Is the future of VMware in good hands with Pat Gelsinger?

A year with Pat Gelsinger as CEO has passed, and VMware professionals weigh in on his performance as compared to his predecessor, Paul Maritz.

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VMware made waves with a slew of major announcements to further its software-defined data center vision at VMworld 2013. Not surprisingly, the flagship vSphere platform took a back seat. CEO Pat Gelsinger's vision for the future of VMware has tilted toward new frontiers, such as network virtualization and software-defined storage.

VMworld 2013 also marked Gelsinger's first full year as CEO. He replaced Paul Maritz, who had been running VMware since 2008, at VMworld 2012.

Gelsinger leads the virtualization company during an intriguing time, one where it sees its hypervisor share slowly eroding due to competition from Microsoft and Citrix. VMware has tried to adjust to the changing landscape and cater to this need for faster ways of doing business by making acquisitions and tasking its engineers with building automation and cloud-building tools.

How well is Gelsinger realizing VMware's initiative to create the software-defined data center? Is VMware going in the right direction with Gelsinger at the helm? We've asked some VMware professionals for their input on how well VMware is doing lately and what, if anything, needs to change for the company to remain competitive.

Brian SuhrBrian Suhr

Brian Suhr, Virtualize Tips

I think many of the results from Pat's first year at VMware are likely not visible to the public yet. This means Pat's leadership has probably not affected customers and partners either positively or negatively at the moment.

The one thing I would say is while I've heard good things about Pat from people who have worked with him, I just don't get that great of a vibe from him. I haven't meet Pat, but, from his public sessions at VMworld, he just does not have the charisma of Paul Maritz. He just does not seem to excite the user base in the same way. I hope this is not the case with the internal teams because this is a very competitive time for VMware. For the first time, the company is facing competition on many fronts.

This is not the time to rest on their laurels. They need to innovate and do [so] faster than others. Now there is a lot of competition in the hypervisor and desktop space where VMware once had good market share. Pat will need to drive VMware teams to create great products and get the install base excited about them.

Jonathan FrappierJonathan Frappier

Jonathan Frappier, senior IT administrator

As far as first-year performances go, I would have to grade Pat Gelsinger very high. It would have been easy to rush out vSphere 6, but VMware opted to hold back, presumably because the products they are hoping for in the next major version -- symmetric multiprocessing system fault tolerance (possibly) and [VMware VSAN] -- were not ready.

I think VSAN and vSphere Flash Read Cache are a great start to the "software-defined storage" era for VMware and address a clear problem in complexity that other companies such as Nutanix and Simplivity are trying to solve.

NSX, its roadmap and overall success, will likely be what Gelsinger is remembered for even though the Nicira acquisition was likely in the works prior to his taking over. I feel all the software-defined networking (SDN) platforms at this point are as complex as most products are in early stages.

Also, there is a question about what VMware should do with the three [Infrastructure as a Service] products they are now involved with -- vCloud, vCAC [vCloud Automation Center] and OpenStack. In my opinion, they need to consolidate at least vCD [vCloud Director] and vCAC in the next few years. I suspect moving vCD to a provider-only product was done to keep those who invested in the platform early on the happy side, [as well as] prevent them from jumping to another solution.

It will be interesting to see VMware's influence on OpenStack, and if they can become the primary hypervisor for OpenStack deployments.

Matthew LeibMatthew Leib

Matthew Leib, Nexenta Systems

This has been an interesting couple of years for VMware. With the transition from Paul Maritz to Pat Gelsinger as CEO, it's only reasonable to look back and try to establish where each succeeded, where each failed, and what successes have shone during their respective tenures.

Maritz took over [for] Diane Greene when the company had some challenges. [VMware was] not embraced by the public, but by techies such as me who saw the potential benefits. Maritz brought the hypervisor and its capabilities to full functionality and made them rock-solid. By the time his role was determined complete, the industry surrounding virtualization had matured and many competitors had comparable hypervisor products. I remember when Maritz publicly stated the hypervisor was irrelevant and that the future was the application level. This was a bold statement for the CEO of a hypervisor company, but a true one, to be sure. I agreed with him at the time, and he's been proven correct.

I admired Paul's vision then and admire it now at VMware spinoff Pivotal. He's an empire builder and a force.

Pat Gelsinger, who left Intel to join EMC, is another technology giant who has also proven his maturity and intelligence in the industry. He made an enormous decision while president of EMC to implement Intel processors in all EMC storage arrays. He standardized all storage devices on an industry processor, which ensured interoperability many years into the future. This proved to be a critical and quite prescient decision.

Upon taking over VMware, he built on Paul Maritz's cloud vision with key acquisitions and strategic decisions. Gelsinger also renewed focus on VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure], which had been foundering for some time. A technology organization can only invest in so many technologies at one time, but this change can only help.

Gelsinger has authorized some exceptional acquisitions, namely Virsto on the infrastructure side and Desktone for end-user computing. I believe this renewed focus in not only internal growth, but also outside acquisition, shows an enormous dedication to the future.

This was first published in January 2014

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