VMware CIO Mark Egan on cloud, acquisitions and Microsoft

VMware eats its own cloud dog food, and Soviet-era user interfaces need to go, CIO Mark Egan says in this exclusive interview.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- VMware Chief Information Officer Mark Egan was a panelist at today's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, where he discussed the role of cloud and mobile computing in enterprise IT.

Before his panel discussion, Egan sat down for an interview with SearchVMware.com. He talked about his role as CIO, VMware’s internal infrastructure, the company’s acquisition strategy and more.

How much does what you do internally at VMware affect what the company does in terms of offering products and services for their customers?

One of the things that we do, Colin, is we have a program internally. We call it VMware on VMware. So we work closely with our R and D group, and then we’ll actually be running a lot of these products quite a bit of time before they’re actually shipped. Our vSphere product, we’re already working with the next version of that, running it in production. View, we’ve extensively run that.

And the goal there really is that we can work through any of the issues -- not only maybe identifying some flaws in the software, but more importantly, it’s the operational issues: How do you get this technology in your environment? Do you have to make any process changes? Are there any people, organizational changes? Because as you know, it’s really a people-process technology.

Do you guys have your own private cloud infrastructure?

Yeah, we actually have a pretty efficient environment. We’re 97% virtualized. We run in a 3,000-square-foot data center space. We have eight people who run it. And we’re able to move very quickly as a result of this environment.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s a lot of smaller organizations and CIOs of these organizations who are hearing all this cloud talk, and they’re like, “Well, hold on. We haven’t even started virtualizing yet, or we’re just looking at it.” What would you say to these CIOs and IT managers to make sure that they’re on the right track and not getting confused or overwhelmed or turned off by all this cloud talk?

Just start off in an area that you can understand and really realize what are the benefits and how it might help your company. I don’t think it’s appropriate with any technology to just jump in full bore and say, “Hey, we’re just going to move everything to this new technology.”

You came from Symantec, before you were at VMware. You want to talk about tons of acquisitions, I think it said something in your bio about 26--

Twenty-eight.

Twenty-eight while you were there. What lessons have you learned from being at Symantec during that period of heavy acquisition that you’re applying to what’s going on at VMware now?

First and foremost, you want to do it as quickly as you can. You bought a company because you want to be able to use their technology and then sell those customers additional services. So the thing that we always use is 90 days. The goal is, in a 90-day timeframe, you should get all the employees on board. You should get their business running on your systems, because you’re usually the larger company. And figure out, how can you immediately start cross-selling to that customer base? The longer you stretch the process out, the longer it is to really realize the value.

One thing I would say about M and A is the people-process technology thing, and people is the hardest, because there’s three questions they want to ask: Do I have a job? Who do I work for? And what are my responsibilities? And you’ve got to answer those up front before you can go into any of these other things.

VMware is trying to move beyond just virtualization and become not just an infrastructure player, but an applications player. The comparisons have been popping up recently about VMware becoming like the Microsoft for the 21st century. Do you see that as a fair comparison or as something that you’re trying to do?

I think in IT, we add the most value at the applications layer. And with technology like virtualization, you really can abstract all the infrastructure. … We’ll abstract all that infrastructure. We’ll make it much easier for you to use it -- you’ll be able to have the pool that you move around -- and then really help you address the application space. And the challenge there is you’ve got a lot of legacy apps. They’re not going to go away, so you want to optimize those and be efficient.

But really the future is along platforms. How do you build rich experiences on platforms like Spring and Ruby so that you can offer a Twitter, Facebook kind of experience as opposed to those ‘60s-era Soviet interfaces?

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