Get to know VMware’s New CTO of Americas, Cameron Haight

Cameron Haight, VMware VP & CTO, Americas

As the new CTO for the Americas, I’d like to shout out a “howdy” (yes, I am a Texan) to everyone reading my first blog post at VMware.  I’m very excited to be in this role and I also recognize that I have some huge footsteps to follow-in from my predecessor (and now boss), Chris Wolf.  While I’ve been fortunate to interact with thousands of IT professionals over the past seventeen years at Gartner and so some of you may already know me, I thought that it might useful to provide some background for those of you that don’t and the wrap up with a focus on why I left Gartner and chose to come to VMware.

I’ve been in the technology business for over thirty years starting at IBM just out of college (note: I originally planned to become a veterinarian, but as with many things, my plans obviously changed – still love animals though).  At Big Blue, I was lucky to take a somewhat different path than many of my contemporaries who chose to focus on mainframes and instead I had the opportunity to support networking products.  My networking expertise drew the attention of BMC Software (which was located in Houston where I resided) and so I soon focused on supporting their line of network tuning and optimization products and later would move into R&D where I managed the development of several technologies (including working on part of the PATROL product portfolio).

Shortly after Y2K, a former colleague mentioned that Gartner was looking for some application management expertise and so after a rigorous interview process, I became an analyst. Initially, I covered what was then called application management.  I developed the first Magic Quadrant for what I initially called “J2EE Application Server Management” – you can actually find that old MQ online for some reason (later on, we started to call the market APM or application performance monitoring).  Interestingly, many if not most of the companies on that early MQ are no longer in existence giving proof to how difficult it is to remain a successful technology firm.  My monitoring and management background was then called upon to analyze a then emerging phenomenon, i.e., the management of virtual infrastructures.  VMware’s ESX was rapidly gaining market share yet at Gartner we were beginning to receive calls on whether or not existing management and monitoring tools would work in this dynamic environment.  In perhaps foreshadowing a future that now seems upon us, I postulated that VMware would have to morph into more of a management company because I didn’t see how existing tools would necessarily be able to deal with the changes being introduced.  Virtualization management coverage then soon begat cloud management coverage with the outcome being the development of the definition of Gartner’s cloud management platform or CMP architecture with several colleagues.

It was doing work on cloud management that I began to hear terms like “agile infrastructure” and “dev and ops collaboration.”  I stumbled across two presentations by John Allspaw and Andrew Clay Shafer that you can still download that literally turned my world upside down. (note: Andrew Clay Shafer now works at sister company Pivotal).  In addition, the book by John Allspaw and Jesse Robbins provided more substance behind what Patrick Debois would soon start calling DevOps.  This seemed like the answer to what I was observing at Gartner as clients were trying to implement a set of concepts called ITIL – often to little avail, especially for cloud-based environments.  In April 2010, I blogged on DevOps and in October 2010, I wrote the first of my Gartner notes on DevOps which then caused me to (happily) spend almost the next five years helping organizations initiate their agile-oriented IT transformations.  Among my work that I think best helped to contribute to the DevOps knowledge pool was my attempt to categorize all of the critical elements that constituted DevOps as many end users were struggling to understand the entire “body of knowledge.”

In 2015, my future colleague in the office of the CTO at Dell, Barton George, caught up with me at DevOpsDays Austin where I began to talk about how DevOps was necessary but not sufficient and thus for better or worse I had started to use the term Web-scale IT a few years earlier to describe the complete IT value chain revamp that would be necessary for enterprises to become digital businesses in a manner similar to companies such as Amazon, Facebook and Netflix.  Fundamental to my Web-scale IT thinking was the knowledge that I had gained from taking a tour of Facebook’s data center in Redmond, Oregon where they literally had thrown out the book on conventional data center design plus also re-reading an early interview of Amazon CTO Werner Vogels by the late Jim Gray that I had stumbled upon years earlier and where Dr. Vogels discussed the implementation of what today we would call a microservices architecture.

Whew, okay, so much for the background and now I am left with answering the question of “why VMware?”  At one level it was really simple for me … I wanted to be a “doer” and not a “viewer” again (this was an old BMC saying).  I felt a need to do more than just sometimes reporting on the IT industry but perhaps help to actually influence it “from within.” Second, earlier I had mentioned that there had been a lot of market churn and then that combined with the fact that it was very rare for an established company to have a successful “second act,” well, I was intrigued with the opportunity of being a part of what I was calling VMware 2.0 in my interviews.  And as I looked at VMware’s portfolio, it embodied many of the concepts that I had previously worked or wrote on for most of my professional career so intellectually I felt aligned with what the firm was selling.  A plus was the fact that I was going to be able to work again with my predecessor, Chris Wolf, whom I greatly respected when he worked at Gartner.

So that’s it … almost.  I’m sure there might be a question lingering in the air of, well Cameron, now that you’re part of a vendor again, I suspect you will be a total company shill parroting the company line.  Well, in a word, no.  During my interview process I asked many of the people that I spoke to “why the interest in Cameron?”  The frequent answer that I received was some of my past thought leadership.  They wanted someone that could come in and challenge the conventional wisdom and they knew from many of my past interactions with VMware as an analyst that I wasn’t “shy” in offering an opinion.  And here’s my promise to you … I didn’t leave my objectivity and integrity at Gartner when I departed.  I built a career on trying to always say and do the right thing and just because I’m now at VMware, nothing is going to change.