VMware’s big-ticket shopping spree sharpens focus on Kubernetes and cybersecurity

When he was head coach of the NFL’s New England Patriots in the 1990s, Bill Parcells was once asked if he thought he should be involved in acquiring players for his team. “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries,” Parcells said.

To serve up an appealing menu for enterprise customers, VMware Inc. has been shopping for companies and the purchases were largely the story on the opening day of VMworld 2019 in San Francisco on Monday. The most noteworthy acquisitions the firm made just a few days before the start of the annual conference were also the most expensive: Pivotal Software Inc. and Carbon Black Inc.

The combined purchase of the two publicly held companies for $4.8 billion highlighted a key focus by VMware on Kubernetes and cybersecurity. Pivotal has moved more strongly into support for the Kubernetes orchestration tool in recent months with the launch of an application service for the Cloud Foundry platform, which enabled developers to move their apps to software containers.

Containers as game changer

On Monday, VMware furthered its big bet on Kubernetes with the announcement of a new set of services that support the Kubernetes ecosystem. Tanzu will manage containers and virtual machines in a unified view and Project Pacific embeds Kubernetes natively into vSphere, the core VMware platform.

“We think Kubernetes is a game changer,” Pat Gelsinger (pictured), chief executive officer of VMware, said in comments during a press briefing following his keynote remarks on Monday. “We think it’s one of those transformative technologies that only come around in a decade or two.”

The acquisition of Carbon Black, a cybersecurity firm which provides cloud-based endpoint protection solutions, spotlights VMware’s interest in addressing what it sees as a fundamental issue in enterprise computing: Security is a mess.

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“This industry needs to be reshaped,” said Sanjay Poonen, chief operating officer, customer operations at VMware, in his keynote remarks on Monday. “It’s a broken industry with 5,000 vendors. We looked at this industry and said there’s got to be a better way.”

The better way in VMware’s view is to leverage Carbon Black’s rich set of data analytics to transform endpoint security. That will become more significant as VMware follows the mantra delivered by Gelsinger of managing “any app to any device on any cloud.”

Enhancements to AppDefense

VMware’s activity in cybersecurity is beginning to move at warp speed. Following the firm’s eye-catching multi-billion purchase of Carbon Black on Thursday, the company announced on Monday afternoon new enhancements to AppDefense, the formal acquisition of security startup Intrinsic and collaboration with another firm – Kenna Security – to provide risk-based data in the App Verification Cloud.

As outlined in a blog post from Tom Corn, senior vice president and general manager of Security Products at VMware, AppDefense will now deliver vulnerability reports for the entire stack. That includes vSphere plus guest systems and the apps or workloads running inside them.

“There’s no more scans, there’s no more agents,” Corn said during a press briefing on Monday. “It’s actually built right into the platform. We need to focus on building security in as opposed to just bolting it on.”

The common denominator for most of the major news released on the opening day of VMworld was applications. Whether it involved new Kubernetes tools to move them, accelerated GPU services to power them, a hybrid cloud infrastructure to modernize them, or new technologies to secure them, it’s an app world now and VMware has clearly turned its focus to meeting the needs of its customers in this area.

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In his post-keynote meeting with the media after delivering his remarks, Gelsinger referenced no less than Michael Dell himself, who happened to be sitting in the audience barely five feet away.

“Michael Dell has this little saying: ‘pleased but not satisfied,’” Gelsinger said. “We are not done. With the cloud as the foundation we’re about to expand the application experience.”

Photo: Robert Hof/SiliconANGLE

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