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Steve Herrod, VMWare CTO

Steve Herrod, chief technology officer for VMWare, made a swing through Seattle today, amid news that the company is planning a major expansion in its hometown of Palo Alto, Calif.

No similar announcement here, but VMWare is on the hunt for talent in general and has a modest presence in the Seattle region already, through its own offices and those brought on through its recent acquisition of Seattle-based online backup service Mozy from EMC (which owns 80 percent of VMWare).

Led by former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz, VMware is known for its core virtualization technology, but the company has been expanding in recent years into cloud computing infrastructure, development platforms and even acquiring some of its own end user applications, such as the Sliderocket presentation software. We talked about that evolution, the engineering talent crunch, and VMWare’s competition with the likes of Microsoft and Amazon.

Continue reading for excerpts from Herrod’s comments.

On the future of enterprise applications: We certainly see a world where Windows will be around forever, and you’ll have some key applications there. But there’s a disruptive set of application types that are coming around. … We really want to accelerate the world toward new types of applications, and the hallmarks of those applications are web-based, work well with mobile devices, and they’re collaborative.

On Sliderocket: To say it’s a PowerPoint alternative misses the whole point. The idea, first of all is that people collaborate on presentations. You are able to have 10 people working on a single document. And it will grab the latest work from each of them. The second thing is that’s probably neater is it grabs live data for the presentation, so the presentation is always up to date. And the third way is that when you deliver the presentation, you’re delivering it over the web. And I also get analytics — you looked at page 3 for a particularly long amount of time, maybe that’s something interesting.

On the tech talent crunch: It’s obviously an exciting time to be growing. (The Palo Alto expansion) is a bet that things will continue to do well, and that talent pools in certain areas are going to continue to be there. But we compete rather well against all the big players in Silicon Valley and up here, as well. There is definitely a talent crunch that everyone is recognizing, especially those that are expanding as rapidly as we are.

On the impact of the former Microsoft executives in VMWare’s leadership ranks: We’re a huge company, we’ve had people come from Microsoft and Google and everywhere else, so I wouldn’t say there’s any (Microsoft) footprint or anything like that.

On VMWare’s competition with Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud: We are an enterprise company, we are not a consumer company. We really come at it from the infrastructure up. We start by modernizing the data center, then making it more cloud-like, then moving it to developers and end users. So we’ve come from that angle. We are trying to do most of this in a way that preserves choice. At least Amazon and Microsoft, the journey to the cloud ends at their data center. It doesn’t allow you to come out or go to other ones. That’s a pretty big difference, and we think it’s a pretty important one.

On working with Seattle storage company Isilon, acquired last year by EMC: We were working with Isilon even before EMC bought them, and customers that have chosen that as their big file system want it to interoperate with VMWare. So we obviously have them work together quite well. It’s only increased because Isilon itself seems to be on a rapid ramp. They’re used for big clouds, essentially, so as we get into big clouds and they do, it’s something that overlaps quite a bit. They’re a great company — they’ve gone through some bumps but they seem to be really hitting their stride at this point.

On the VMWare culture: We’re more than 4,000 engineers. I’ll mostly speak to the engineering side. It’s a little bit different. It’s not quite the Disneyland of some of the companies, it’s maybe not as well-known for the in-your-face perks. … We get a lot of people that have been at different startups and really want to get to a place where they’re shipping real enterprise-class software that works, and has a reputation for working. So there’s a lot of pride in the work being very high-quality. Yet, also everything we’re doing is fairly disruptive, so they like that blend.

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