghu Raghuram


Chief Operating Officer, Product and Cloud Services

If VMware hires internally, Raghu Raghuram is the top candidate alongside VMware’s Poonen for the company’s CEO position. Raghuram has been with VMware for a whopping 17 years, serving in various general manager (GM) and executive vice president (EVP) roles, including GM of cloud infrastructure and management, as well as EVP and GM of VMware’s software defined data center division. Raghuram is currently chief operating officer, responsible for all of VMware’s product and service offerings as well as centralized services, support and operational functions.

“The areas he runs at VMware, COO of the cloud services -- assuming the future for VMware is the cloud and the network -- Raghu would make a lot of sense,” said Kerravala..

He began his career at VMware in 2003 running product management for VMware ESX and what became a flagship VMware product: vSphere. Raghuram, alongside Poonen, are the two executives who lead VMware’s quarterly financial earnings report following Gelsinger’s departure.