Experts weigh in on CTO Herrod's departure, future of VMware

No one anticipated a VMware future without Steve Herrod, but now that the reality has sunk in, IT pros see the company at a crossroads.

VMware CTO Steve Herrod was a prominent face and voice throughout an eventful 2012, when the company saw strong competition from Microsoft, unveiled its latest virtualization platform and announced several high-profile acquisitions. The company also experienced a string of executive changes, including the introduction of a new CEO. Now, Herrod himself has walked away after 11 years with VMware. Naturally, his departure has dominated the world's IT pros' discussions on the future of VMware.

"To me, he was the Steve Jobs of VMware," said David Davis, a virtualization evangelist at TrainSignal Inc. "I felt that he represented the energy, innovation, fun and coolness of VMware products." Herrod's departure came as a surprise to Davis, who said VMware's future will depend on whether Herrod's replacement can bring the same qualities, or if another evangelist can step forward to fill his shoes.

Christian Mohn, a senior infrastructure consultant for EVRY Consulting, said the new CTO will need to be on par with the technical level of his predecessor.

"Steve put much emphasis on the T in CTO," said Mohn.

"I think that all of the recent executive departures might be good for VMware in the long term," said Brien Posey, a freelance technical writer. "The departures give VMware the opportunity to put some creative people into key positions so that the company can hopefully become truly innovative once again."

VMware has not yet announced who will replace Herrod, and speculations are high. July's introduction of former EMC executive Pat Gelsinger as new VMware CEO and other similar shakeups have some people wondering if EMC doesn't have its own agenda.

"If [Herrod's] replacement is someone from inside EMC -- like the Maritz/Gelsinger switch -- then speculations are going to get a lot worse," said Maish Saidel-Keesing, an infrastructure administrator and virtualization architect for NDS Group in Jerusalem.

Alastair Cooke, a freelance trainer, consultant, blogger and vExpert, would like to see VMware continue with many of Herrod's initiatives, but fears the momentum could shift.

"I really hope that when [he] moves on, the VMware board continues to put [his] roles in the hands of someone as inspiring as Steve. There is a risk that with Steve gone the engineering and product focus will be diluted. Hopefully having Pat Gelsinger at the helm means that the engineering force will have a strong voice and the great products will keep rolling out."

Regardless of who steps in as CTO, Herrod was well liked among VMware customers. Cooke described him as "inspiring and motivating" in his technically focused keynotes at VMworld and vForum conferences.

As Davis put it, "Steve will be missed!"

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