The Whiteboard

Calling All Innovators: We’re Over Here!

VMware was built on a foundation of innovation. Starting with our founding in 1998, we built the virtualization technologies that permanently changed the technology landscape. Ever since, we have continued to invest effort and money into innovations that solve important problems in several areas, from technology to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance).

We’ve learned that fostering innovation requires a lot more than just words. That’s why VMware has consciously nurtured a company culture–and created exciting programs–designed to ignite creative thinking in our employees. And I’m proud to say that many of those programs originated and continue to flourish inside of the Office of the CTO.

The following is an overview of some of our coolest innovation programs.

xLabs

I’m exceptionally proud of this internal incubation program. It functions like a startup, accepting and considering ideas pitched by employees from any department in the company. If xLabs finds a project worthy and thinks that it might find its way onto the roadmap of one of our products, we invest money and engineering support to make it happen. This was the genesis of many of our most innovative ideas and projects, including Project Narrows, Project Trinidad, and Project Idem (which has since been mainstreamed into a business unit). The xLabs team developed a great VMware Explore session earlier this year that goes into more detail about the group and its activities.

Flings

This is a program that enables VMware engineers to get new functionality out to customers in an unsupported way, allowing customers to try it out in non-production environments while providing valuable feedback to engineers. We use that feedback to refine, upgrade, fix bugs and pivot the offerings when needed. Flings don’t always end up as part of VMware products and are not officially supported. But the Flings site is a thriving hub of creativity that reinforces our co-innovation approach–I encourage you to check it out! Some of the more popular Flings include a vSphere HTML5 Web Client, ESXi Embedded Host Client, and VMware OS Optimization Tool.

The VMware Flings platform is easy to navigate, find information, and download applications.

RADIO

At the very heart of our innovative culture lies an internal R&D conference, affectionately referred to as RADIO, which stands for Research and Development Internal Offsite. This unique annual gathering brings together about 1,500 VMware engineers across the globe. They share their work, learn from their peers, collaborate, and party! Dozens of products and patents have come from ideas that first surfaced at RADIO. Project Peaberry comes to mind as one successful idea that originated at RADIO. A team started exploring the opportunity to use field-programmable gate array (FPGA) to offload memory management tasks in various use cases: remote memory, live virtual machine migration, and ultimately to accelerate vMotion operation. As you can see, it gets really techy — and not surprisingly, it’s one of the highlights of our year.

Chris Wolf, Chief Research & Innovation Officer, on the left and me on the right, exploring the Expo during RADIO 2022 in San Francisco.

Tech Talks

This program has been around since 2004 and is a bit like our internal version of a TED Talk. Several times a week, presenters share their innovative projects, ideas, and use cases with their peers from around the world and across all of our business units. Occasionally, topics vary from traditional IT infrastructure-related content to personal interests like, say, photography, hardware, or energy consumption. The thread with these talks is that they are decidedly technical in nature, and presented by someone who has significant expertise in the content area. This is yet another way we connect with each other to cultivate collective creativity. At last check, the Tech Talk archive included more than 1,500 talks.

Earlier this year, the “Smooth Team” from Sofia, Bulgaria, lead a Tech Talk on their next-gen Multi-Cloud Kubernetes operators platform aimed at creating a smoother developer experience.

Borathons

Named after our primary code repository called Bora Bora, Borathons are the VMware version of a hackathon. They are usually themed (for example, reducing industry carbon emissions or furthering edge computing) and open to all groups. These events provide an opportunity for collaboration and have produced novel ideas and proofs-of-concept. Since their inception, they’ve proven to be a great launching point for ideas our innovators have been kicking around.

This Palo Alto Borathon included three executive challenges around Kubernetes, secure service deployments, and creating flexible, scalable storage solutions for vSphere.

There are other informal ways we cultivate innovation at VMware and within the Office of the CTO. There’s no question VMware supports innovators up and down the organization. All you have to do is take a look at our most recent VMware Explore Vision & Innovation track — 53 sessions showcasing a repeatable, supported, well-resourced innovation capacity across the organization and beyond (co-innovating with partners and customers).

We are proud to work for a company where technologists come to participate, advance their own knowledge, and enhance their careers. So, if you’re looking for a place where you can do the same–we’re over here!

Best,
Kit

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