Paul Maritz: A Ringside Seat at the Revolution

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Today, after little more than a decade percolating into the mainstream, global virtualization is hitting a major milestone. “We are reaching the point where more than 50% of server workloads are running on virtualized infrastructure,” Maritz says.

That startling fact—half the planet’s computing load runs on virtual infrastructure, which enables the journey to the cloud—represents a tipping point for the technology industry, the point where virtualization becomes the norm. And it spotlights, says Maritz, “how far the virtualization industry and in particular the VMware ecosystem have come.”

For VMware, far indeed, because fully 80% of the world’s virtualized server workloads depend on VMware software. “That leads to a major theme for us,” says Maritz, “which is how do we and how do our customers build on that investment. The challenge in front of IT is how do they shift spend from keeping their existing investments going towards the future, because there’s a lot of change coming in the context of the cloud era. The question is how do we allow people to not only save money in what they’re doing today but build an orderly bridge to the future?”

VMware’s Reach

VMware customers are a Who’s Who of global business: 100% of Fortune 100 companies are VMware customers. Of the Fortune 1000, VMware works with all telco and healthcare companies as well as 98% of financial services, retail, and manufacturing businesses. VMware’s more than 25,000 partners include every major hardware and software vendor.

In his three years as CEO, Maritz has seen his customers, their CIOs, and the IT industry increasingly coalesce around technology’s warp-speed transition to virtualization and the cloud.

“We have three big themes playing throughout our customers’ environments, which are infrastructure renewal, application renewal, and end-user computing renewal,” Maritz says. “Continuing to execute on infrastructure renewal while preparing for change in the other two dimensions is a pretty big challenge for all of us.”

Making sure customers get full advantage from their current virtualization investments, Maritz says, “means not just thinking about virtualization as a narrow technology to improve the compute efficiency of their environment. It means thinking of it as a way of tackling and bringing together all of the elements of their environment and operating them in a more efficient and intelligent manner.

“And on the other hand,” he says, “how, at the same time, do they start preparing for the future, because they’re going to have to ultimately not only renew their infrastructure but renew their applications and renew the way they deliver the results of those applications to their end users.” A bit like performing brain surgery on a marathon runner during a race, without slowing him down. Or as Maritz puts it, “Charting a course that allows IT to take their enormous investments in existing data centers and applications and run them in a more automated fashion, while at the same time opening up the opportunity to transfer to new infrastructure and new business models.”

Suites, then and now

Born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and educated in South Africa, Paul Maritz landed in Silicon Valley at Intel in 1981, where he helped create developer tools for the newborn x86 platform. As the client-server revolution raged in 1986, Maritz joined Microsoft and eventually took charge of desktop and server software, including Windows 95, Windows NT, and Internet Explorer.

Maritz became the number three executive behind Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer during his 14 years at Microsoft, where he wickedly coined the use-your-own-products phrase, “Eating our own dog food.”

The New York Times called Maritz “the brains behind many of Microsoft’s operating systems and strategies,” including Microsoft Office, which Maritz created on the theory that computer users don’t want one-off products for doing their jobs, but rather a suite with a full toolkit.

“We are reaching the point where more than 50% of server workloads are running on virtualized infrastructure.”

Paul Maritz
VMware CEO

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Maritz most recently presided over the July release of vSphere 5.0 the latest iteration of VMware’s virtualization platform—as well as VMware’s new Cloud Infrastructure Suite.

The first-of-its-kind Cloud Infrastructure Suite layers business continuity, management, security, and self-service interface functionality atop the vSphere control-pooling-scheduling foundation—another aspect of a continuing streamlined integration that is burying complexity and turning so many businesses into virtualization believers.

“This is the next big step forward,” Maritz says, “toward a highly-automated, low-touch infrastructure—what essentially is making the infrastructure go away, from the perspective of the user,” though perhaps not yet to the point where a CIO would provision storage on an iPad from a park bench.

“That’s certainly where we’re trying to get to,” Maritz chuckles. “It’s a perfect ideal and you know you may never get there, but in reality you really want to go beyond provisioning. You want the person on the park bench to not even know about storage and provisioning. You want them to have all that today requires human intervention and complicated error-prone processes just to be taken care of, ‘automagically.’

“It’s not so much that you’re sitting on a park bench to work but that hopefully you’re feeding the pigeons, as opposed to having to do, or even think about, low level operations all the time.”

Honey, I virtualized the kids

Riding the virtualization wave, Maritz sees some similarities to his days at Microsoft—but only some.

“What we’re doing today,” Maritz says, “is the next major iteration of the technology industry, the next major iteration of how consumer enterprise technologies are influencing each other and coming up with new things as a result. Similar to where we were back then. But the shift to virtualization and the cloud is going to affect much more of the industry and many more people directly.

“We went from mainframes that touched just a few people to client servers that touched, for the first time, millions of people, and now this cloud era is going to touch billions of people, with independent devices out of the control of the enterprise. So these changes are going to play out on a wider stage with different sets of participants. At Microsoft we were lucky enough to have the winds behind our backs during much of that journey. Here at VMware while we do have a wind behind our back, we also have some big and pretty mean competitors.”

Asked which of his many accomplishments he’s most proud of, Maritz is quick to answer. “I’m proudest of being the father of three children who have managed to make it safely to their twenties,” he says.

So, it’s “Honey, I virtualized the kids”?

“Not yet,” laughs the dry-witted Maritz. “We haven’t taken the technology that far—they remain very real. But seriously, as far as the professional realm is concerned, as far as accomplishments are concerned, I don’t look at it that way. I just think that I’ve been very fortunate to have had a ringside seat during the client-server revolution and now fortunate enough to be getting a ringside seat at the beginning of the cloud era. And not many people get to have that opportunity once in their lives, let alone twice.”

“This is the next big step forward, toward a highly-automated, low-touch infrastructure—what essentially is making the infrastructure go away, from the perspective of the user.”

Paul Maritz
VMware CEO

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