Here’s how VMware hopes to spend $1B Broadcom R&D budget boost
Some of it will go to get you upgrading more often, other cash might smooth internal dev conflict
Explore VMware intends to use the billion dollars a year Broadcom has promised to add to its R&D budget to simplify and extend its platform, to ease upgrades, and encourage users to adopt more of its stack.
The Register learned of those plans today at VMware’s Explore conference in Las Vegas, where the virtualization outfit's president Sumit Dhawan told us the money from Broadcom – which is in the process of acquiring VMware for $60 billion-plus – will be spent on making his corporation's "infrastructure much more consumable.”
Dhawan said VMware recognizes its products can be complex, which deters adoption and upgrades. “So that's the problem we want to address through increased investments,” he said.
High on VMware’s to-do list are improvements to lifecycle management of its products. Lifecycle management being tasks including selecting, installing, patching, and upgrading hypervisor deployments on hosts. The kind of work one would prefer to automate in a fast and predictable manner.
VMware claimed it greatly improved the speed of lifecycle management in version 4.5 of its Cloud Foundation suite last year. But Prashanth Shenoy, vice president of product marketing for VMware’s cloud infrastructure products, told The Register further speed improvements are always desirable.
“We have to do a better job of making our products easily purchasable and consumable in the most elegant and simple manner,” he said. Better lifecycle management may also give vAdmins more free time to consider VMware products or features they aren't yet using, which could give them a greater appreciation of and interest in Virtzilla’s wares once they've investigated those solutions. And if that means customers are more engaged, even better.
During a separate conversation at the event, VMware CTO Kit Colbert also mentioned lifecycle management improvements, which he said will help big customers because they sometimes find it hard to upgrade large server fleets to newer versions of vSphere.
We are working on making those fleet upgrades faster
“We are working on making those fleet upgrades faster,” he said.
The Register is aware VMware is frustrated by the slow pace of customer upgrades, and by their reluctance to adopt more of its portfolio. The IT giant worries it therefore can’t demonstrate the value it offers, a tricky sentiment to manage as it shifts customers to subscriptions.
Improving lifecycle management is therefore more than product innovation – it’s also work that can improve VMware’s bottom line.
Dhawan also mentioned enabling more choice of storage, and more integration across the enterprise computing ecosystem, as R&D goals to rank up there with improved lifecycle management.
He said a second set of investment priorities will address “enablement of more types of applications and use cases.” Dhawan used this week’s announcement of infrastructure that eases the implementation of generative AI workloads as an example of the sort of thing VMware wants to do more of. “New types of applications that require modern databases and modern sorts of technologies” will also be addressed in that second set of investments, we're told.
Addressing VMware’s internal silos
When The Register asked Colbert how he would like to spend Broadcom’s billions, he responded by saying that’s a question for Broadcom CEO Hock Tan, though he did opine that generative AI has the potential to improve user experiences and is therefore worth exploring, referencing a Tuesday demo of a chatbot interface for the NSX network virtualization suite that offered advice on the best actions to remediate a security incident.
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Colbert also discussed changes he feels VMware needs to make to its internal processes, to improve its ability to innovate.
The CTO said he wants to broaden the definition of innovation at VMware so that it values small changes that make a difference to customers as much as it celebrates what he called “moonshots like vMotion” – VMware’s tech that just-about teleports workloads between environments with impressive speed and little disruption.
“I emphasize this in meetings,” he said.
In some cases teams need to go a little slower to deliver a consistent experience to a customer
He’s also trying to encourage VMware to do more “platform thinking” as it innovates, because today the company’s business units work on their own products on their own timelines and aim to ready products for release as soon as practicable.
That approach means different teams end up creating different implementations and interfaces for the same kinds of features. Colbert used logging as an example, saying it’s possible different VMware engineering teams could devise their own approach for managing logs.
“For a customer using both products, that’s not cool,” he said. “In some cases teams need to go a little slower to deliver a consistent experience to a customer. That counter-intuitively means we can all go faster.”
“It is all about building that muscle, building the forums in the engineering organization,” he added. “This is the foundational challenge. It is not 'do we do this tech or that tech.' It is the way in which we operate and innovate.”
And if VMware can get that done, Colbert thinks “we are better set up for innovation.”
Which should also mean Broadcom gets better ROI for that extra billion bucks a year of R&D spend, and perhaps a path to the bilions of extra EBITDA it believes VMware can produce. ®