In Conversation with Lee Caswell, VMWare on Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Lee Caswell is Vice President of Product Marketing, Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Business Unit, VMware. Lee Caswell leads a team driving the customer adoption of new products. Lee joined VMware in 2016 and has extensive experience in executive leadership within the storage, flash and virtualization markets.

Lee holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Carleton College and a master of business administration degree from Dartmouth College. Lee is a New York native and has lived in northern California for many years. He and his wife live in Palo Alto and have two children. In his spare time Lee enjoys cycling, playing guitar, and hiking the local hills.

Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CMR spoke with Lee Caswell on the market landscape for Hyper converged Infrastructure (HCI), business drivers for HCI, his perspective on the Indian market, and VMWare’s play among others.

 Prabhu: From your perch, what are the key market trends in HCI that you observe?

Lee: The high rate of projected HCI growth indicates the extent to which HCI will disrupt and transform IT. Businesses who migrate their IT infrastructure to the cloud have to often deal with risks associated to compliance issues, regulatory hurdles, making the hybrid cloud model a preferred on-premise alternative.Since HCI brings cloud-like flexibility to on-premises data centers, many cloud service providers will be implementing HCI systems in their cloud. Companies will be using HCI for multiple application workloads, including collaboration and productivity, engineering and technical, big data and analytics, and remote office computing.

For developers of container-based modern applications orchestrated by Kubernetes, Cloud Native Storage will be an essential requirement to provide all the necessary infrastructure to run all Cloud Native Applications. CNS will also provide the visibility into container usage on the physical infrastructure, mapping container volumes, backing disks and capacity management.

Prabhu: What are the current market dynamics in which VMWare operates?

 VMware was also recently recognized as a Leader in the November 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Hyper converged Infrastructure. VMware has the broadest flexibility of HCI deployment options for enterprises. These options include over 15 jointly certified OEM server vendors with more than 500 validated configurations, the jointly engineered turn-key VxRail appliance with Dell EMC – and 70-plus cloud verified partners that offer VMware Cloud Foundation.

VMware hyper converged infrastructure solutions lay the foundation for Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC), so that the customer can navigate the future of business with ease. By offering a flexible set of building blocks, HCI powered by vSAN lets the customer create a solution that meets the unique needs of their organization.

As the market leader in virtualization technology, VMware breaks down the restrictions of hardware-centric infrastructure and gives the freedom to grow at one’s own pace, within a budget with no compromise on quality.

Prabhu: How is VMware doing in the HCI space in India?

 VMware is leading the hyper converged infrastructure market with over 41 percent share and continues to grow two times faster than the closest competitor. This year, the sales for VxRail has exploded and constitutes pretty much half the revenue.

Customers are seeing the value of being able to do simplified lifecycle management with simplified updates through the integration of VxRail Manager and vCenter. Customers are increasingly figuring out that when you have high level of automation, it costs less than public cloud — especially from a predictable workload standpoint. We are seeing growth for VxRail particularly in multi-location businesses like retail, banking, insurance, etc.

Prabhu: What have been the keybusiness drivers for VMware?

One of the biggest advantages we have is that VMware vSphere is the most trusted and widely deployed virtualization solution in the enterprise. VMware’s market leading HCI solution vSAN,is tightly integrated with vSphere. This means that customers can leverage their existing v Sphere expertise, including familiar tools and processes to help them deploy and manage HCI. So,we’re actually tapping into an established customer base that knows how to use v Sphere and is very familiar with it.

As the leader in virtualization technology, VMware provides a flexible, scalable, cost-efficient HCI solution that can run on industry-standard hardware.

It is made up of three best-in-class solutions:

VMware vSphere®: The market-leading hyper visor that helps you achieve the best performance, availability, and efficiency from infrastructure and applications.

VMware vSAN™: Software-defined storage that enables you to respond to business needs faster, using the latest storage technologies while reducing costs.

VMware vCenter Server™: A centralized platform featuring simple deployment, centralized control and visibility, proactive optimization, and powerful management tools.

