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Interview: VMware's Carl Eschenbach on Scope & Depth of Cloud Computing

The move to cloud is far more than an IT delivery model adjustment. It really presents a unique opportunity

The move to cloud is far more than an IT delivery model adjustment. It really presents a unique opportunity to get IT -- and the business of IT -- right at the highest levels.

On the main stage at VMworld 2011 this week, VMware Co-President Carl Eschenbach demonstrated that impact through testimonials on how cloud computing and virtualization infrastructure are advancing the business goals of three major corporations, Revlon, NYSE Euronext, and Southwest Airlines.

BriefingsDirect caught up with Eschenbach after the presentation to gain his impressions and insights on the scope and depth of cloud computing -- and how it's impacting CIOs in general. The interview comes as part of a special BriefingsDirect podcast series from VMworld in Las Vegas. The interview was conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Some people seem to think that the move to cloud makes IT less relevant. Do you agree, and how are the CIOs you are talking to viewing it?

Eschenbach: When people ask if cloud is real or if it's happening, I can tell you unequivocally that the answer is yes. In fact, one of the things that VMware is so excited about is our position around cloud computing.

The reason I say that is that the cloud era is here, and VMware has the solutions to help our customers actually bridge the gap between their existing data centers and legacy applications to this new world of cloud computing. It's us and the strength of our ecosystem partners who are leading this technology innovation and services that enable people to accelerate their cloud adoption.

It's been a very exciting show here at VMworld. We had 20,000 plus people in attendance, and I can tell you that the energy at this show only proves that our industry is going through a major transformation toward cloud computing.

So while it's true there are some CIOs who are resistant or hesitant to move to the cloud, it's not whether they're going to in the future. It's really how fast. Clearly people are thinking about it. They need help along the way, because they need to bridge their existing investments, as I said earlier, to move to the cloud.

Hybrid cloud

Once they find a way to do that in a very secure manner, people will start to build not public cloud offerings and solutions, not private cloud offerings and solutions, but they will truly build what we call a hybrid cloud.

Gardner: You seem to be saying that IT becomes more fundamental, that with cloud the role of IT becomes more strategic.

Eschenbach: IT needs to become a strategic asset or weapon to help drive revenue generation for the company. It no longer needs to be a cost center or just something that becomes a barrier to success for the company.

Today, in a lot of cases, people look at IT as the barrier, meaning they're not agile enough to service and support the line of business. In effect, what happens when you start to build either a private or public cloud, is that they actually become opaque. They become transparent to the line of business.

There's no longer an issue or challenge with how fast a company can roll out a new business opportunity or solution. It's actually removed now, when it gets to IT or the existing CIO organization, because they take that away. They're able to service them much faster, because when you deploy cloud-based solutions, you have a much more agile infrastructure to support the line of business.

When you start to build either a private or public cloud, is that they actually become opaque. They become transparent to the line of business.



Gardner: We've been hearing about cloud infrastructure management, cloud application platforms, end user computing, and additional use of virtualization on the client tier. This is coming together as a seamless strategy, and I'm curious about the paybacks.

Those companies that are biting this off fully, that are going full-bore at cloud at these different levels, seem to be getting a lot back in return. Do you see this as a whole greater than the sum of the parts? Is there an advantage to being a full cloud-enabled organization?

Eschenbach: There clearly is, Dana. We have customers that are going through multiple phases of a journey toward a cloud platform.

First, everyone has to start with just thinking about how they'll virtualize their existing assets and their data center, which is exactly what VMware has done over the last many years. We've helped our customers drive out a lot of CAPEX savings in IT by just moving to a highly virtualized environment.

But what cloud brings is more than just CAPEX savings. It brings OPEX savings and operational savings, because when you move from a highly virtualized infrastructure to a true private, public, or hybrid cloud, you are now focused on leveraging management and automation tools, which really then focuses on the OPEX savings you get.

Business benefit

So again, moving from a highly virtualized environment moves you from a technical discussion and a CAPEX savings discussion to one that’s more of a business benefit by leveraging cloud, because of the management and automation you put around that highly virtualized environment, therefore leading to much more agile infrastructure to service the business.

Gardner: I've been talking to a number of customers this week and I'm certainly hearing from them that the more they adopt and adapt to cloud, the better the returns. They're seeing better disaster recovery efficiencies. They're getting better data efficiencies. They're doing better with their networks. It seems as if it becomes pervasive.

But I'm wondering too, Carl, for those companies that resist this, are they facing a penalty? It seems to me that they could be at a competitive disadvantage pretty quickly.

Eschenbach: Among our customers, the people who typically resist moving to cloud-based architectures or solutions are actually the CIOs and their infrastructure team itself.

The reason for that is that the line of business has this notion,or has this understanding, that they can move to public cloud models and it's much cheaper, faster, and in some cases, they think more reliable. In effect, they forget that the CIO has processes in place, has existing expenses on building out its infrastructure, has security, compliance, and controls of the IT that’s already running on that infrastructure.

The CIOs are really the ones who may resist cloud today, but in the end they're the ones who have to move to a cloud faster, so the line of business does not go around them and fall into alternatives to support the business.



If we can help the CIO build out a cloud infrastructure within their own four walls of their data center, the line of business would much rather leverage them, if they can get all the security, compliance, and controls that they are accustomed to getting, but get it at a faster, cheaper rate, which is the promise of the public cloud.

