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Accelerating Off-roadmap Co-innovation in the Advanced Technology Group

The mantra for VMware’s Office of the CTO (OCTO) is co-innovation. Our Accelerated Technology Group (ATG) plays a key role in these efforts, with six key groups driving meaningful initiatives forward. Today, I’m excited to share a high-level overview of who they are and what they do. In the weeks to come, you’ll hear from the leaders of these groups, who will share their teams’ specific functions and innovation projects in more detail.

ATG is focused on off-roadmap co-innovation for emerging technologies on a sub-three-year horizon. In practice, many of our innovation efforts are aimed to land technologies in the market or an R&D business unit in under 18 months. That’s because the market is moving so quickly that we don’t always have to worry about driving innovation on a longer-term horizon. ATG is made of six distinct groups: xLabs, ATG Engineering, High-Performance Computing and Machine Learning, Platforms and Architecture, Global Field and Industry, and Accelerated Co-innovation Engineering (ACE).

The following is an overview of these groups and their activities:

xLabs is our internal incubation engine — just like a startup accelerator. One aspect that makes xLabs unique is that anybody at VMware who has a great idea can participate in the innovation process, regardless of role in the company or technical skillset. If it’s a promising solution and aligned to our R&D strategy and business objectives, we staff up the engineers to give it life and make it real. xLabs is currently incubating more than a dozen projects in areas such as modern applications, machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), edge computing, and security. Watch our VMworld 2020 session to learn about some of our xLabs projects.

ATG Engineering represents our global engineering function, with engineering teams in the United States, China, India, and Bulgaria. We take a centralized approach to strategic engineering, which allows us to align and achieve a higher degree of focus and results on our engineering initiatives. Furthermore, creating opportunities for engineers around the world to lead and contribute to disruptive innovation projects creates additional opportunities for upward mobility. One example of disruptive innovation led by this team is with Project Harbor, today’s most popular open-source registry.

The High-Performance Computing and Machine Learning group is dedicated to working both internally and externally to enable the use of VMware solutions for hosting high-performance computing (HPC) and ML/AI solutions. It achieves this through extensive performance testing of base platform performance and higher-level workload use cases to demonstrate our capabilities externally, as well as to identify areas of concern, which we bring to the attention of R&D teams for remediation and enhancement. In addition, the team engages with external and internal partners to perform technology POCs, creating and publishing technical white papers and reference architectures. The Machine Learning Program Office (MLPO) works to create a consistent and compelling story/strategy that explains how ML/AI technologies intersect with all aspects of VMware’s business. You can dig into all the AI/ML content presented at VMworld 2020 here.

The Server Platforms and Architecture Team is chartered with identifying emerging hardware trends and driving alignment across multiple internal software business-units (BUs), as well as across our partner ecosystem. This group is also tasked with driving alignment and thought leadership with regard to security needs across VMware products.

Global Field & Industry is a deeply technical field team with a dotted line into the Office of the CTO. They are comprised of Field CTOs, Chief Technologists, Field Principals, and our CTO Ambassadors.​ This 200-member organization represents VMware’s top field thought leaders and most sought-after strategic advisors for senior IT leaders globally. They represent the “tip of the spear” when it comes to collaborative innovation, allowing us to continually calibrate innovation efforts across VMware R&D with the needs of our customers and partners.

The Accelerated Co-innovation Engineering (ACE) is the most recent addition to ATG. This team is focused on accelerating development for future on-roadmap features. This group helps our R&D teams bring new features to market in an accelerated fashion while working closely with our customers and technology partners to shape how new features are implemented into our products.

Blazing new trails

We have realized many innovation successes over the past year because of our commitment to partnership, both internally and externally. There is never a shortage of good ideas and projects to incubate, so the sooner we can mature a project and move onto the next big idea, the better. Equally important is that all of our work happens in collaboration with our R&D teams. It’s easy – and tempting – for any incubation team to graduate a project and declare victory. However, if that work is not well-integrated into an existing product or shipping as a new product, then what you’ve really achieved is delivering metrics – not impact.

We cannot be impactful operating in isolation. This is why collaboration is a core operating principle that is present in every ATG team and project. We operate as an open book and encourage dissent. This means, while we strive to challenge conventional thinking, we need to be challenged as well. To that end, what are your challenges? How can we work together to drive new and interesting technology and business outcomes?