Q&A: VMware CEO Maritz on his new gig, competing against Microsoft and the virtual server 'time bomb'

Maritz talks about competing in the hot virtualization market

Paul Maritz became the president and CEO of VMware in July, after the EMC-owned company's board of directors fired co-founder and CEO Diane Greene. Maritz is now competing in the hot virtualization market against his former employer Microsoft, where he worked from 1986 to 2000 and led many of the company's major software initiatives. EMC executives put him in charge of VMware just a few months after EMC acquired Pi Corporation, a company Maritz founded. Maritz was in Las Vegas this week for VMware's annual VMworld conference, and sat down with Jon Brodkin to talk about company strategy.

What's the biggest change at VMware under your leadership?

It's early days to say there's been any seismic change under my leadership. Clearly, what I've spent my time on over the last couple weeks has been working on the messages we articulated here, which is strengthening themes that were already present at VMware, and trying to be more crisp about our articulation, and trying to look forward a couple years. VMware has become a strategic partner to many of our customers and we have to respond to them in a different way, and give them a broader and longer-term view of what we're all about. We now get IT managers who say 'look I'm going to make decisions that are going to affect my internal strategy over a three-year period, so I need to understand your roadmap.'

You mentioned this week that VMware has thought about open sourcing the ESX hypervisor. VMware has already made some its software available as open source. What exactly would open sourcing ESX entail?

Open sourcing something is more than just declaring that it's open source and throwing the source out there. You really have to work at creating a community around that. We would have to put in place a meaningful process whereby people could not only get access to the source but give contributions back. I'm a little bit cynical about some people who declare something to be open source just as a marketing ploy. So I think if you do open source something you have to do it in a way that will be recognized as a genuine open source contribution.

Diane Greene made it clear that she was opposed to excessive integration with EMC, and didn't want VMware to be swallowed by its parent company. Will the VMware relationship with EMC change at all now that you're the CEO?

I'm not expecting any changes. When I look at the set of challenges we have in front of us, that doesn't make the top five list.

EMC has said it's taken a hands-off approach with VMware.

They have, and they recognize that we need a degree of independence to operate, and that's not a source of tension.

You've written blog items about how VMware is responding to a recent software bug. [VMware mistakenly left a piece of so-called "time bomb" code in a software update, fooling software into thinking customer product licenses had expired]. Did this problem hurt VMware's credibility?

I don't think it's given us a fatal blow or serious blow, but it was a black eye. It's painful when you give yourself a black eye. You don't want to do that again.

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