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When It Comes To Engineering, India Is Our Highest Growth Centre: Chris Wolf, VMware

In a brief conversation, Chris Wolf (Chief Research and Innovation Officer, VMware) shared his views on the importance of India to VMware, the organisation’s response to economic headwinds, government trends in relation to tech, quantum readiness and more

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Chris Wolf, Chief Research and Innovation Officer, VMware

During his recent visit to India, Chris Wolf (Chief Research and Innovation Officer, VMware) caught up with BW Businessworld’s Rohit Chintapali. In the brief conversation, Wolf shared his views on the importance of India to VMware, the organisation’s response to economic headwinds, government trends in relation to tech, quantum readiness and more. Read on for excerpts from the interview.

Edited Excerpts:

How important is India to VMware?

India is our highest growth centre when it comes to engineering. Period. It's really important. What we're looking to do on the innovation-side is being far more agile in driving innovation through India. For instance, we announced VMware Cloud on Equinix data centres just last month and the entirety of the development work for VMware Cloud on Equinix was done right here in India by our innovation team. 

Moreover, you are seeing us move not just engineering functions, but product management functions here too, to make it localised. This is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when we can co-locate product management and engineering right here in India, we can build products faster. Secondly, from a human perspective, it’s allowing us to not require engineers in India to work really bad hours and have a poor work-life balance because they are having to maintain these meetings with folks in the United States. Additionally, we are continuing to grow and expand our research partnerships in India. Recently, we announced a deeper partnership with IIT Bombay.

Against the backdrop of a plausible recession, how is VMware looking at the coming year? Do you see the organisation being a bit more conservative?

VMware was very conservative at the start of this calendar year from a hiring perspective because we saw the headwinds coming. It allowed us to navigate some of these challenges and some of the macro trends in a far more efficient way than some of the other companies in the software industry that have had fairly massive layoffs. In fact, we have multiple job requisitions opened and several of them in India, right now. So, we are not planning to slowdown. But we want to be smart in hiring and continue to grow as a company. 

Tech stocks have taken a beating this year but majority of leaders I have talked to say that technology will continue to grow even during a recession. Your comments on this?

There have definitely been some tech companies that grew too quickly and hired too quickly. And they created some challenges for themselves. But from where VMware stands, a lot of the technologies we build help our customers save money. As they look to cut costs, it becomes an area of growth for us. For instance, if they're looking to be smarter and better optimised in how they consume cloud services, VMware sells software that allows them to do that. Similarly, if they are looking to reduce their carbon footprint, we sell software that helps them with that too. Even against the backdrop of energy crises, VMware plays a very important and strategic role. To me, this all points to a very positive period for VMware through the next several years.

VMware works with many governments across the globe. What are the key trends that you observe pertaining to governments everywhere when it comes to technology?

I'd say the biggest global trend right now would be sovereign cloud and looking to keep applications and data within the country or region. Also, security and privacy threats of ransomware are all really important today. There's a technology that we have been developing which has been very well received by numerous governments across the globe. It is giving them the capability to decouple cryptography from applications. This means that if one has sensitive applications that they want to move up to a quantum safe cipher because they are worried about some data capture, we have built technology that will allow them to do that. That's something we pre-announced at our US conference. 

We are also helping shape governments’ private cloud or private and sovereign cloud initiatives as well. Being able to leverage a variety of different open-source applications and technologies helping with secure supply chain and supply chain attestation are also trending. These have been the areas where we've been really at the centre of it.

How is VMware working to the push envelope of quantum computing? How far are we from quantum computers?

VMware’s position on Quantum has been around building technologies that can provide better quantum readiness. And that drove our decision to really invest in modularising cryptography. Because it can help our customers make that transition very seamlessly. When we saw Quantum, we felt the biggest customer impact was going to be on how they secure their applications and data. Hence, our focus in the last few years has been building technology that can help solve this problem. And we've taken an industry leadership position there and that's really starting to pay off for us. We were definitely the first mover in quantum safe cryptography and crypto agility. These have been big for us. 

A question that I've asked customers recently is: “How many of you lose sleep over quantum readiness?” And a lot of them chuckle. They are not taking it seriously because there is no customer expectation that they need to worry about in the next couple of years. And I think that's fair. We don't know how many years we are away, but it's certainly not next year.