VMware CEO Raghuram On ‘Vigorously’ Competing With Nutanix

VMware’s new CEO Raghu Raghuram talks to CRN about competing with Nutanix, his channel partner vision and what Dell Technologies’ spin-off of VMware enables.

Raghu Raghuram On Nutanix, Dell Spin-off and Channel Partners

VMware’s new CEO Raghu Raghuram is ready to take his company into its “next phase of growth” as VMware strives to become the king of multi-cloud computing while transforming itself into an enterprise SaaS company.

“That really is what I was appointed to do, to make us the leader in multi-cloud computing. That’s really the focus of the next few years,” said Raghuram in an interview with CRN. “I’m really looking forward to taking this company to the next phase of growth along with 34,000 of my best friends in the company.”

The $12 billion Palo Alto, Calif.-based company announced Wednesday Raghuram as VMware’s new CEO, replacing former CEO Pat Gelsinger who left this year to lead Intel. Raghuram is an 18-year VMware veteran with vast experience inside the company both as a technologist and executive leader. He was previously VMware’s worldwide chief operating officer of Products and Cloud Services, responsible for all of the company’s product and service offerings as well as centralized services, support and operational functions.

In an interview with CRN, Raghuram talks about competing with Nutanix, what Dell Technologies’ spin-off of VMware will enable, as well as his vision for VMware’s large channel partner base.

As VMware’s new CEO, talk about your strategy competing against Nutanix?

Look, our focus is on what do customers want to do? Customers want to live in the multi-cloud era. They want to modernize their applications, modernize their infrastructure, move to the cloud and be secure. Nutanix overlaps with a tiny part of our portfolio, right. So we compete with them on HCI [hyperconverged infrastructure]. We are the market leader in HCI and we will continue to vigorously compete with them in the HCI market. But you step back and say, ‘How are we accelerating our customers most important business initiatives?’ The most important business initiative for customers is to become a digital business, move to the cloud, secure their digital assets – and we do that in unparalleled fashion compared to everybody else.

Will becoming an independent company from Dell Technologies open new doors for VMware?

The partnership with Dell is deep and strong. Regardless of the corporate ownership structure, we have had extraordinary technical collaboration and extraordinary go-to-market collaboration with Dell. What we have done now with the impending spin-off is, we have quantified this into a strategic business agreement and we’ll execute against that.

At the same time, the fact that we are an independent company enables other [vendor] partners who previously would have not been so keen to engage deeply on a deep strategic partnership with us, to now do so. I’ve already had, along with my team, engagements with some of these partners. What you should look for in the coming weeks, months and years, is that our partnership with the broader ecosystem is as deep and as strong as it is with Dell today.

By the way, there’s more opportunity for [VMware’s] core channel partner community.

How so?

The more VMware is able to partner [with other vendors] to bring new, joint solutions – those are things that we obviously will take to our partner community into the customer base.

How will Dell Technologies spin-out of VMware help your company and your vision?

The fact that we’re getting spun out of Dell, you can almost think of us as the Switzerland of multi-cloud. We’re hardware agnostic, cloud agnostic and we can really focus on helping our customers run their applications and run their IT however they want to run it. We’re providing the tools to help them build new applications faster, run them across all of these locations, manage these applications, secure and protect them, etc. – that’s what we’re trying to do in a nutshell.

What is Raghu Raghuram’s vision for VMware?

If you look at what’s happening in the industry, we are at the start of a new era of multi-cloud computing. Because the last decade was all about customers getting use to the cloud, starting to put applications in the cloud. Eighty percent of our customers are running their applications on two clouds or more. There’s still 30-, 40- or 50- percent of their applications are in the data center. The edge is growing very fast. So what we term as multi-cloud computing is this idea that customers’ applications as they transform into digital businesses are going to live across all these places.

We are uniquely poised with our anywhere, any app, any cloud strategy, to help our customers transform themselves and accelerate their digital business in this multi-cloud era. That’s really is what I was appointed to do, to make us the leader in multi-cloud computing. That’s really the focus of the next few years. Like I said, the great news is we’re already going down this path, but now we get an opportunity to turbo-charge and accelerate this even further.

What’s your vision and message to VMware’s channel partners?

First off, a huge thank you to the channel community. They are who put VMware on the map. Even today, the vast majority of VMware’s business is handled with the help of our channel partners.

With our channel partners, we’ve been doing several exciting things in helping them grow their traditional business and helping them take advantage of all of the interest and spending that customers are doing in new areas like modern applications, cloud, security — those are all the areas where our partners should expect newer things from us. At the same time — the core, the data center, VMware Cloud foundation, hyperconverged, software-defined networking, software-defined storage — those things continue to go from strength to strength. So you should expect more of the same, but a lot of the new.

What do you mean when you say partners should ‘expect more of the same, but a lot of the new’ from VMware?

It’s about shifting into where customers are going. Customers don’t want to be just in the data center. So if you’re a channel partner, you’re going to be able to go to your accounts and customers and say, ‘Here is how we can take you where you want to go Mr. Customer. We can help you not only in the data center, but we can help you in the cloud. We can help you in the edge. We can help you with security. We can help you modernize your applications because we partner closely with VMware across all of these things and VMware has the best-of-breed products here.’”

What excites you the most about being the new CEO of VMware?

Two things. One is our people and our culture — this is what’s most exciting for me everyday. Regardless of what product we are building, which customer we are serving, what route to market do we have, etc. if you look at what’s been constant over the last 18 years, for me, it has been the team, the culture and the values. The opportunity to strengthen those and nourish those is what excites me a lot.

Secondly, the fact that we can be by our customers side as they look to accelerate their digital transformation and through their own evolution. That’s super exciting because that is a journey they’re taking and they need somebody that’s an industry-neutral partner to do that, and that excited me. The possibility that now as an independent company for the first time since 2004, to be able to help our customers achieve their digital business transformation goals – that’s exciting.