So the CIOs are really the ones who may resist cloud today, but in the end they're the ones who have to move to a cloud faster, so the line of business does not go around them and fall into alternatives to support the business.

Gardner: That gets back to that relevancy. It seems to me that they risk becoming irrelevant if they resist, but they could actually increase their role and importance in the organization by embracing cloud.

Eschenbach: No question. There was an example on stage here. I had an opportunity to interview the CIO at Revlon. One of the things that he talked about was the fact that he increased the IT project throughput through his organization by 300 percent, when he built out a highly automated, private-cloud infrastructure.

What's happened, he said, is that the line of business and his business partners no longer think of IT as the barrier or the roadblock to rolling out new revenue-generating services. Instead they look to them, because they know they can service them in a much faster way.

Large ecosystem

Gardner: I look around me here at the show and I see some of the largest corporations in the world. I also see some of the largest IT vendors in the world. There's a big ecosystem that’s developed here.

But I'm also seeing smaller companies. So cloud’s message, cloud’s value to small to medium-sized business (SMBs), is it just as good as what we are telling them in terms of their enterprise size companies and the benefits. Or is there even greater opportunity for SMBs?

Eschenbach: Cloud provides business benefit for all types of customers, regardless of the vertical market segment they're in or their size and scope.

If you think about cloud computing, the promise it brings customers is the ability to get access to infrastructure and data in a very cost-efficient, rapid way and only pay for what you use. It's a great value proposition, regardless of size and scope of your organization and company.

With that being said, some of the people moving to cloud services first are actually SMB organizations and companies, because they don’t necessarily have the IT skill set that’s required to keep up with the business demands. Therefore, if they can get this service from someone else, and get a service level agreement (SLA) that’s relevant to their business, then they will move to a cloud model faster than the large enterprises will.

We're seeing many SMB and mid-sized companies move to cloud-based models and offerings much faster than the large enterprise or the multinationals.



We're seeing many SMB and mid-sized companies move to cloud-based models and offerings much faster than the large enterprise or the multinationals.

Gardner: Let's slice it another way. How about vertical industry-specific clouds? We've started to see a little bit of this. NYSE is probably a great example. Do you expect to see more of that, where we've got intermediaries between a general-purpose cloud approach and that more specific to the business processes that are germane and relevant to specific industries?

Eschenbach: We're really excited about the partnership we've formed with the NYSE Euronext and the Capital Markets Community Platform that we had announced back in May. The feedback from that announcement has been pretty positive.

In fact, their CIO was on stage with me just the other day, and he not only spoke about how they're supporting their own infrastructure at NYSE Euronext based on vSphere, but now with this Capital Markets cloud they are taking some of their same services and offering them to this new community cloud market.

While that is the first cloud that was really stood up, we do expect and believe that there will be other vertical clouds that are going to be stood up, whether it's in the federal government, where there’s already been some announcements around that.

Trend will continue

I
also think you can anticipate seeing some other financial services clouds, as well as healthcare clouds, being stood up as well. This is a trend that will continue.

One of the reasons we believe it will continue is because people can stand up clouds and bring very specific business benefit that is very repeatable across the customers who are going to run on that cloud because they are in the same vertical. If they have the same compliance issues, or security, or other regulatory things that they have to adhere to, building a community cloud for one specific vertical is a lot easier than trying to serve an entire market with multiple, vertical clouds.

Gardner: I'm still impressed by the amount of energy I'm seeing here. You'd never know that we have an economic stagnation problem around the world. People here are really jazzed, but I suppose we need to look at this as a trying time as well.

What are you encouraged by in your meetings with folks and discussions in terms of how they are able to do more with less essentially?

Eschenbach: This week I've had a great opportunity to spend a lot of time with customers and our ecosystem set of partners. I can tell you that everyone is excited for this major tectonic shift we are seeing in the industry, and these shifts only happen every 10 or 20 years.

People are trying to look at IT in a different way. They want IT to be their business partner so that they can differentiate themselves in this global economic environment.



People are starting to say that this whole cloud computing era is coming to life, and people are trying to look at IT in a different way. They want IT to be their business partner so that they can differentiate themselves in this global economic environment.

One thing that VMware and our ecosystem set of partners do is that we allow our customers to do more with less, and that’s kind of a cliché statement. A lot of people say, we will bring IT services and solutions to you and we will allow you to do more with less. Well, quite honestly, if you look back over the history of VMware, that has been a very consistent value proposition that we bring to our customers.

Even potentially in a down market or a market where we have a strong headwind, I believe VMware and the rich set of ecosystem partners we have, we will always move to the top of the pile, when people think about IT investments, because we will indeed reduce their overall CAPEX and OPEX cost, at the same time providing better IT agility for the lines of business.

Strategic weapon

As we move into 2012, our customers and business partners can continue to bet on VMware as being a very strategic weapon for them to differentiate themselves in this very competitive market.

The thing I will end on here is one thing that we are focused on is helping our customers go through this transformation towards cloud computing in a very programmatic way that allows them to protect their existing assets in the data center, and also protect their legacy applications, but move to a new world of cloud computing all at the same time. That is what excites me in the opportunity we collectively have with our partners as we look into 2012.

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At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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