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VMware eyes cloud opportunity in APAC

The company's top Asia-Pacific executive sheds light on how the virtualisation pioneer is tackling the region's diverse market in the cloud era

Like most enterprise IT suppliers, virtualisation pioneer VMware has had to face the same disruptions from public cloud services that more organisations are now using to run enterprise workloads, even mission-critical ones that can make or break a business.

While it is still a key provider of the plumbing and other software smarts that enterprises use to run their own datacentres with cloud-like flexibility, VMware has been cosying up to cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google of late, in an effort to stay relevant to organisations looking to tap public cloud resources on-demand.

In a wide-ranging interview with Computer Weekly, Duncan Hewett, senior vice-president and general manager for VMware’s business in Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ), talks about the company’s views on the cloud, its business in a fast-growing and diverse region, and the challenges that keep him up at night.

What’s VMware’s thinking about the market opportunities in APJ?

Hewett: Having been in VMware for just over a year, I’m pleased that our business in APJ has been growing. It’s a diverse region and we’re everywhere – from Myanmar, which is starting its digital journey, to Japan and Australia, both of which are highly modernised countries with enterprises that are trying to do more sophisticated things.

It surprises me that our clients in Myanmar are leapfrogging the rest by putting in modern technologies instead of going through what others in more mature economies have done.

It’s also pleasing because they can go with a software-defined datacentre from day one, enabling them to overcome barriers to innovation, such as network provisioning. They’re going faster than some of the richer countries.

Availability of IT talent

What about the availability of IT talent in countries like Myanmar?

Hewett: There are not enough skills on the ground, so we’re running education programmes and workshops with partners to build the necessary implementation skills.

Most of our training is focused on accelerating skills development as clients in emerging markets want to innovate faster – not by building traditional datacentres, but by using multiple cloud services.

We have a client who is using 16 cloud providers, and trying to manage all of them is not trivial.

Did you have to overcome any perception of VMware as a legacy technology company, especially in emerging markets?

Hewett: We made a conscious strategy shift 18 months ago, towards helping clients leverage the cloud world. They may have investments in our products, so what can we do to help them? That’s why we’ve built up a portfolio of products around network, storage and automation.

I’d say we’ve avoided the legacy pieces, and shifted towards being a cloud enabler that gives customers the freedom to choose which cloud to use along with the ability to manage workloads. My experience with clients is that we’ve never had questions about what we’re doing as a legacy supplier.

Cost and lock-in concerns

Emerging markets also tend to be more price-sensitive than others. How is VMware addressing concerns around cost and lock-in?

Hewett: Lock-in is not a concern that comes up because we’ve come from a history of freeing companies from hardware lock-in by letting clients run whatever hardware they want through the hypervisor layer.

What’s interesting is that our clients are now reducing the number of platforms, and running larger private clouds. That will give them the independence of buying the right – and cheapest – hardware at any point in time and break free from vertical stacks. Once they have a private cloud, they will look at plugging in public cloud capacity and address issues around network storage and automation to drive the next level of cost reduction.

What are your thoughts around suggestions the hypervisor is being commoditised?

Hewett: I disagree with that completely. Companies are looking at how to innovate at scale quickly and cost-efficiently in multiple datacentres. If you don’t have a hypervisor, it looks like you’re just outsourcing hardware, rather than delivering innovation at speed using services such as disaster recovery that are built on top of the hypervisor. The hypervisor gives you a fantastic core technology base to leverage.

VMWare and other Dell subsidiaries

At this year’s VMworld in Las Vegas, there seemed to be some uneasiness between Pat Gelsinger and Michael Dell. What’s VMware’s relationship with other Dell Technologies companies?

Hewett: Pat and Michael have a great relationship, though they banter with each other. As for our relationship with others in Dell Technologies, just look at what we’ve done with Pivotal around PKS (Pivotal Container Services) to make it easier to build containerised services.

We also have partners like HP, Samsung and Apple, as well as Dell, because we build technology that works across multiple platforms and devices. In this part of the world, we’re much more dependent on partners like distributors and systems integrators because we are so much more diverse.

Dell is a path to market for us – we do VxRail together, they embed our stuff in their solutions, and they also sell the Azure stack, as you’d know. But there are also thousands of other partners we work with.

At VMworld, we also talked about the pricing for VMware Cloud on AWS in APJ. What are your expectations on the adoption of the service and its total addressable market in the region? Are you focused on attracting new or existing customers?

Hewett: The service is not available in our region yet, and we haven’t finalised pricing or figured out a way of calculating its total addressable market. But what I would say is that every single client I have today is a potential user of this service. And because they are already running multiple clouds, VMware Cloud on AWS will give them an easier way to leverage public cloud capacity, pricing and disaster recovery capabilities.

Of all the things we’ve launched over the past 10 years, this has had the most requests from customers in APJ. Some of them are already looking at accessing the service from the US datacentre where VMware Cloud on AWS was first available.

Read more about cloud infrastructure in APAC

Do you think the day will come when all of enterprise IT is run from the public cloud?

Hewett: From a security perspective, we won’t see all information put on the public cloud. Neither will all the core systems we’ve built over the last 40 years – at least not in my working career over the next 15 to 20 years.

Take core banking – it’s not trivial and will remain on-premise for the foreseeable future, given the 30 years of integrated development that went into providing core banking services. What we will see, however, is the ability to move workloads between public and private clouds, and the trend towards having greater control of workloads in and outside the enterprise.

What keeps you up at night when running a large and diverse region?

Hewett: It’s about how fast we can build our people’s skills to design the right solution and have more secure systems. We keep pouring money into the security space to detect the next problem, but the bad guys are coming up with new creative ideas faster than we can detect. For us and our clients, we’ve got to dig deeper into systems and think about how to improve the security of our architecture. That keeps me up at night.

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