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In the chair: VMware's Ed Bugnion

The company past, present and future

Interview The following is an interview with Ed Bugnion, CTO and Co-founder of VMware, conducted by It offers an insight into VMware past, present and future:

IT-Director.Com: What did you do prior to joining VMware?

Ed Bugnion: "Before I started with VMware I was a Ph.D student at Stanford University working on a thesis looking at Virtualisation and Virtual Machines."

How did you start VMware?

"Whilst studying at Stanford a few of us decided in 1998 that rather than complete our studies it would be better if we went straight out into the world and created a company to develop real solutions rather than theory.

"The reason was that we had been working on Virtual Machines on large MIPS multiprocessor systems. At the time we recognised that there was a major opportunity if we could build something similar for the Intel architecture systems that were evolving rapidly and being deployed by an ever expanding base of users.

"So we created a company, sat down and built software that broke the bond between the physical hardware layer of the Intel processors and the Operating System loaded onto them.

"Our first desktop product shipped in May 1999 and was designed to help organisations with the many interoperability issues that existed and provide a crucial layer of management that could help users make more of the increasing processing power and memory available in these 'industry standard' machines."

What were your goals?

"From the very beginning our goals have been the same: to build virtual machine solutions for servers and desktops in the industry standard space. We are still on course!"

Were there any early issues that caused concern or that have proved to be important?

"Right at the start we took an early tactical decision that really worked out for us; we decided to run on top of Linux. We understood Linux better than Windows. This immediately gave us access to an install base that was eager to use our product. Essentially VMware provided Linux users a route to Windows compatibility. We turned this tactical advantage into a business opportunity."

How do you see the market now?

"The market is now becoming more sophisticated. IT professionals now understand the benefits achievable with virtual infrastructures by decoupling the logical from the physical. Many now use virtual machines to run multiple instances of operating systems on a single box. Sophisticated organisations have recognised that virtual systems will also provide key capabilities at the foundation of new "Utility Computing" models.

"I expect virtual machines to support a diversity of usage models, provisioning models and financial models in IT organisations whilst keeping a core hardware infrastructure. In such scenarios VMware provides significant value as we hope to become the de facto standard in the Intel architecture space, including 64 bit extensions."

Has there been any divergence from the early vision of the company?

"Frankly we now see organisations being less interested in managing the underlying hardware infrastructure. Companies are today much more focused on managing applications. With hardware now so powerful, using a processor to run a single application or a single OS is too inefficient. We now have customers running up to 40 OS instances on 1 hardware platform, each logically isolated from the rest."

What is the VMware vision for the Data Centre?

"We think that the data centre is taking on the virtual infrastructure model where all compute resources are pooled. In this model logical resources will be dynamically allocated and deallocated to applications and users based on policies that operate on both a scheduled basis and according to fluctuating demand. VMware already provides some of this functionality on the industry standard server side and storage companies such as EMC are now introducing virtualisation into the storage infrastructure. This convergence between servers and storage will continue.

"This flexible, virtualised approach provides real business benefits. For example, in the area of disaster recovery, DR solutions that utilise virtualisation and the capture of entire server images, such as those that VMware delivers, make it possible for organisations to move to a new / remote site very rapidly even if the physical server hardware at the recovery site is different from that at the original location."

What is the competition?

"In the Intel space there are few other direct competitors. Microsoft is in the process of developing its own solution, but this product will be confined to only the Windows platform. There are now other players that seek to virtualise applications rather than the complete compute platform, but these may have some interoperability issues. However, perhaps it is the large systems management players that provide tools to manage the operating system, middleware stack and applications in an automated fashion that provide the bulk of the perceived competition. VMware is now mature and we have a large and growing ecosystem of partners that makes our solution very attractive."

Has the acquisition by EMC changed things?

"Given that our software is designed to run on 'Intel' platforms, it is very important that VMware maintains its close ties to the leading server vendors. This requirement is one of the major reasons why EMC has decided to operate VMware as an independent unit within its software business.

"In fact, the acquisition of VMware by EMC has helped us in significant ways. For example, many of our customers and potential customers have been very happy to see their reliance on a 'small' vendor removed. As part of EMC we no longer get asked 'where will you be in 5 years time."

Is the understanding of Virtual Systems increasing?

"For those organisations with an understanding of mainframe systems, the core ideas at the heart of virtual systems has always been 'what is the big deal?'. VMware has helped to commoditise and socialise these ideas and has made the advantages that virtual servers can deliver available to a much wider community. Indeed the general level of awareness is such that almost every CIO is now using virtual machine software (usually VMware) or is intending to look at it.

"In fact virtual machine software is also now a key component in very many 'utility computing' initiatives; it is applied at multiple levels from the infrastructure aspect through to fundamental software components. CIOs want to move from running their systems on a 'fixed cost' basis to systems capable of operating to meet variable service level agreements (SLA) at a cost that varies with usage and SLA levels delivered.

"Outsourcing, Capacity on Demand and many approaches to the automation of IT service delivery now utilise VMware's software. Being agnostic to the underlying hardware layer, VMware makes basic operations cheaper and simpler to implement and operate. At a strategic level our software developers kit (SDK) provides a route for organisations to build their own standards based development to provision, manage and monitor all aspects of their VMware server farms in whatever fashion suits their needs."

What are the future opportunities for VMware?

"I believe that all aspects of computing will be radically transformed over the next few years. Equally, the staff running data centres will also need to adapt to these changes, even down to the level where their job titles will change to reflect the significant changes to the roles they perform within the business."

As CTO what excites you?

"I believe that the addressable market for our software will be 100% of Intel and AMD machines. Today we are far away from being ubiquitous, but that is clearly where we wish to be. It is also obvious that desktop management is still very expensive and I think that the virtualisation of desktops will become ubiquitous for enterprises, and maybe even for home users. This could become a very exciting area for us."


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