Happy Hunters: 8 VMware Executive Poachings That Have Made A Difference

Stealing From The Enemy

VMware, aware that its reign at the top of the data center food chain might not last forever, has been aggressive in poaching talent from other vendors to fill strategic gaps in its in-house talent. And VMware has become quite good at luring people away from vendors it directly competes with, like Cisco Systems, Citrix, Amazon Web Services and others.

VMware is looking to build its chops in areas like hybrid cloud and mobility, but these are pretty hot markets for talent at the moment. So instead of waiting for candidates to show up, VMware is casting a wide net and scouring the industry for individuals it feels can help get the company over the hump.

Following are eight examples of executives VMware has poached and placed in important, high-profile positions over the past couple of years.

Simone Brunozzi, Amazon Web Services

VMware poached Brunozzi from Amazon Web Services in February, giving him the newly created role of vice president and chief technologist of hybrid cloud. In that role, Brunozzi is pretty much the public face for VMware's hybrid cloud efforts, which of course center around its vCloud Air public cloud offering.

Brunozzi spent six years at AWS as a senior technology evangelist, another public-facing role that saw him speak at conferences, mentor startups, meet with customers and gather feedback, and report back to the mothership.

In a blog post after he joined VMware, Brunozzi described his role as a "challenge and an opportunity" because he'd be working with more enterprise-like customers and fewer of the SMBs and startups he was used to dealing with at AWS. "It’s an opportunity to learn many new things, and try to prove myself again," he said in the blog post.

Dominick Delfino, Cisco Systems

VMware poached Delfino, a 14-year Cisco veteran who was vice president of worldwide data center and virtualization systems engineering, in September.

Cisco was pretty unhappy about this, a source told CRN at the time, because Delfino was a popular figure in the channel who helped drive sales of UCS servers and Application Centric Infrastructure, Cisco's answer to software-defined networking.

Some reports suggested that Delfino jumped to VMware because he felt its NSX SDN technology would ultimately win out in the data center.

We'll have to see how VMware and Cisco's SDN battle turns out, but this could end up an even bigger hire down the road than it appears to be now.

Michael van Dijken, Microsoft

This was more of an under-the-radar poach, but when VMware hired 10-year Microsoft veteran van Dijken in February as senior marketing manager for its vCloud Air service, it brought in someone with tons of experience selling cloud services in the channel.

At Microsoft, van Dijken helped Microsoft figure out how to sell Exchange and Exchange Online through partners, a role that included business and channel strategy, developing a revenue model and pricing, and go-to-market strategy, according to his LinkedIn profile.

At VMware, he's doing similar things with vCloud Air while also leading VMware's public cloud business in the U.S. public sector space, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Sumit Dhawan, Citrix Systems

VMware, in a bold move to drive sales of its end-user computing products, poached Dhawan from Citrix in January after a 15-year run. At Citrix, Dhawan was in charge of running the vendor's desktop virtualization business unit and, more recently, its enterprise mobility efforts.

One of the first things Dhawan did at VMware was help unveil Horizon 6, which added application virtualization technology to its existing virtual desktop software for the first time. With this move, VMware is going after an application virtualization market that Citrix dominates, and Dhawan's background will probably come in handy here.

Huseyin Dursun, Oracle

VMware hired Dursun in March from Oracle, where he was vice president of engineering for its business analytics products. Dursun also spent 16 years at Microsoft, where he was director of quality engineering for Microsoft Azure, which at the time was just a platform-as-a-service.

At VMware, Dursun is vice president of engineering for DevOps and operations. DevOps refers to the trend of software developers and IT operations teams working closely together to speed release of new software, and it's one of the most important trends in the cloud today.

Guido Appenzeller, Big Switch Networks

This wasn't technically a poach, since Appenzeller, co-founder and former CEO of SDN startup Big Switch Networks, had left the company in March. But given his stature in the SDN space that VMware so eagerly wants a piece of, Appenzeller's hiring was a big and important move.

Appenzeller joined VMware in October as chief technology strategy officer of its networking and security business unit. His deep security and networking background makes him a perfect fit for VMware's NSX team, Martin Casado, senior vice president of VMware's networking and security business unit, told CRN at the time.

"He brings the breadth of background needed for this type of position," Casado said. "And he is somewhat of an icon who is well known and has credibility and respect in the industry."

Bob Schultz, Citrix Systems

Schultz joined VMware last December after just over two and a half years at Citrix, where he led the company's desktop virtualization business and other projects. He also spent nine years at Hewlett-Packard in a variety of enterprise executive roles.

At VMware, Schultz is vice president and chief strategy lead for end-user computing, focused on "technology and alliance strategies across desktop virtualization and mobile, cloud and on-premise services," according to his LinkedIn profile.

At Citrix in 2012, Schultz helped create a technology called Project Avalon, which aimed to turn any Windows app or desktop into a cloud service that could be delivered on any network and to any device. VMware is hoping he'll bring the same kind of visionary thinking to its end-user computing portfolio.

Sanjay Poonen, SAP

VMware poached Sanjay Poonen, a seven-year SAP veteran who had been leading that company's big data analytics and mobility efforts, to lead its end-user computing unit last August. Since then, Poonen has presided over VMware's $1.5 billion acquisition of mobile device management vendor AirWatch, its purchase of desktop-as-a-service vendor Desktone, and its release of Horizon 6.

There was also a big partnership with Google in February that combines VMware's View desktop virtualization software with Google Chromebooks, with access to Windows apps enabled by VMware's Blast HTML5 technology.

VMware is still working hard to get the word out about its end-user computing portfolio, but Poonen and the "Dream Team" of executive talent he has brought in seem to be off to a good start.