Interview with Elie Kanaan, VP Marketing EMEA, VMware

By on April 17, 2012
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We discuss where virtualization is heading and the company’s plans for the region.


Last week at the VMware Forum in Dubai, I managed to catch up with Elie Kanaan, VP Marketing EMEA, for VMware Inc. VMware has been at the forefront of virtualization technology for a number of years, and I was interested to find out from Elie what the company had planned for the rest of the year as well as what was in store for the Middle East Region.

Firstly Elie, thank you very much for your time – I know how busy you must be here at the VMware Forum.
Not at all, you have all of my time!

What is your typical day like for you at VMware?
My job is really to make sure that VMware as a brand is well-know by all of our customers and known for providing relevant value to their business. Each day my team and I across the various EMEA regions make sure that this message is being driven across to customers and partners, influencers, and analysts.

Elie Kanaan, VP Marketing EMEA, VMware

Why are businesses only now realizing the benefits of turning some of their servers virtual? What’s really been stopping them from adopting this sooner?
Adoption of virtualization is picking up quite significantly. I joined VMware two and a half years ago when we were talking about 25% of companies adopting virtualization, but now we’re talking about 50-55%. VMware specifically virtualizes x86 architecture, so if a business runs mainframes or other critical architecture, then of course virtualization won’t apply to them. Secondly, I think it’s as simple as companies not knowing about the real benefits of virtualization or that it’s not affordable or secure. Lastly, some companies might not have the IT infrastructure that would benefit from virtualization, so we’re talking about really small businesses that run maybe one or two non-critical servers.

So what would you say is the ‘checklist’ that a business should look at before deciding to approach virtualization?
Size is an important factor here – if you’re at three or four servers, then it’s questionable. As soon as you start having ten or more servers, then it’s something to seriously consider, because then you can cut it down to a few physical servers running VMs. You then allows you to cut down on operating expenses, maintenance, and other associated costs and divert that money elsewhere in IT.

The theme of the VMware Forum is on the cloud, and how it’s going to change how we consume IT resources. How will the cloud integrate into VMware’s current technologies – will we see VMs running off the cloud or being backed up to the cloud for example?
That’s a good question – we see two views on the cloud first and foremost. There’s the public cloud such as Amazon which allows you to sync and share information that it’s mission-critical. Then there’s the private cloud where you would take your enterprise datacenter, and integrate it with cloud-like services that you can offer to your end users. What we’re building is the technology to enable that private cloud and to ensure we have the right catalog of services and policies on hand for businesses.

Do you see introduction of other virtualization products such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V having any effect on your stance in the market?
It’s good to always have a choice in the market, and I understand that companies would like to have alternative options available to them. We enjoy such a massive market share that it’s healthy to have a bit of competition in the market, so that we’re constantly innovating new technologies that proves our market worth and stay a few steps ahead of everyone else.

Are you able to share any figures or research on how many companies in the region are moving towards virtualization with VMware?
There hasn’t been any formal study yet on the statistics for our region, but it could be anywhere between 10-20% of companies moving to virtualization. Of course, we are nowhere close to the figures in western markets, but we’re getting there.

Staying with the region, what do you think are some of the challenges you will face with having companies move to virtualization?
That’s another good question – my personal view is that there are really two main drivers for adopting virtualization. One is the cost, and the other is being able to have a much quicker and more reactive IT system which can recover from a disaster in two minutes instead of two days. The obstacle is that there might not be a lot of cost pressure on IT in this region – it’s less about cost-cutting and more about reapplying costs to provide a bigger competitive advantage for the company. If we our job well about educating companies, I think things are going to take off really well in the region.

Now obviously the bulk of your business comes from the enterprise, but do you ever see in the distant future any focus on the consumer side or any benefits that a consumer might get from some degree of virtualization?
Let me give you an example of where consumer virtualization could come in. We looked at mobile phones – so many people carry multiple phones; one for personal, one for business, and we thought that maybe there would be a way to combine the different profiles into just one phone. So we’re looking at a mobile virtualization platform that lets you have two virtual environments on the same physical device. So one profile would be for your personal email, Facebook, and contacts – the other profile with have your company email and company contacts. If you lose your phone, and IT administrator can send a remote command to the phone to wipe the profile from the device so that no data is compromised.  That I think will be really interesting to people – you can now have one device with several different virtual environments to cater to your needs, all separated and protected from each other. We’ve worked with a few telecoms at the moment to pilot the technology, and I think for the moment that’s about the closest you’ll get to consumer-level virtualization beyond products such as VMware Fusion and VMware Workstation.

Lastly, this is the first time you’ve held the VMware Forum in the Middle East – what kind of feedback have you received from the delegates and what are your plans for the next show?
The one feedback that I’ve got consistently from partners and customers is “finally” and to do it again in the future. It’s important for us to meet people from the community and those who use our products, so it’s a good learning experience for everyone. It’s certainly the beginning of a long journey ahead!


A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys hurling fireballs and tinkering with the latest gadgets. Follow him on Twitter as @theregos

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