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VMware CEO on cloud push, 5G, and artificial intelligence

October 5, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

Amid increasing competition, business-software maker VMware’s new CEO, Raghu Raghuram, is pushing heavily into so-called multi-cloud technology.

The company announced new tools on Tuesday for companies to build and run corporate apps that are powered by both in-house data centers and those of cloud computing giants like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google. The tools, called VMware Cross-Cloud services, are an extension of previously released features for customers that buy the services of multiple cloud vendors while still operating their own data centers, sometimes called multi- or hybrid cloud.

“The future of digital business is actually not one cloud, but the future of digital businesses is multi-cloud,” Raghuram told Fortune. “And that fundamentally is the trend that we’re seeing with our customers.”

Raghuram pitched VMware as “the Switzerland” of cloud computing, in which IT managers use its software to oversee their corporate web infrastructure without having to rely on a single public cloud vendor like Amazon. It’s a similar pitch that legacy IT giants like IBM, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Cisco tout as businesses increasingly buy more cloud services while relying less on their own data centers.

But Raghuram said that VMware distinguishes itself by emphasizing cybersecurity tools and that its services are used by many businesses that operate internal data centers through his company’s flagship data center management software. 

“We have a track record of being the foundation for the most critical applications in the data centers today,” said Raghuram. “If our software stopped working, banks stopped working; hospitals stopped working.”

Still, VMware faces increased competition from cloud giants like Amazon and Microsoft, which are also beginning to sell tools to help companies manage multiple cloud services through the popular Google-developed Kubernetes software tool.

Raghuram, who became VMware CEO in June, replacing Pat Gelsinger, who left to become CEO of chip titan Intel, also said that companies are spending more money on technology after a lull caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that third-party cloud computing spending “has certainly gone up faster than spending on private data centers,” meaning that Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are all experiencing big growth. 

Raghuram also said that telecommunication customers are beginning to build infrastructure to power superfast 5G wireless technologies, a market VMware is trying to court. Although spending on 5G technologies is picking up, it will “take the next several years,” before consumers and companies will be able to widely reap the benefits of the cutting-edge wireless tech, he said.

Businesses are also increasingly investing in A.I., Raghuram explained, particularly in the training of machine-learning systems, which requires powerful computer chips. Despite the availability of cloud A.I. training services from Amazon and others, companies still train much of their machine-learning software inside their own data centers.

“There’s a lot of data on-premises, so you’re not going to be able to move all of the data to the cloud,” Raghuram said.

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