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VMware chief focuses on next phase

In her role as president, Diane Greene is navigating her growing company through the changing tide of virtualization.

Diane Greene

IT was a lot different eight years ago when Diane Greene co-founded VMware Inc., the virtualization market leader based in Palo Alto, Calif. Now, as president, Greene is poised to guide the company past challenges from Microsoft and licensing into its next phase of growth in the burgeoning virtualization market. Greene recently described for her vision of the virtualized world where VMware products will be used in the enterprise for everything from disaster recovery to software lifecycles. What is the landscape like now for VMware?

Diane Greene: When I think about what's going on, I feel like VMware is entering into phase two because for the last eight and a half years we've been evangelizing it and making people aware of it and all its benefits while we moved our product considerably. Now I feel like that job is over.

Now, we're articulating real value, and we don't have to encourage people that this is important. I think they understand, and they realize that the platform is here to stay.

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Greene: We don't see that. We're in the Fortune 100, deployed in production somewhere in the organization. We're certainly out there. We estimate that there are over a million [organizations] virtualized into VMware virtual machines.

We have a lot of customers running thousands of virtual machines. And people get their ROI in three to six months. OK, wait two years, but look at all the money you can save now. What is VMware doing to address the complex issues surrounding licensing in a virtualized environment?

Greene: This is a really hard problem -- how ISVs are going to license their applications when they are running in a virtual machine.

Some people license per client access; some license for the power of the hardware. Some people license just for a system. And now, you have multi-core. What do you do with multi-core if you license based on the number of processors? And then there are virtual machines. Do you license [applications per the number of] virtual machines?

We are actively working with people to find the best way to move this forward, because it's new, and it has huge implications revenue-wise for the ISVs.

IBM is trying to get to a utility-based model. One thing you know with virtualization is exactly how much CPU memory disk and network is being used by an application. You know exactly, so you can go to a chargeback-type of model. IBM recently bought a startup that does chargeback with ESX Server.

We have a lot of customers doing that, where they know exactly what the utilization is on every server. Then, inside their companies they can do a chargeback model to the various constituents. What's your sense of how many people are using VMware for mission-critical workloads?

Greene: We surveyed our customers last fall, and 90% of them said they ran it in production. Twenty-five percent of them said they had standardized on VMware infrastructure, meaning when they deploy an x86 workload by default, it goes in a virtual machine unless there's a good reason not to.

The other thing we're seeing that's really interesting -- and we've been talking about it for a long time -- is people starting to change how they do their software lifecycle.

If you think about it, you can do development in a virtual machine and then just give that virtual machine to the testers to test so you don't have to make sure they installed and configured it properly -- it's just there.

Then they can give it to the people who are staging it and they don't have to make sure it's been configured properly. They can just put it in production. As you update it over time, it's just a consistent and integrated software lifecycle that virtualization makes possible. What are the ways in which virtualization is having an impact on IT departments?

Greene: There's a social and cultural change going on in the data center where one group of people can manage all the hardware nowadays -- not a separate group for Linux and a separate group for Windows.

I think they can do more sophisticated work. They don't have to do all that grunge work of installing and configuring over and over again. They can focus on the more interesting stuff. Where do you think the growth is going to be with virtualization?

Greene: Disaster recovery is a huge thing that happened in the last year. Other [growth trends] are software lifecycle, provisioning and high availability. Serviceability is huge. If you think about it in the middle of the day -- you want to add some memory to a machine or you want to service a machine -- then, while things are running, with no service interruption, just move things off to another machine. Bring that machine down, service it, bring it back up and move the load back -- and you never had to schedule any downtown.

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