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VMware CTO: Adapt, enable choice, or die

Brandon Butler | Nov. 6, 2012
To some outsiders looking in, VMware has gone through quite a change recently by purchasing two companies, embracing OpenStack enabling multi-cloud support. CTO Steve Herrod says it's all part of the broader plan.

It's been somewhat of a journey for us, where we've started by focusing successfully on server virtualization. Then, our partners and ourselves have been doing quite a bit around storage virtualization. I'd give ourselves and our industry a "B" at this point for making that better. But for networking, I would give it an optimistic "C." That's why software-defined networking has taken off so quickly -- it's recognizing that the same benefits of virtualization that have showed up in other places can occur in the networking space.

NW: Where are we in the software-defined networking life cycle? Are you seeing customers implement this yet, or was part of VMware's purchase of Nicira just planning for the future?

Herrod: Within the VMware environment, we've been doing quite a bit for a while now. The number of virtual switches we have in our customer base makes us one of the top five vendors of switches, if you count the virtual ones. So within our own environment, we've been taking people forward quite aggressively. But there were two things that we found very interesting about Nicira.

They were created from the beginning to think about networking as a distributed systems problem, rather than a networking problem. It's very important to think about it that way if you're going to achieve the type of scale you need to be in charge of all parts of your network. This is the group that founded and started OpenFlow, so the technology side represents the best-in-class thinking of how networking is evolving. The other side is that they didn't work at all in the VMware environment and we didn't have much that worked in a non-VMware environment.

And that gets to the higher level of our strategy. Our goal is to deliver a cloud suite that makes it as easy as possible to build a software-defined data center, but we've also gotten clear feedback to enable choice. Most customers, we believe, will use the VMware environment for most of their production workloads, but they also may want to be able to interoperate with other platforms, such as OpenStack, Amazon and others. The key goal of networking, almost by definition, is that it has to connect everything. By buying Nicira, we got the technology as well as the best solution that is in already production, as Nicira has announced eBay, AT&T, Rackspace and others as some of its customers.

NW: So you really see SDN as a transformational shift for networking?

Herrod: It's pretty clear. After watching the server virtualization world for 15 years, it looks exactly like that. I think it's as easy of a bet as you can make that the network will be changed to be virtualized. It'll happen both within the data center and I think even more interesting to watch will be when it can expands across multiple data centers.


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