VMware’s preparing for the post-document era

Paul Maritz - CEO, VMware - Structure 2011VMware, the company that helped jumpstart the cloud with the creation of the hypervisor, is now focused on enabling the automation and scale that are the most essential elements of building out a platform for the post-PC era. Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, said that, for most of his 33 years spent in the computer industry, he was helping create the automated equivalent of the work desk, where white-collar employees crafted “beautiful documents.”

But now things are shifting where people now consume streams of content and act on it, a shift in behavior so new that we don’t even have the vocabulary to express it, we can only do so in negatives. So the post-PC era and the post-document era have become the terms to use. “Some of this is quite profound and bittersweet,” Maritz said. “I spent most of my career working on the PC revolution and answering how do we take the physical desk and automate it and take it with file drawers and automate that?”

He also talked about how automation now isn’t to aid workers, it’s the automation and management of tens of thousands of servers. Maritz estimated that Google (s goog) has one person to manage about every thousand servers, as compared to VMware which has one person managing every 20 to 50 servers. Such a ratio is untenable if corporate IT wants to use its resources to do anything but run the infrastructure, which is why Maritz says about 90 percent of the vSphere code is about automation, not the hypervisor.

Maritz has taken other clues from Google, explaining that companies such as it and Facebook are the ones innovating and learning how to deal with the massive amounts of data created by consumers, generating an architectural change that will have to transcend consumer businesses and become an underlying element of the cloud.

So when discussing the cloud, Maritz made a distinction between the consumer-oriented personal cloud where someone expects their information to be free and not tied to a device. For that cloud, questions about who owns the data and who has rights to it will have to be worked out, but the idea that data resides on a single device is over. The other cloud is around the reduction of complexity in the enterprise, which circles back to the points Maritz was making about scaling and automation.

In general, Maritz may feel a bit melancholy as he watches his life’s work on client-server and PC-defined architectures fade, but he’s prepping VMware to shift to the future, one that asks less of developers and consumers and delivers a lot more at the infrastructure layer.