VMWorld 2015: Sessions, Swag, and a Broken Promise

When Satya Nadella took charge of Microsoft and said they were going “cloud first” I had a hard time believing him – given the previous CEO’s tendency for hyperbole and marketing double-speak. But they proved me wrong. Their continuous delivery of new features and services in Azure and Office365 over the last year has been impressive. It’s changed the way many IT departments approach service delivery.

At last year’s VMWorld, VMWare made the same promises. “We’re making the shift. We’re going cloud first with all of our products.”

A year later, I’m at VMWorld again and am unsure if they didn’t know what they were committing to or just changed their minds.

Tied to the point release

I love a lot of what VMWare is doing right now, especially in the end-user compute space. They’ve enabled some really interesting opportunities with all the integration work that’s been done from NSX in the datacenter down to the device with Airwatch and Horizon – things that are going to make security and device management a lot easier.

They’ve been a good partner to work with and they have a clear, unique vision of where they want to go with EUC and hybrid cloud, which is exciting.

But for a company that committed to “cloud first”, they sure talk a lot about “the next release”.

“You can already do this in the on-prem product. It’ll be coming to the hosted service later this year.”

“We’re planning at least three releases for our hybrid cloud next year.”

“All the features you’re asking for will be available in the next release.”

That’s not cloud first. That’s not continuous delivery or devops (ideas that VMWare has been speaking to heavily). It’s waterfall development with a focus on boxed product. It’s shoehorning on-premise into the cloud.

It’s a strategy that isn’t going to work if VMWare really wants to appeal to anyone outside of their most traditional enterprise customers. It’s certainly not going to get them out of playing catch-up to Microsoft and AWS.

Culture clash

There seem to be lots of people at VMWare who see the problem, but they are butting up against the internal politics and culture of “Don’t make our legacy customers uncomfortable or my division may lose sales and I won’t get my boat.”

The same battle is happening at all of the vendors making the shift to cloud. Bring up Meraki to someone in Cisco route/switch internal sales and watch their face melt. Everywhere you look you’ll see the old guard fighting a losing battle for relevance.

Maybe it takes a dictatorial leader to resolve that. “Shut up. This is what we’re doing. Get on board or get out.” I’m not sure I’d want to work for that person though.

I do know that shifting from point releases to continuous delivery takes a massive shift in mindset across the entire business that isn’t easy, but it’s not unprecedented. Microsoft and IBM are doing it and they’ve got much bigger ships to steer.

They’re leading with cloud and carving out boxed products for the customers that lag behind – prioritizing the future over the past. I’m not sure there is a “right” way to pull this stuff off, but what they’re doing sure looks “right”.

Promising progressive customers “cloud first” and then not executing is certainly the wrong approach. Unless your goal is to alienate them and get them looking for solutions elsewhere.

Image Credit: VMWare PR