One on one with VMWare’s channel chief

San Francisco — Virtualization is arguably one of the hottest markets in IT right now, and the 10,000 attendees that have packed the San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center for this year’s VMworld are proof of that.

Brian Byun, vice-president of Global Partners and Solutions at VMware, heads the company’s strategic alliances, corporate development and ecosystem development teams, in addition to being in charge of OEM, IHV and ISV partnerships. With almost 20 years of experience, Byun has worked in delivering and marketing enterprise server and storage solutions, application middleware and Internet security software.

ComputerWorld Canada‘s Rafael Ruffolo had a change to sit down with Byun at the conference to talk about VMworld’s success, VMware’s new products, and the state of the virtualization industry.

Q: How surprised are you at the size of this year’s conference?

Brian Byun: We’re excited about the size of the conference; it’s been an historical doubling of our growth rate from the San Diego conference, so we were expecting growth. So, from a numbers standpoint I’m not surprised. But from seeing the energy level from the number of attendees and vendors, it has quite an impact.

Q: In your opinion, what are the most interesting VMware announcements from this show?

BB: For me, the most interesting announcement that we did was around the ESX Server 3i. VMware’s point of view is that virtualization is the future capability of the hardware. And because technically we are the only ones that have been able to make this very thin, light, hypervisor that can be put into hardware and isn’t attached to any particular flavour of operating system, we believe that this product is ideal for hardware integrated virtualization. And the fact that all of our major system partners, HP, IBM, Dell, NEC, Fujitsu are intending to deliver this with their systems. The reason that’s interesting and impactful is it goes to the view that virtualization is a feature of the hardware, not necessarily a capability of an operating system.

There’s been a great growth in the whole virtualization industry, from a VMware perspective, we want to make our virtualization very easy to consume and very easy to start. Getting new virtualization up and running within a matter of a couple minutes with very little skills and very little thought is a big thing to make this consumable.

Q: Many of the products that I’ve seen at the show seem to focus on ease-of-use as a selling point. Do you think that’s really an attempt to appeal to users who’ve only started hearing about virtualization very recently?

BB: Yeah, that’s what ESX Server 3i is really about. Another product is the VMware Site Recovery Manager, which is a new product that is supposed to simplify disaster recovery. This is something that’s very complex, (and is) done for the most mission critical apps generally. What we’re trying to do with this product, in concert with our other products, is to make disaster recovery a lot more simplified. In the old days, if you wanted to do a disaster recovery, you’d have to shut down the data centre and needed to go and test it. Just the process of testing is hard. But, in a virtual world, the great thing is you can say, ‘give me a slice of the 50 servers that are there and let me go shoot my copied applications and disk files over to the other side.’ Plus, there’s no hardware to change or buy. So, that’s the kind of simplicity we’re trying to bring and will hopefully grow the market. It’s aimed at a set of users that have learned about virtualization, but they haven’t thought about how it can solve their problems in a dramatic way. And that’s very important as lots of businesses that are being forced to put in business continuity plans and disaster plans.

Q: Why do you think that companies like Dell, IBM, and AMD are so quick to jump on board with VMware on many of these products?

BB: Well, I’d say it hasn’t been quick. We’d been working with them for a number of years, with IBM back since 2002. These companies understand what this does. The common thing that people always ask me is, ‘why would the server vendors and the system vendors like you, because you deal with server consolidation and that reduces the number of servers the sell?’ The reality is the vendors make just as much, if not better money, by selling virtualization. The reason is that they can sell more expensive systems, more memory, which generally people understand to be more profitable. So, these companies are getting on the virtualization bandwagon because it helps drive a refresh, they can sell more hardware and software on top of that, as well as new storage solutions.

So, we saved the customers’ money in one space, but they are also spending in other spaces like doing disaster recovery, so that’s why our hardware partners are very interested.

Q: We’ve seen a lot of acquisitions in this space lately, with the big one being the Citrix-XenSource deal. How is this changing VMware’s strategy?

BB: The Citrix-XenSource acquisition really doesn’t change our strategy. We’ve been focused on making this base virtualization broadly available and usable, so we’ve done that with the ESX Server 3i announcement. A lot of our customers are buying this full virtual infrastructure, so it’s not about how do I slice and dice a single box into smaller virtual servers, it’s about taking industry standard systems and storage and looking at it as a pool of servers and storage and then dragging and dropping workloads on it and making them highly available. And then, from our standpoint, where the next battleground is around targeting and making virtualization even faster and simpler to deploy, but also actually saving labour and management costs.

What I’d say to the Citrix-XenSource acquisition is that they’re trying to invest in things that we’ve already done. We welcome the choice in competition, but we’re going to be focused on customer value.

Q: But deals like this kind of validate virtualization, wouldn’t you say?

BB: Well it’s certainly a big deal for the virtualization industry. It says people are optimistic and that there’s a huge opportunity there.

Q: Now you mentioned that some vendors weren’t so quick to get on board with virtualization, but what about the enterprises that haven’t got on board yet? What do you think is the biggest obstacle that has prevented these companies from moving to the virtual world?

BB:There are a lot of enterprises that have gone whole hog on this. Some of the things that we’ve reported in the past is the over 20,000 enterprise customers, plus the 84 per cent of the Fortune 1000 that have deployed some of our virtualization solutions. Now the question is, are they 100 per cent deployed? No. But, their deployed partially. Some of the things that slow down this deployment are education. What does it mean not to have my own box, if I’m an application owner? Or how do I coordinate with networking and storage people, now that the process for provisioning a network port is different because it’s a virtual network port. So, a lot of these things are not even product or technical issues, they’re more education, process and cultural issues inside the IT organization.

Q: Would you call it server hugging?

BB: Yes exactly, server huggers! And the one thing we’re doing is publishing best practices and how to communicate inside the IT organization and explain what’s going on. All of our deployment suggests that once they virtualize the applications have a better uptime and a better response, so we tell our IT advocates to talk about that.

Q: Because some companies that haven’t been thinking about virtualization also want to start being more aware of the environment, do you see an opportunity with this green IT movement to get them looking at virtualization as an option?

BB: We think this is a huge growth area. First of all, it’s already a big catalyst. The beauty of what we’re participating in is that it is good for business as well as for the environment. A big catalyst for people looking at virtualization products is around the fact that they’ve run out of power and cooling for their data centres. Because they can’t get more power from the utility companies, it means they can’t put new applications on the floor to drive their business needs. So, first of all, it’s a business necessity.

But then you go, ‘hey, if you’re virtualized you can actually avoid this power and cooling that power consumption, because you’re wasting a lot with all the headroom you’re not using.’ So, it’s one of the foremost reasons to do a virtualization project and we expect it to be a great driver and continue to be a great driver for the business.

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