VMware CEO Paul Maritz, the gravelly-voiced South African native who has successfully led VMware to a new plateau, said the cloud era will prove equal in importance to the change represented by the advent of client/server computing. "The cloud era is the next really major iteration of consumer computing and enterprise scale computing," he said in talk on the second day of Dell World in Austin, Texas. (See our related coverage of Michael Dell's play to woo HP customers.) Maritz compared client server's break from a direct tie to the mainframe to the cloud's breakaway from tethered systems altogether.
The shift from one era to the next is happening fast, he added, and his Austin address was one of the first times he's described virtualization as a cog in the coming era of cloud computing, rather than the next key phase of the data center. He did, however, repeat what is now a VMware refrain: Virtualized data centers are needed to get to cloud computing, whether in private or public form.
Maritz gave one sign of the shift: There are now more copies of server operating systems in place that do not control the hardware on which they are running than ones that do. That's his way of saying that there are more virtualized than un-virtualized servers in operation. In virtualized environments, hypervisors talk to the hardware directly (and to applications through the operating system); the operating system no longer addresses instructions directly to the hardware. IDC estimates that more than half of the servers now installed are running virtual machines.
In the data center, virtualized operations ultimately mean creating infrastructure, setting policies to govern how it should run, and then leaving it alone. VMware wants to enable such operations through further enhancements to its vCenter Operations product, which configures the original virtual machine, provisions it with the correct virtual resources, and monitors its performance. Maritz said VMware had chosen a small set of partners with which to build out its vCloud operations products and Dell was one of them. "As Dell expands into services, I'd like to express our desire to continue the partnership long into the future," he said.
[For more on the future of virtualized data center operations, see VMware's Next Act.]
VMware has come of age in what has largely been a world of enterprise Java applications. But Maritz said his firm is watching what languages programmers under 35 prefer to use. VMware knows something about Java application building, thanks to its ownership of the Spring Framework. But he says the languages that now interest young programmers often have names more like Scaler, Erlang, and Ruby on Rails. Future virtualized workloads may be composed of them, he noted.
"How will we make this pivot from client/server to cloud world. How do we take expense out of the client/server system and put the interaction into the hands of the customer?" he said. While the answer in every instance is not clear, he suggested VMware and other virtualization vendors are working on the problem.
He urged about 2,000 listeners not to go down one route. "Oracle clearly wants you to enter the Oracle universe and never leave." Maritz used the Hotel California analogy of checking in and not checking out--an analogy that is perhaps getting old in the virtualization and cloud world. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison used the same analogy during Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco last week, but applied to one of his competitors, Salesforce.com. "I did note it was rather rich of Larry Ellison to accuse Salesforce of being closed and proprietary," Maritz added.
On the mobile front, Maritz said VMware is entering trials with a European telecommunications carrier to establish a virtual phone capability. A company buying the virtual service can create a separate area for business purposes on the personal device. "The enterprise controls the virtual phone and walls it off from the other apps on the phone," he said. He acknowledged customers may like the division of use, or they may find such a device "schizophrenic." But it's time to find out if this approach will work, he said.
At the start of his talk, Maritz noted that he was fortunate to have applied for work at IBM in London in 1978 with a newly earned degree in computer science and get rejected. Instead of working on mainframes, which had been his goal, he went to work for Burroughs, where he was given the task of debugging an early end user device, the ATM. That accident of fate "put my life on a whole new course," he said, and re-oriented him toward the client side of computing. Maritz was previously the head of Windows and Windows Server development at Microsoft, before becoming CEO of VMware.