“You will not be able to make everyone happy,” explained Dirk Hohndel, just a few months into his appointment as VMware’s Chief Open Source Officer. “And my goal is not to make everyone happy. My goal is to find the projects where there is agreement to be found, to make things better for them, for us, for the customers.”
Hohndel is discussing the tight-wire act that anyone must perform when serving as the public face for open source development, while at the same time representing a company that tightly guards and protects its intellectual property. When the containerization “movement” (such as they are in technology circles) first began, Docker Inc., along with a handful of other companies in Docker’s orbital vicinity, set forth to execute a kind of software-based infrastructure revolution. The objective of that revolution was to overturn VMware’s solid hold on the infrastructure layer.
VMware’s response is ongoing, and may yet be viewed historically as masterful. After only a short period of fighting back, VMware adopted the mantle of the movement itself. And at VMworld 2016 in late August, where we interviewed Hohndel for this edition of The New Stack Makers podcast, it was assembling the components and the business strategy to actually take over the lead of the entire movement.
In short, VMware pivoted before the revolution could hit it.
Hohndel’s reputation in the open source community was already legendary before he joined VMware. He was the long-time CTO of the original SuSE Linux AG organization, and later headed open source efforts at Intel for 15 years. Now, he finds himself the point man for perhaps the most important effort VMware has thus far undertaken: selling the idea of vSphere integration to a development community that still, for the most part, perceives proprietary platforms as the enemy.