The US-based chief of field operations at VMware, Carl Eschenbach, tells ARN where virtualisation fits in the IT panorama and why VMware complements competitor solutions.
What sort of penetration has VMware got in the Australian market?
In the Australian market, like in the US, we are seeing penetration across all verticals of industry and all sizes of customer. So there's virtualisation in a small company that might have 5-10 servers as much as the largest banks, government departments and anybody in between. From a global perspective, we have 100 per cent of Fortune 100 customers and 83 per cent of Fortune 1000 customers using the technology in their datacentres. So we're aggressively targeting that market.
Just a few years ago, even industry people were confused about virtualisation and what it meant. Do you believe end-users have a good enough understanding of virtualisation and its benefits today?
I think it has evolved over time. Two or three years ago, there was definitely confusion in the market around two different areas. The first was around consolidated architecture for servers, where server manufacturers were bringing out consolidated architecture solutions. And as consolidation architecture, it wasn't competitive with VMware - these two are very complementary.
The second view that we think the market is now educated about is around the chip manufacturer. AMD and Intel were bringing out new chip architecture and talking about things they were doing around virtualization and people thought that would be competitive. I think VMware and our partner community has done a good job of educating the market these last few years.
How cost-effective is virtualisation for a small company of 50 or so staff?
I think it can be very cost-effective. This is where our ecosystem of partners are really finding the ability to sell SMBs a turnkey solution but with virtualisation. It costs money to rein in IT infrastructure because it's not an SMB's core competency and they need to use human resources and staff. The second thing is if you look at SMB infrastructure, they don't have business continuity, disaster recovery or other things that virtualization can bring to them to provide high availability for customers and business processes. With virtualization they can achieve all of that - although it won't always translate into pure return on investment (ROI) or total cost of ownership (TCO).
What is VMware doing to address recently reported security vulnerabilities, perceived or otherwise?
VMware realises that along with the benefits of virtualization comes the responsibility to ensure a virtualized environment is as secure as can be. The foundation for secure virtual infrastructure is the secure and robust architecture of VMware products. Our ESX Server 2.5.0 and VirtualCenter 1.2.0 have been validated under the US Common Criteria Evaluation and Validation Scheme (CCEVS) process, achieving EAL2 certification. And VMware ESX Server 3.0 and Virtual-Center 2.0 are currently being tested for certification at EAL4+.
In addition, VMware is continuing to innovate to reduce potential exploits. The recent announcement of embedded virtualisation, VMware Infrastructure 3i, reduces the software footprint that can be exploited. VI3i reduces the disk footprint 98 per cent by removing the Service Console that accounts for 50 per cent of the patches. It is run on flash memory within servers.
What are the main issues affecting the competitive landscape in Australia for virtualisation?
I see the Australian market as very similar to the US. VMware focuses on bringing innovative technology and solutions to the market: where we're a market leader, we're also a visionary in the market. And we're much more focused on the build of solutions that cover a platform as opposed to virtualisation or covering a specific server. Microsoft has released version 1.0 of its HyperVisor and we're pushing well behind the HyperVisor and focusing on solutions. This is about an architecture-based platform play that teams with another datacentre idea, the services-based utility model.
What about Citrix?
Citrix is a partner of ours and has been for many years and we've had a lot of success together. The area we are competing is around VDI (virtualised VMware desktop infrastructure), which is hosting of a virtual machine at the desktop and datacentre. VMware has created another market and because of that we move in some ways into direct competition with Citrix.
What are your channel plans locally?
Our channel strategy is pretty consistent globally and is based more at the consulting end and our VAC [VMware Authorised Consultant] program. There are about 12 in Australia. We then have what's called Premier Enterprise Partnership, which is a reselling campaign combined with VAC capabilities. There's four of those partners. Then there are enterprise and professional resellers, which is more about small businesses focused on the SMB market. The other two points of go-to-market are our OEM partners - in particular HP, IBM and Dell - and our system integrators including IBM, EDS, and CSC, as well as companies like ASG, Dimension Data, Data#3 and Alphawest. Our primary aim is to deliver revenue through partners. We do that consistently, earning greater than 75 per cent of revenue through our partner community.
Virtualisation skills in Australia are in short supply. How should solution providers tackle that? Is VMware doing anything to help?
We are focusing on a lot of empowerment in our partner community and teaming here in Australia. We have gone from 50 to 450 VCPs (VMware Certified Professionals) in nine months. We recognise that lack of skill set in our customer base. Also, we have a very vibrant and robust professional services organisation. With our main partners and our professional services organisation, it's easy to take their knowledge and expertise and package the intellectual property around professional services. Virtualisation can deliver that back into the market. We believe our partners will take that on to our customers. For the end-users, we try to drive skills and we try to have the skill sets.
Is virtualisation part of the next big development in IT, on a par with the Internet boom of the late 1990s?
In the enterprise, we totally believe that the next generation datacentre is going to be driven by virtualisation. From servers to storage and network manufacturing, everyone is trying to bring virtualisation together to get to the sort of utility model we've been talking about. We are quite confident that virtualisation is the key technology driving the next generation datacentre. I'm not sure that it's the next Internet boom, but I am sure it's driving the next generation datacentre.