VMware's Diane Greene Is For Real, But Is Los Angeles? - InformationWeek

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11/10/2006
12:15 AM
Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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VMware's Diane Greene Is For Real, But Is Los Angeles?

A conversation with Diane Greene, president of VMware, is an unusual experience among powerhouse software companies. She is the organizing force behind a company that is a market leader, but there's little of the weighty, driven executive about her.

A conversation with Diane Greene, president of VMware, is an unusual experience among powerhouse software companies. She is the organizing force behind a company that is a market leader, but there's little of the weighty, driven executive about her.Instead, she gives off more of an air of competence and plain spokenness. Sometime over the next 12 months, VMware will be headed measureably toward the billion-dollar mark in revenue, thanks to its mastery of virtualization technology, a field replete with hidden risks. In the face of complexity, she is real, down to earth, neither intimidating nor intimidated by events.

She laughs easily when an interviewer pokes fun at the demand for software perfection, expressed by Stanford professor David Cheriton, a member of a panel at VMworld 2006, VMware's third annual user group. Cheriton said software engineers need to be more like aeronautical engineers. Both of their products, once they're up and running, need to keep running.

Just like an academic to expect perfection, says her interviewer, and Greene laughs. Well, he's right (Cheriton is an old wind surfing buddy of Greene's), she says, and besides, she's married to a Stanford professor as well, and she laughs again, this time more heartily.

Her husband is Mendel Rosenblum, chief scientist of VMware and co-founder. If the company has an academic air to it, it's because it did its homework. VMware lead everyone in translating the x86 instruction set, the interface between operating system calls to the hardware and the 1s and 0s that tell the hardware what to do.

Seven thousand people attended VMworld in Los Angeles Nov. 7-9, double the number at last year's user group gathering. The show was originally scheduled for Moscone West, the new hall of the Moscone Center in San Francisco. But Moscone West only held 4,000. The show felt like it had been belatedly shifted to the Los Angeles Convention Center; it seemed to get under way with an air of hastily prepared facilities. Everyone complained that the main link to the outside world, a VMware-sponsored wireless network, wasn't working very well. They'd get on and get dropped, or not get on at all.

It turns out that certain vendors were piggybacking their own wireless equipment on top of the shows, and some of them had inadvertently set their switches to pick up their own traffic and eliminate everybody elses.

Many of the show's attendees had to stay in hotels next to the LAX airport, 16 miles from the Convention Center, after hotels around the center filled up. Depending on the time of day, that meant a 35- to 55-minute bus ride through traffic. A rider on that bus from, let's say Cleveland or Boston, could look out the window and see tall palm trees dotting the city landscape on an opening day where temperatures were going to go to 98 or 99, an unreal contrast with conditions back home.

The bus passed one billboard after another touting the latest movies to hit the theaters. Don't Angelinos have any other means of learning what's playing? Oh, right, this is Tinsel Town and all that jazz. Everyone here pays attention to Hollywood, and Hollywood makes people rich by simulating reality in the movies. Maybe it was foreordained that the virtual machine, as it blossomed, would get displayed in Los Angeles, a place for showing a simulated reality inside the real hardware.

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