VMware’s Maritz: No more putting lipstick on legacy apps

Speaking to a jam-packed room of thousands, VMware (s vmw) CEO Paul Maritz kicked off today’s VMworld conference by declaring, once again, the advent of the cloud era. If you don’t believe him, just look at the numbers. As Maritz highlighted, there are now more virtual workloads deployed worldwide than there are physical workloads. There are 1 million VMs launched every second is one VM deployed every six seconds. There are more than 20 million VMs deployed overall.

Assuming that most of those are running atop some version of VMware’s hypervisor, there’s a lot of reason to care what Maritz has to say about the future of the cloud. His company will have a major role in defining the transition from virtualization to cloud computing.

Maritz noted that there’s a lot of hype around the cloud, even acknowledging that “We at VMworld are not immune to cloud fever,” he said, but he believes it’s more than just a fad. Maritz thinks there are three very profound, and very real, forces driving the move to cloud computing: modernization of infrastructure, investment in new and renewed applications, and entirely new modes of end-user access.

However, there’s a big difference between what drove the world to deploying 20 million VMs and what will drive it to modernize infrastructure even further with the cloud. Consolidation largely drove the move to virtualization, but applications and mobile devices will drive the move to cloud computing.

On the application front, Maritz looks to  what he calls canonical applications. “When canonical applications change, that’s when you see really profound change [across the computing ecosystem],” Maritz said. He pointed to bookkeeping applications as indicative of the mainframe era, and to ERP, CRM and e-commerce as the defining applications of the client-server era.

Real-time and high-scalability capabilities — both in terms of traffic and data — are driving the development of new applications. Being able to analyze data days after it’s generated, or to adapt to new traffic patterns within days, just isn’t good enough anymore. We can’t keep “putting lipstick around” current applications and expect them to meet these new demands, Maritz said.

How we write those applications also will be critical, because they’ll have to run on a variety of non-PC devices. We’re approaching the intersection of consumerization and next-generation enterprise IT, Maritz explained, which means that companies like VMware have to plan for very serious change. Running enterprise applications on consumer devices, especially of the mobile variety, is a big change.

They’ll have to embrace things such as HTML5 to enable cross-platform applications, and new programming frameworks to attract young developers that demand a simple, dynamic development experience. Companies will also have to figure out how to secure corporate data against the myriad threats that accompany employees downloading apps willy-nilly and operating often on unsecured (0r at least less-secured) networks. VMware CTO Steve Herrod actually will be highlighting VMware’s role in the mobile ecosystem at our Mobilize conference next month, and it’s safe to assume these will be among the topics he addresses.

Maritz, of course, thinks VMware has strong plays in all of these spaces — vSphere, Cloud Foundry, Horizon, the list does on — and he highlighted them. However, as my colleague Stacey Higginbotham pointed out while highlighting the key VMworld trends, VMworld isn’t alone in making this realization. It has major competition, including from companies like Microsoft (s msft) that know both the enterprise and the consumer spaces very well.

Every year at VMworld, Maritz highlights the movement toward cloud computing and how VMware is driving that migration. In large part, he’s right every time on the latter point. Now that almost everyone is on board with Maritz’s vision, though, I’m interested to see how long VMworld, and VMware in general, continues to drive the discussion around the future of IT.