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8/16/2010
01:15 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Global CIO: Bank Of VMware: Its Bold Plan To Fund Your New Applications

VMware says its new strategy can give you not only the technology platform for creating new applications but also the funding to pay for them.

"Our blessing and our curse is that we got born around CapEx remediation—so we were there to help solve a problem with this explosion of x86-based servers out there, most of which were idling along at a mere fraction of their capacity, and virtualization was a straightforward way to collapse servers and drive the utilization from 10% or 15% to 40%-50%-60%," Maritz said. "So in some senses we were a remediation for the current wave."

"And it's great—it's driven us to over $2 billion in revenue, good health, etc., but eventually that party will come to an end. That's the bad news.

"But the good news is you can use virtualization to do more for our customers, because what we can now increasingly start to aspire to try to do at this level is to start taking on OpEx.

"Because virtualization is becoming more than just how do you run multiple operating systems on a CPU: it's becoming a matter of how do you coordinate all of the resources in your data center? How do you take all of the x86-based and related capabilities you have and turn it all into a single giant computer that's self-managing?

The Intel Imperative

"Now that's a perfect ideal you might never get to, but it's a path we can walk our customers down. So we can certainly start to speak very clearly to the last part of this equation [the limited innovation portion of current IT budgets] by saying that for your existing applications, if you're willing to accept one big simplifying assumption which we ask customers to make—which is, if we're gonna take your existing applications on a journey, you're gonna have to get them on the Intel architecture."

So there's another potentially jarring leap Maritz is asking CIOs to make, on top of the one noted above: abandoning the mainframe and other non-Intel platforms and going all x86.

"That [reluctance to switch to all-Intel architecture] is rapidly diminishing—it's not gone by any means as a significant matter, but it is diminishing. We're starting to get for the first time ever some very significant companies saying, 'We have decided in principle—we don't know when, but we have decided—to move off of the mainframe.' This is one of the world's three largest banks telling us this," Maritz said.

"They're realizing that eventually they're gonna have to rewrite their applications. And if you really want to go after true business value, you can take some cost out but to be more competitive, you're going to have to change your applications. And in fact, the really forward-looking customers are saying that the long-term IT strategy is to take cost out of our infrastructure and reapply those funds to rewriting applications. A very large European bank is going through an extensive data-center consolidation precisely with that in mind."

Does that scenario sound familiar—that you know your apps have to be rewritten or modernized but you don't have the money to do so because your budget gets sucked up by keeping the lights on? If it does, then maybe some of the new concepts Maritz is proposing should seem more inviting and less daunting—particularly since Maritz says consulting gurus from McKinsey are endorsing his concepts as well.

"And McKinsey is saying that with Cobol code on the mainframe, you're just not going to be able to react to your customers—so you're staring to see people say, 'Let's tackle the infrastructure, because that will free up funds for us to tackle the applications,' " adds Maritz, before taking a pointed jab at IBM.

"Now, we're in the early phases of that, but what it means is that when they think about modernizing infrastructure, this simplifying notion of x86-only is becoming increasingly acceptable. They look around at the public cloud and see that nobody is building public clouds on the Z series—they're building them on x86 and that's clearly where the future is."

Also increasingly acceptable are virtual applications, he says—they now outnumber apps on physical infrastructure.

"One indication of this trend is that if you believe IDC's numbers, last year, 2009, was the first year in which the number of x86-based server applications that were deployed on virtualized infrastructure exceeded the number of applications deployed on physical infrastructure. The reason that's important is it means there are now more copies of the server operating system—Windows or Linux—that no longer touch the hardware than there are copies that do," Maritz said.

Maritz often describes this approach as a "journey," and here are his comments on four critical steps in that journey: (a) how VMware will manage those applications; (b) the changing approach to devices that puts more focus on users; (c) how the VMware approach Maritz is advocating will help restore a more-healthy interaction between IT and lines of business; and (d) how one of the world's largest banks expects that journey to play out.

Applications: "So this is a 200,000-foot-level view of our strategy—this is where the bulk of the company is, where the bulk of the revenues will come from in the foreseeable future, it's where the bulk of our customers are coming from, but we have to be very cognizant that there are new applications being written and new custom apps and new SaaS apps that are coming into the environment and increasingly this [applications] is where the business value is going to be focused—it's a trend; it doesn't happen overnight. But this is where people are going to want to focus and saying, 'How do I get to a world where I have a platform for running my existing and in particular my new applications?' And our thesis is that these new applications are being built and will need to be built on a new layer, which are these third-generation frameworks. And these third-generation frameworks are important first of all because developers have voted with their feet for productivity reasons because things like Ruby on Rails and Spring are true frameworks where you start with a lot of the housekeeping already done for you, so it's much mor productive for you to write in that sort of environment. . . . And we think these frameworks also offer that portability across infrastructure. For that reason, we have got two partnerships here with Salesforce and with Google, and both partnerships center around taking the Spring framework, which is the one we're currently investing in, and using it as the cloaking layer for their cloud. So if you go on the web and see our rather cheesy demos at this point in time and they'll show how eventually you can write the whole world in Spring and then the deployment choice is do you want to deploy on the internal cloud, do you want to deploy on the Salesforce cloud, or on the Google? And you press the button and all the magic happens and it deploys. Now, it's not a panacea—it's an aid in that direction. It means that if you're careful, you can write portable applications, portable across clouds at a high level of abstraction at the level that modern developers expect."

From devices to user needs:

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