VMware’s research group was bootstrapped with expertise in distributed systems, computer architecture, and algorithms. Key additions to the team have expanded our expertise to include operating systems, hypervisors, compilers, networking, data structures, file systems, distributed ledgers (e.g., Blockchain), key management, verification, constraint solving (SAT), coding, and big data.

The group has the twin goals of ensuring VMware’s technical future and advancing the state of the field, i.e., focusing on both internal impact on the Company and external impact on the research community. While these goals are not atypical for a research organization, some of the distinguishing aspects of our approach are:

Emphasis on disruption. Creating and identifying new sources of disruption is an over-riding objective. The aim is both to create competitive advantage by being the first to champion new technologies and to provide early warning of disruptions that could jeopardize our existing businesses.

External relationships with academia, governments and industry partners. There are many pockets of excellent research in our field, and no single team can corner the market on research advances, especially given the rapid pace of innovation. While in the past it may have been sufficient to incorporate academics into our projects, it is now essential to collaborate with third parties on their projects or, better yet, on truly joint initiatives.

Strong internal partnerships. VMware’s product teams are a “candy store” of systems research opportunities, both as sources of interesting problems to work on and as impactful destinations for novel research. The Company’s unusually open culture with respect to knowledge sharing facilitates the bidirectional flow of design criteria, technical learnings, software artifacts and expertise. To maximize opportunities for research impact, we have worked hard to incorporate VMware’s innovation-friendly culture into the new organization and to integrate our research team within VMware’s larger R&D organization.

Coalesce around larger projects. A common failure mode for research organizations is fragmentation into a large number of activities, none of which gains sufficient traction to be impactful. This can be a sensitive issue since researchers have differentiated interests and need the freedom to pursue their intuitions and passions. The objective is to create an environment in which researchers with diverse skills identify and coalesce around larger projects, enabling their combined impact to far exceed the sum of what they could each achieve on their own.

Build and field prototypes. There is a strong emphasis on building convincing prototypes and finding users for them, either customers, developers or academic researchers. Fielding prototypes create a feedback loop that helps refine the research agenda. They can also create customer “pull” that inspires business executives to invest in the new technology. Making sure the prototypes are realistic ensures that product teams cannot easily discount results, especially those that are counter-intuitive or disruptive to a pre-existing roadmap.

Explore VMware Research to see all the evolving projects as they unfold.