VMware: Champions Of The Mobile Cloud Era

VMware’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has stated that his company is “uniquely positioned to help our customers transform to the mobile cloud era of computing.” VMware’s view of the scope of mobile cloud computing encompasses everything “from the desktop to the data center to the cloud.”

In this article, we analyze the vision that VMware’s Gelsinger has set forth; in the following article we discuss our interview with Ben Goodman, who is the Evangelist for the End User component of VMware’s business, about how VMware is implementing the mobile cloud vision.

Gelsinger has endorsed the Mobile Cloud Era as the third great era of IT. (The first two were the Mainframe Era and the Client-Server Era.) He has declared that VMware are the champions of this new mobile cloud era.

We have previously set out our own analysis of why the Mobile Cloud Era is the third great era of IT/communications, so we definitely agree with Mr. Gelsinger’s conclusion.

In our case the path to identifying the importance of the mobile cloud began about four years ago with a review of BGP (border gateway protocol) routers in a business case for a wide area wireless LAN provider client. We proceeded to an analysis of the movement of intelligence to the edge and the impact of smartphone growth and usage, by application, on network traffic volumes and backhaul and its implications for RAN (radio access network) evolution.

It became apparent to us that the world of billions of mobile end users would require a cloud to experience the mushrooming capabilities and data requirements of mobile devices and mobile apps.

In summary, we posit that the “mobile cloud” represents the locus of mobility, computer processing and storage requirements that are absolutely necessary to satisfy user needs and desires and further that every significant participant in IT and communications will have to embrace the mobile cloud as they address the still unlimited horizon of this emerging marketplace.

VMware has followed a quite different path to a similar general conclusion about mobile cloud. The company describes its business as consisting of three buckets or areas of focus:

First there is SDDC (software defined data center. This is an extension of the virtualization platform set of products which made VMware famous.

Second is Hybrid Cloud, which represents the realization that the movement to cloud platforms, be they public or private, will result in hybrid arrangements.

Third is End User Computing. This area encompasses the world of virtual desktops, smartphones and mobile applications.

It is here in the third area that VMware’s strategy solidly meets and seeks to address the world of the mobile cloud. This world is definitely based on growth opportunities. This is contrasted with the first bucket, SDDC, which to some extent is cost-savings based. The end user world and its products may well hold the key to defining the future standard model of both the SMB as well as the large enterprise generic application package marketplace.

There is a logical link to thinking about these three buckets and their relationship to adopting the phrase “mobile cloud.” The company (led by Mr. Gelsinger’s presentation) does a good job explaining the inter-relationship of the three.

However, in terms of business strategy there may also be a more pragmatic and cogent reason behind VMware’s strategy evolution.

The first business area, data centers, vital to VMware’s huge success, could very well be peaking, meaning it could be “as good as it gets” in terms of market growth, valuation potential and opportunities for competitive differentiation.

When we look at the number of data centers as limiting the addressable market, and we realize that some of the biggest data center growth areas are among the Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon tier of players, we contemplate annual growth in number of servers being manufactured in the single digits.

In addition, these top four have a tendency to do their own thing, even to the point of designing their own servers.

In other words, there are sound business reasons for a fairly dramatic strategy evolution for VMware, in that SDDC may not be a great growth area.

However for VMware, the evolution to the mobile cloud strategy is not a leap into the unknown. The fundamental skills which made SDCC possible – the ability to create a hypervisor platform able to manage, with excellent end user experience, multiple OSs, hardware configurations, networks and storage architectures – these are an essential skillset for handling the multiple OS world of mobile, with its iOS, Android and other end user device platforms in their diverse form factors and configurations.

While this essential skillset is present at VMware, the company clearly recognizes that more is required to make the mobile cloud evolution likely to succeed. This is indicated, for example, by their prominent emphasis on the role of networking as revealed in their 2013 announcement of their networking virtualization platform NSX, the development of which was abetted by their Nicira acquisition.

We will be closely following VMware’s mobile cloud evolution and how the company answers our fundamental questions that remain. After all, the end user computing world has an even shorter life cycle than the data center environment and yet has the same set of legacy issues augmented by other significant, even vital requirements, such as RAN management.