IT has to be a broker of value: Sanjay Mirchandani, VMware

When IT starts thinking that I am a broker of value, you stop becoming sort of paternal about your environment, says Sanjay Mirchandani

As a industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience, Sanjay Mirchandani, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific and Japan, VMware, has seen the IT world evolve dynamically. Having the unique and relatively rare perspective of leading as a CIO and now as a business leader, Sanjay believes that this is the right time for the technology industry to be disrupted as some technologies like networks have not changed in the last 20 years.

Some edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:

How do you see India from a global point of view?
India for us is a very important market for multiple reasons.  It’s obviously an important market that’s coming of age and looking to absorb new technologies and keep up the pace of growth.  It’s also for us one of the largest destinations outside of our headquarters.  There’s a lot more we are doing with VMware. We have committed a $500 mn investment.  Every bit of technology portfolio from an R&D perspective is represented here — whether its Airwatch or NSX or the core products. So India for us is an important market.  From a business point of view, India is on a much bigger scale than other countries like say, Singapore, Malaysia or Australia. In India, we think about managing 1,30,000 devices whereas in some markets 15,000-20,000 devices is a good size.  So as an ex-CIO having managed tens of thousands of devices, I know it’s a challenge, and keeps people up at night.

How do you see the evolution of IT and its impact on the way enterprises consume or deliver IT services?
The very fundamentals of what we built our businesses on, even IT business, is changing.  For example, you do not have to work physically at an office. You are working on the train; you are working in the car.  You are working in the airport.  You are working all the time.  You don’t have to go there – you are working now.  You don’t have to go the office to work.  Now, the teacher could be sitting in Harvard and delivering a lecture and you could be watching the lecture here.  You are not going there.  You are availing it.  You look at guys like Uber who have changed the world completely.  Look at their market cap.

The world we live in is liquid.  We believe that businesses have to be very agile and so the things that matter to a CIO is agility, speed, innovation, security and choice.  Those become the four driving parameters that a CIO has to think about and today the business is coming to the CIO saying – what do I do with this data?  Should I be looking at this?  Or should I be dealing with this?  Tell me how technology can make me closer to my customer.  How do I take mobile devices and enable a better customer relationship when they are buying online? When you start thinking about the opportunity, it is really a liquid world.

It is no longer about the cost alone.  What is cost if your customer is doing business with someone else and you don’t even know it?  Or your reputation is being built or spoilt online and you don’t even know it.  So, the world is changing and there are new competitors coming in that you won’t even see.  Look at retail. Retail is growing, but retail is being challenged.  You will shop somewhere and buy somewhere else.  In a liquid world, the rules of IT are being rewritten. Technology is a key component of how you engage your customers and retain your customers.  So, IT is no longer sitting on the outside or looking on something to help the business.  IT is the business.

When VMware initially started out virtualization was like a greenfield for you.  Do you see a similar opportunity for you now?

We have three clear priorities. We are helping our customers build up a software defined data center which enables you to run on one cloud — whether the cloud is on premise or off premise. Software defined data center is at the heart of what we are.  On top of that, we have got end user computing, because the world of devices and security management is above all things.  We believe that companies should have a separate infrastructure to manage that issue.  We call it end user computing.  The third piece is about extending any workload that a customer has in the hybrid cloud.  So, when you bring these three pieces together, customers like to sort of refer to that as software defined enterprise and we like that, because that’s really a way of evolving.  Evolving to where your enterprise is driven by software as opposed to an appliance or a set of appliances.

Where are the big opportunities for VMware in a market like India?
When you think of the number of devices in India, end user computing becomes key, and is extremely important for CIOs.  The heart and soul continues to be software defined data center with the hybrid cloud becoming an extension.  So, eventually when we talk to our customers, 70-75% of our customers feel that they need to start thinking about hybrid cloud.  As an ex-CIO, I believe that a workload is a workload.  It really should not matter where it runs.  You should not need to define where it runs when you build the workload.  Workloads should be mobile.  We should be able to move the workload either on premise to a partner or off premise.  So, we firmly believe in hybrid so if you look at the numbers and where the spend is going to be, it’s really going to be in these areas.  You know software defined networking, defined data center, hybrid cloud and mobile. So, we think we are running the heart and nerve center of what’s important to our customers.

Can you tell us more about your hyper converged infrastructure play – EVO RAIL?
With EVO RAIL, we take the complexity and the variability out of creating the next generation data center.  So literally we have engineered, we have spent a lot of time engineering the end to end capabilities around a software data center — the core of which is compute, storage, networking and security.  And the ability to manage the provision in a predictable manner so that your cost of running infrastructure is much more efficient.  The beauty is that customs can choose to work with any hardware provider that’s opposed to EVO family – there are 10 of them to acquire this technology.  It gives them a single number to call for support. One can set up a fully provisioned infrastructure in 15 minutes.

Can you give us an example on how could this help Indian companies?
Consider a bank or insurance company or a retail store. If they open a unit anywhere in the country, they need supporting IT infrastructure to run the unit.  They need servers, they need storage, they need somebody to run the cost system.  With EVO RAIL, you can avail of all the benefits of a full data center in a remote location without necessarily having to assemble it yourself and deal with the support issues and everything else that goes with it.  So, that’s one example.  I think in countries like India and China where you have geographical distribution you don’t have skills available everywhere, you need uniformity and predictability on your support and at a cost that suits your budget.  The beauty of what we are saying is you can plug and play like a Lego block whatever piece you need depending on the workload.

As an ex-CIO, what would be your advice to fellow CIOs?
IT has to be a broker of value.  The mindset should not be that if I did not build it, it’s not good.  You have to be a broker of value.  When IT starts thinking that I am a broker of value, you stop becoming sort of paternal about your environment.  For example you could build it, you could buy it, you could rent it, it does not matter as long as you are driving agility, you are driving choice, you are driving innovation – you are doing the right things.  So my line to my IT guys will always be – we are brokers of value, not gatekeepers of value.  That’s a shift.  In a liquid world that has to work if you believe the world is liquid.

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