Pat Gelsinger has been serving as CEO of VMware since September 2012, nearly doubling the size of the company during his tenure. Gelsinger reckons that mobile, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are the four horsemen of the current tech era. “We see technology enter more and more different areas of businesses – it has now become more about changing and differentiating.” Gelsinger brings more than 35 years of technology and leadership experience. A respected IT industry veteran, he was at Intel for 30 years, becoming the company’s first CTO and driving the creation of key industry technologies including USB and Wi-Fi. On his recent visit to India, he spoke to Sudhir Chowdhary about the key market trends and his company’s plans for India. Excerpts:
What have been your observations on the evolution of cloud computing in the last two to three years?
Five years ago, enterprises were not that open to cloud, and were more keen on parameters like security and governance which made things untenable. It was about two to three years ago that everything started going on to the public cloud, and if anything, it was decreasing their on-premise investments because they were quickly taking advantage of the public cloud. But, then the realisation came around that it was not possible to move applications to the public cloud that quickly. Today, we are seeing a more balanced and rational view of the public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud and use of multiple clouds.
We have gone through a complete journey from what started off initially as a hype, to what has now become a fairly balanced view. In that process, we have found our strategy in being able to have private cloud, multiple public clouds and bind them together in hybrid cloud operations to resonate well with customers, even though it was not quite the journey we were expecting over the last four or five years.
In your experience, what change have you seen in the mindset of organisations towards investing in enterprise technology in the last decade?
Yes, we have definitely seen a change, given that tech is breaking out of tech. We see technology enter more and more different areas of businesses. From what was once making sure that mails or websites run, it has now become more about changing and differentiating. When I speak to CIOs, they all talking about how “carpe diem’’ is the way forward and how now is the time where you are more important to your business than ever before. So, the opportunity of helping businesses transform has never been greater than this period of time.
As a technologist, what technologies do you think will affect humans the most in the coming years with respect to healthcare, education and finance?
It is a thrilling time to be a technologist today. Having been in the technology space for almost four decades, I feel that we are just getting started. With many of these emerging technologies being mobile, one has unlimited access anywhere and everywhere. With cloud, we have unlimited capacity to essentially scale to any site. With IoT, we have the ability to have unlimited data. With AI and machine learning, we are bringing increased intelligence into everything that we do. I believe that mobile, cloud, IoT, and AI are the four horsemen of the current tech era. There is tremendous potential here in healthcare, supply chain and transportation. All of these have the common ingredients.
What are your thoughts on technology improving quality of life and promoting a greener planet?
I find technology to be in just about everything you think about. For smart cities to be greener, you have LEAD buildings, more automation cooling and efficient energy setups. Today, solar is becoming more economical because technology is making solar breakthroughs. Smart grids are improving the ability to both efficiently distribute energy and contribute back to the network. Tesla, for example, is essentially a computer on wheels. At this point, 30% of all the green-house gases are produced by transportation worldwide.
As we move to hybrid, electric vehicles and self-driving vehicles, we are attacking 30% of greenhouse gases, which is quite extraordinary. On an average, power generation converted for electric vehicles versus carbon or fossil fuel vehicles is less than half of the carbon footprint, which is quite a dramatic improvement. Every one of those are powered by technology.
We have made a commitment that we will be carbon neutral as a company by 2020. I am pushing our team to accelerate that. We also find that our technologies like virtualisation are some of the most energy-efficient technologies that have ever existed. Ten servers becoming one—that will be quite extraordinary.
India’s vibrant start-up economy has opened immense opportunities for cloud and mobility solution providers. Can you share your thoughts on this?
I think it is wonderful. To me, internet cloud mobility essentially is like Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat, which was a great read six to seven years ago. There is a story of an online class at MIT MOOC, which is one of the massive online classes. The number one student was a 16-year-old kid in Nepal. He is now on a full tuition scholarship at MIT. This is a great leveler. If you have intelligence, passion, great work ethics, it does not matter where you are in the world because essentially mobile and cloud will give you access to the right markets, customers and education. In that respect, it is just extraordinary. And clearly there are a few places in the world who have extraordinary universities, and education systems. India is one of those. And I believe there are more start-up companies with more innovation here that essentially makes the global market available to such Indian technology companies. VMware is a direct beneficiary of this. Our India site in Bengaluru is now our largest site in the world, and is slightly larger than the Palo Alto site.
What is your vision for helping organisations on their digital transformation journey? Which technologies should they focus on?
We have divided our strategy into three parts. One is private cloud. SBI is an extraordinary partner of building its infrastructure on the VMware technology stack. Second is the hybrid cloud and public cloud—which we are embracing and enabling. And then comes the end-user market opportunities that we have. You must have heard SBI, Airtel and our other partners delivering those services. Those are the three categories of our product and technology focus, and each one of those is having great momentum here in the Indian marketplace. Many companies are interested in working with us, but some of the biggest companies in India are also working with us.
Do you see any similarities between markets such as US and Europe with India when it comes to adoption of new technology?
Generally, the more mature markets have been more advanced in their adoption and creation of new technologies. Cloud technologies are further along in USA. However, I would also point out that some of our customers here, such as SBI and Bharti Airtel, are more advanced than any customer I have in the US. So, in some cases we are seeing that the companies in India are looking to leapfrog levels.
Cyber security is becoming a key concern for organisations. What is the next step in the technology evolution for securing information?
Over the last five years, security spend has increased faster than any other aspect. My customers are spending more on security, hence, the cost and number of breaches have risen faster. So, you are spending more and falling further behind. Hence, we have laid out a strategy that basically concentrates on a different approach, as clearly just spending more on products is not the solution. We have to build more of the security mechanisms directly into our products such that eventually we can tell our customers to not buy another product, and instead use them for security cases to build secure infrastructure, We need to work with the ecosystem and integrate our products into capabilities directly with those of the ecosystem.
I believe that there are a lot more security products and companies today. We do think that we need to drive a consolidation in the industry and ultimately make cyber hygiene easy and consistently done.
India is being highlighted as one of your fastest growing markets, what are the reasons for it?
A couple of things. Indian customers want vendors they trust with world leading technology. VMware has built world leading innovative products, invested here and built relationships in the country. Indian companies are also motivated to be leading technologists because they are trying to reach out to the global marketplace as well. So, we find great synergy with them as they are working to reach a broader market and audience. Overall, this is a good market for us and we are happy with the progress that we have made.
What are your plans for the India market in the next one year?
One, we are going to keep growing. We have been growing our footprint in India faster than the overall growth rate of the company. We are also going to keep building up our sales and our marketing. Clearly the presence of some of the best-known brands in India running on top of the VMware technology points to a very positive potential for us in the future.
If you have SBI saying we are going mobile cloud with VMware, that sends a very strong message to the marketplace. So we do see that growth potential to be very good and we will keep growing our customer footprint and employee footprint here.