VMware CEO Paul Maritz will reportedly be replaced by EMC executive Pat Gelsinger, and some VMware customers say a change in leadership is just what the company needs to bring focus back to its core virtualization business.
Multiple industry sources confirmed published reports of Maritz's departure and said Gelsinger, who is currently president and COO of EMC's Information Infrastructure products division, will step in.
Sources also say Maritz is leaving the company for personal reasons and is not being ousted or fired. Some reports have Maritz heading up a new cloud-focused spin-off / joint venture by EMC and VMware dubbed Project Rubicon, but sources on Tuesday said he will not take on that role.
A VMware spokesperson declined to comment.
Some VMware partners are shaken by the unexpected news.
"I'm a little surprised that they'd make moves like that now, with Microsoft especially loading all barrels of its 2012 portfolio," said one VMware reseller in the Northeast. "I can't even speculate why you'd shake the confidence of your investors a month before your competitor releases a major product in your primary market area."
Timing aside, industry watchers see this as an opportunity for VMware to strengthen its server virtualization strategy, which many say the company had lost sight of.
VMware's Maritz, who took over for VMware co-founder Diane Greene in 2008, had pushed the company beyond virtualization with its cloud computing strategy, and over the past couple of years, has also invested in a number of products to bolster its virtual desktop portfolio.
"I understand Gelsinger is aggressive, and that is what VMware needs," said Marcel van den Berg, a virtualization consultant from the Netherlands. "VMware has been too modest in the marketing battle against Microsoft. vRAM … opened the door for Microsoft Hyper-V. [I] hope for a cost reduction of vSphere."
Others say a fresh perspective at the top will breathe new life into VMware's product development.
"It is strongly believed that the big company culture [under Maritz] stifled innovation," said Charles Gautreaux, vice president of VMware's Global VMware User Group and a senior engineer at a large financial services company. "Innovation is what drives top talent."
VMware shops hope new leadership expands product development
One specific area where experts see room for improvement is in VMware's push to virtualize mission-critical applications.
"I've felt for a long time VMware ought to make a bigger push into that area, but while they've talked about it, they haven't really been successful," said Nathan Biggs, CEO of House of Brick Technologies, an Oracle consultancy based in Omaha, Neb.
VMware's sales force is used to talking with virtualization admins, but virtualizing business-critical applications means they have to start talking to application owners and higher levels of management.
"For a long time, House of Brick has said, 'Your colleagues at EMC have those contacts.' That's why I'm kind of excited about Pat Gelsinger, because … he gets the business-critical space," Biggs said.
Some partners are wary of blurring lines between the upper management of EMC and VMware, however.
"We know [EMC] owns [VMware] and are well positioned to take advantage of it, but you have to wonder if somewhere down the road there will be a line that gets drawn," said Tim Antonowicz, senior architect for Salem, N.H.-based Mosaic Technology. "Does VMware move away from the 'vendor agnostic' approach? Do they develop for EMC first, and for other storage platforms second? How far will this go before they absorb VMware completely?"