VMware also provides the broadest set of deployment options, from turnkey appliances to jointly certified servers, or Ready Nodes, from over 15 OEM server vendors, so that organizations can take the HCI approach that aligns best with their business needs.

More than 20,000 customers worldwide started their HCI journey with VMware vSAN to run business-critical applications and now many of those same customers see the value of expanding their HCI environments to a full software stack across the hybrid cloud with VMware Cloud Foundation.

HCI powered by VMware’s vSAN provides –

Simple Evolution to the Full Stack: Seamlessly extend virtualization to storage, networking, and advanced management with an integrated, hyper converged solution that simply works with your overall VMware environment. Embedded security provides multi-layer threat protection and automates responses through deep integration. Speed time-to-value by using existing tools, skill sets, and solutions.

Broadest Flexibility: VMware HCI has over 500 jointly certified servers with 15+ server OEMs, as well as a jointly engineered turnkey appliance, Dell EMC VxRail, allowing customers to use their preferred server vendor. VMware provides investment protection by supporting traditional as well as next-generation storage technologies, such as NVMe™.

Multi-Cloud Capabilities: VMware HCI enables consistent infrastructure, processes, and tooling in a true hybrid cloud architecture; no application re architecting required. By using a consistent operational model, you can eliminate cloud-specific skills training or creating a dedicated public cloud team. VMware’s leading cloud provider network gives you the option to select one or more public cloud vendors from hundreds available based on your specific needs.

When customers build hyper converged infrastructure, one of the core value propositions is the tight integration of hyper visor, server, and storage technologies unified with integrated life cycle management.  They also seek an organisation that is going to be there to lend support at all times with a global presence and they want a consistent operational model across the hybrid cloud. Only VMware offers a consistent policy-based storage model across hyper converged infrastructure, traditional storage systems, and all the major public cloud hyper scalers. This offers operating leverage for any application, any device, and any cloud.

Prabhu: How do you see HCI adoption in India?

Indian enterprises highly value the cost savings, simple scaling, and operational efficiencies of hyper converged infrastructure and are increasingly looking at HCI solutions for their businesses. HCI is rapidly growing in business-critical enterprise applications and a broad range of mixed workloads to help meet the fast-paced change in applications typical of digital businesses. The emergence of hybrid cloud and Internet of Things (IoT)has also accelerated the adoption rate in India, with enterprises and companies deploying HCI due to the ease of scaling and cost efficiency. HCI has grown exponentially given HCI’s high value of delivering infrastructure deployment, cloud services, scalability and better support for business applications. India has been one of the predecessors in adopting HCI.

Prabhu: How does VMware view the Indian market in the coming years? What’s next?

The India market has unique requirements that are especially favorable to HCI adoption, namely atorrid pace of new application development, a high sensitivity to cost, and a need to drive very large-scale deployments.  We believe India will broadly adopt HCI and that only VMware addresses the unique India market needs.

Furthermore, as more organizations adopt hybrid cloud strategies, the VMware leadership position in working with public cloud partners will further drive HCI market adoption.According to Gartner, customers see HCI as a compelling alternative to the public cloud for performance, manageability at scale, and cost perspectives. Hyper converged infrastructure sales are expected to grow in a hybrid cloud world.

We also expect to see the integration of Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and automation technologies to augment the underlying value of hyper converged infrastructure. VMware previewed the application of these technologies at VMworld 2019 and customer interest was extremely positive. These technologies are essential to help organizations manage the complexity of decentralized and distributed IT that expands across the hybrid cloud and into modern applications.

Our preview of Kubernetes integration similarly showed the importance of seamless support for containers in future IT environment.  Customer appetite for continuous application delivery and increased awareness will drive this requirement in both enterprises and commercial customer segments going forward.  In fact, SMBs will likely drive the India market to expand next year.

Finally, there is a growing interest in security that should not be overlooked by infrastructure builders.  The software-defined nature of HCI architecture introduces an ideal architectural control point to imbed security across all infrastructure elements.  As applications increasingly span the hybrid cloud and beyond infrastructure to endpoint devices, it is essential to consider security as an embedded attribute.