At virtualisation industry event VMworld 2007 last week, VMware co-founder and CEO Diane Greene delivered her first keynote since the company went public just a few weeks ago, and its share price rocketed. She came off-stage and spoke to Techworld about the company and its products.
Q: How would you characterise VMware right now, immediately post-IPO - at what stage is it in its evolution? A: It's a another milestone - we're certainly a different company than when we were founded or acquired by EMC. But we still feel it's early days ironically, just because virtualisation went mainstream, we're leading that industry, and we're seeing a tremendously rich roadmap of products to bring out.
We also see a lot of people that haven't deployed virtualisation yet, particularly in small business and commercial. And yet when we meet someone in a small business that has deployed virtualisation they go 'yeah, it's so great I put it on all servers'. They're so agile because they're so small they can do that. We see a lot to be done there so that makes us feel it's early days, although we look around say 'thank goodness we're a really sizeable company'.
Q: How hard is it now you're public to play the good corporate citizen -- something VMware prides itself on -- given that you have Wall Street's quarterly expectations to fulfil? A: I think it's so deeply ingrained in VMware to do what we consider to be the right thing. We have maintained our culture, it's a strong culture, it's very collaborative, open and inclusive. And it's one that prides itself in responding to a problem and also delivering on the ideas we have.
We're so committed to maintaining that -- and there are challenges as you get bigger. It's harder to communicate throughout the company, and so we're really aggressively building out infrastructure within the company that supports communication now that we're very global and there's thousands of people now. There's a deep focus that this is a challenge and we want to get through it because we value our culture and we value what we're doing. We value delivering useful product to the industry and that's really what we're built for, and were committed to maintaining that.
Q: How will the IPO change the pace of product delivery? A: I'm not sure. I do know it was a tremendous energiser for the company, everyone's really happy, and it's a wonderful thing to have everybody have some equity in the company so their achievements are directly corresponding to the equity they have. The wonderful thing is that while we were owned by EMC for the three and a half years is that we maintained our culture so we have that solid foundation and we have that. Yes, EMC still owns 80 percent of our stock but the rest is held by public shareholders.
Q: Where's the next big revenue source coming from, once hypervisors become free? Is desktop virtualisation the next big open plain? A: Already over 80 percent of our revenue is not from our hypervisor. It comes from our infrastructure and our tools and other products, so we long ago shifted our revenue.
We believe virtualisation's going to be ubiquitous, its going to be on all hardware, it's not now -- it's less than 10 percent so there's lots of room for VMware infrastructure to grow. That said, we see all kinds of really fantastic solutions we'll be able to build that expose in an intuitive way the value and power of virtualisation.
Q: Assuming you'll increasingly segment the market, how will the technology be spread downmarket? A: We've been doing a lot with small and medium sized businesses, we've been expanding our channel very aggressively, and we also have a bundle that's specifically for them so we're really focused on ease of use experience out of the box, we spend a lot of time talking to them. I think the IPO was such an über-marketing event that with that alone we were able to reach all these kinds of companies that are aware of us now because we were in the news. And then they think: 'maybe I should look into this, maybe this will be good for me'. And indeed it will be good for them, so that'll contribute to a viral word of mouth. It's a challenge to reach all these people but I think we've got a start on it.
Q: How hard was it to persuade the likes of Intel and AMD to spend valuable transistor budget on virtualisation support? What was the dynamic of that relationship? A: Early on it got interest but they weren't rushing to change their chips. And in all fairness, nobody thought -- except us, we might have been crazy but it turned out we weren't, and there's a lot of luck involved in that -- we had to get critical mass first. So it was two years ago that they brought out the first hardware assist for virtualisation. They were probably working on it five years before that.
Q: What would you say to IT managers: why VMware? A: We're the most reliable robust system software in the x86 space. There are some who do nothing but fault tolerance and they've got to have FT software but for broad based users. And then in terms of functionality that we bring a user there's layers of functionality. What our customers tell us, is that the more of our software they use, the higher their ROI is. It's rare that the more you use a product, the higher the ROI goes.
Q: People argue that VMware's products are expensive. A: I'm not sure that the competition is cheaper. There's this old adagio that you do get what you pay for. If you look at the total cost of ownership, our software is less expensive because of how much time we save people, and how many resources we save people - and how many people we save people.
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