VMworld 2015: How VMware stopped the Dell-EMC merger overshadowing the show

The proposed Dell-EMC merger was always going to be a major talking point at VMworld in Barcelona, given news of the deal was confirmed on the eve of this year’s show. 

What was unclear, as attendees filed into the conference centre for the opening day keynote on Tuesday morning, was whether VMware’s senior management team would be joining the discussion or not. 
As it turned out, delegates didn’t have to wait long to find out if EMC-owned VMware would make reference to (what is currently billed as) the biggest merger in enterprise IT history. 
Around six minutes in there were on-stage assurances from COO Carl Eschenbach about how the acquisition would have little impact on the way VMware operates, as it would remain a publicly-listed, independent entity, while the rest of EMC joins Dell in going private. 
Then Michael Dell appeared, albeit via a pre-recorded segment, to reinforce this message, before briefly addressing how the combination of EMC and Dell’s product portfolios should open up new opportunities for the firms in the hybrid cloud and software-defined datacentre era. 
During a post-keynote press Q&A, VMware’s EMEA CTO Joe Baguley continued the discussion, inviting questions from the press on the topic too, with the assembled execs going into as much detail as they probably could, while the deal’s T&Cs are being hammered out somewhere between Texas and Massachusetts. 
Opening up 
The firm’s willingness to reference the merger was kind of surprising, though, given how quick most vendors are to shoot down M&A talk when faced with even the smallest whiff of them becoming a takeover target. 
But things would have got hugely awkward over the course of the week if no-one acknowledged the $67bn elephant in the room, and it was refreshing to see. 
That was certainly the view of the VMware User Group (VMUG), who told Ahead in the Clouds (AitC) that VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger popped into their annual VMworld Europe luncheon to personally assure them that – pre/post-merger – it is still very much business as usual for the vendor’s customers. 
“Having someone like Pat attend and have an open, unscripted dialogue like that is a huge testament to the commitment from VMware to VMUG and that they consider us to be a vital part of their organisation,” VMUG president Mariano Maluf told us at VMworld. 
“It speaks volumes about his commitment and gives us confidence that VMware will continue down the path it’s been going through,” he said. 
All in all, he added, the group’s 121,000 members are feeling confident about what the future holds for VMware once Dell gets his hands on its parent company. 
“The fact VMware will remain a publicly traded company and independent signals a confidence on the part of the investors involved that VMware adds value to the industry and the technologies and solutions will continue that,” he added. 
Maluf’s comments were echoed by nearly everyone AitC spoke to at the show, with the general consensus being the deal is unlikely to cause much upheaval for those who’ve pitched their tents in the VMware camp, while those with closer ties to EMC might want to consider attaching a few guy ropes. 
The fact is, by taking steps pre-empt what users were most likely to ask, and giving them a forum to air their views, VMware succeeded in ensuring the Dell-EMC merger didn’t detract from everything else it announced at the show
Singing from a different hymn sheet 
Before we sign off, however, it would be remiss of AitC not to reference one of the other big talking points of the show – aside from VMware’s hybrid cloud and end user computing plans, of course. 
Sanjay Poonen, VMware’s general manager of end user computing, treated the 10,000-strong crowd to not one, but two separate sing-alongs during his second day keynote. 
The first saw Poonen break into an impromptu and acapella rendition of Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen, after a handful of attendees responded to his question about who in the audience owned a BlackBerry, during his talk about VMware’s enterprise mobile device management strategy. 
He then went on to lead the crowd in a re-jig of Queen’s 1977 hit We Will Rock You, which saw the lyrics changed to “End User Computing Will Rock You” instead. 
We know those lyrics don’t really scan well, but Poonen looked pleased with the results, so far be it for us to rain (no pun intended) on his parade. 
For anyone who hadn’t managed to grab a coffee on the way to his 9am keynote, it was certainly a display that served to sharpen the senses far more than any caffeine fix could.

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