From left, VMware head of Americas, Dominick Delfino and vice-president and Canadian country manager Sean Forkan. Photo by Alex Coop.

Published: August 27th, 2019

VMware has been aggressively trying to transform itself from a strict virtualization company to one that’s qualified to meet the needs of app developers using Kubernetes, and the needs of smaller enterprises struggling to find their footing in a cloud-first world.

And that struggle, especially in Canada, is still very real, according to Sean Forkan, VMware’s vice-president and country manager for Canada, who spoke with IT World Canada ahead of VMworld 2019.

“Most Canadian companies today are taking the time to reflect on what cloud means to them,” Forkan said shortly before VMware announced the acquisition of Pivotal and Carbon Black. “A year or two ago, these companies might have said ‘I’ve got a cloud-first strategy’, but what they thought and understood cloud to be back then is very different from what they’re faced with today.”

Getting Canadian businesses to understand just how tightly intertwined the end-user experience is with the rest of the infrastructure, which for most organizations now includes a hybrid cloud strategy, is one of the newer challenges the company faces today, according to VMware’s recently appointed head of Americas, Dominick Delfino.

“IT is no longer relegated to the back office of payroll, and customers are relying on digital solutions to transact with your business. So you have to have the right foundation to build a business on top of.”

For many organizations, that often involves the use of several public clouds. Years ago VMware realized it couldn’t sustain its public cloud business and compete with the likes of Amazon, which is why in 2017 it sold vCloud Air to OVH, Europe’s largest cloud hosting provider. VMware then doubled down on its virtualization platforms and management tools, leading to partnerships with IBM, AWS, and Azure, which have allowed customers to use VMware products while moving to the public cloud.

But the growing number of regulatory frameworks around data privacy globally, combined with the fact that 2019 is on track to be the worst year for breach activity, is setting off alarms in boardrooms everywhere. It’s not much different in Canada, where Forkan said companies are typically two to three years behind their U.S. counterparts when it comes to cloud adoption and integration.

And criminals know this too, he added. They also know most small to mid-sized enterprises have woefully under-resourced IT departments, and are targeting them with surgical precision as a result.

“The level of sophistication of these attacks downmarket is absolutely terrifying,” said Forkan.

The number of attack surfaces is increasing, he added, but the number of experts needed to secure them is not. “If you’re a $50-$60 million company in Canada, and there are lots of those I imagine, you probably have a part-time person named Bob or Jill who is your Microsoft expert and your Mac expert, your print expert, your wireless and security expert. There is just no way you can have domain expertise on all of that.”

The two executives agreed that channel partners will find enormous opportunities as SMEs desperately try to get the right help, but even with VMware’s partner-first mindset and an added emphasis on integration and security, the issue of data privacy remains a complicated one. The rising number of connected devices and sensors doesn’t make answering this question any easier.

“I don’t think we have a strong regulatory framework around [data privacy],” said Forkan. “There needs to be a real partnership between industry and government around building one. What are you going to do for the bulk of Canadian businesses, which are in that $60 million range, to help and guide them?”

Forkan and Delfino said it’s going to require a bit of a culture change across the company, meaning more partnerships and more joint-sales motions, but the organization is adamant about helping customers tackle these large problems.

“It’s something that we’re committed to,” said Forkan.