VMware CEO Paul Maritz urged customers to think beyond the desktop computer. It is a dead metaphor, he insisted, one ill-suited for today's workforce.
"PCs are not the only animal in the zoo anymore. Increasingly, users are holding other devices in their hands," he said, speaking at the kick-off of the VMworld 2011 conference.
Within five years, less than 20 percent of computing clients will be running Microsoft Windows, he predicted. The job of providing applications and data "can no longer belong to any one device, or any one operating system. So we have to float away from that aspect of the desktop," he said.
While VMware has made its mark by providing software for virtualising servers, the company is rapidly building up a stack of software for organisations to use to run private and hybrid clouds, based around its vSphere software for managing virtual resources.
In his presentation before many of the conference's 19,000 attendees, Maritz said customers should move from virtualisation to a full-fledged cloud infrastructure. Fifty percent of the world's infrastructure runs on virtualisation, he noted. The cloud is the next logical step, he reasoned.
A cloud infrastructure will be necessary, he noted, to accommodate the needs of a more dynamic workforce. It will enable administrators to deliver applications and information to people, rather than devices.
Some organisations seem to be moving in this direction. Maritz said that there are now over 800,000 vSphere administrators, including 68,000 certified in handling the technology.
"I spent my whole life working on the PC," admitted Maritz, who is 56. The metaphor of the desktop came from Xerox Parc research lab in the 1970s, which at the time, was exploring "how to automate the life of the white collar worker, circa 1975," he said. This meant the researchers made computer based approximations of the tools of the office worker: file cabinets, typewriters, files, folders, inboxes and outboxes.
"We got a great desktop environment," he said. "The problem is the people under the age of 35 don't sit behind desks, and they don't spend all of their time lovingly tending to documents. They will be dealing with streams of information that will be coming at them in much smaller chunks and much larger numbers. We're moving into a new post-document era, and we will need different solutions."
Maritz then explained how VMware's products can provide a foundation for this new type of operation.
VMware's vFabric provides a set of tools for developers to build applications that can run natively in the cloud. CloudFoundry provides a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) that customers can use to run their own applications on external hardware. VMware View VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) software allows users to access their data and applications across a wide range of clients, and the recently released VMware Horizon provides an enterprise portal for users to easily access new applications.
The presentation also featured a number of customers moving to build private clouds for their operations. The New York Stock Exchange Euronext stock exchange runs about 2,300 virtual machines in a private cloud configuration. The company uses vSphere, vShield, vCloud Director and other VMware technology, said executive vice president and chief information officer Steve Rubinow.
Another VMware customer is Southwest Airlines. In the last 18 months, Southwest has virtualised 40 percent of the applications it uses for providing online services. The company uses vFabric, vSphere, vMotion, Tomcat, Hyperic and GemFire, among other VMware software. "We run a significant amount of our applications and services on the VMware infrastructure," said Southwest vice president and chief technology officer, Bob Young.
"Our movement towards the cloud has made a significant shift for us in our availability of our applications to our internal and external customers," Young said.