Indian R&D gaining momentum

VMWare's Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Ray O'Farrell talks about their R&D centres in India and the world.

CIOL Bureau
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Indian R&D

CyberMedia Managing Editor Thomas George explores VMware’s culture of innovation along with their global and India R&D centres in an interview with Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Ray O'Farrell.


Q: Can you throw some light on your R&D program both in India and worldwide?

A: Our focus is on the continuous update and management of new features for new product lines like hyper-converged infrastructure. They are very directly related to customer feedback. They are innovative and solutions-oriented. Slightly parallel to that is the office of the CTO which gives total support to R&D. We sometimes have partnerships with different companies to deliver that. In the US we spend a lot of time with customers, partners, hospitals, academia and governments talking about how these technologies fit together and we directly participate in building solutions. That’s the case both globally and in India, which is one of our largest R&D sites. There is a lot of to and fro among all these sites.

We strive for an open culture of innovation and run a lot of programs around it like hackathons. We have programs like xLabs where we behave like mini VCs and actually fund projects around interesting ideas presented by our engineers.


Q: What kind of funding?

A: It’s like a seed model though the people are still VMware employees. If you look at some concrete examples, we have a fairly strong emergent blockchain story at the moment. We want to make sure that we are able to produce products and technology in the space. In that particular case, we put most of that back out into open source.

We do that across many projects. We let them run for different periods of times. Someone will feed in technology into the core product and some of the ideas will die too. These projects are both in Paulo Alto and Bangalore. The technologies being focused out here might have a particular leaning because we have more customers in India asking about x


We have an annual innovation conference where we bring 1400-1500 people from R&D to San Francisco where we focus on new technologies. We look into new forms of encryption and new forms of security. It’s a formal affair where people have to present papers which are reviewed before they can get through. We would have a fairly large presence out of Bangalore.

We also interact with universities, really specific professors who have an interest in the area which intersects with us. We work on interesting areas of research which is funded through our research group. Some of the areas we are working are telco, 5G and smart cities. We also work with them on fundamental technologies such as encryption.

Q: How do you scout for talent and optimize it?


A: We get a lot of interns from the above universities. But we tend to look for strong systems engineers as most of us do hardcore system engineering. We work on user interface and everything associated with it and so we want at least people to be focused on that one aspect.

We look for innovation-driven talent through the programs I have mentioned previously. We have server sites in the US and Europe along with a strong presence in Bangalore, Chennai and Pune. That gives us great flexibility. Highly distributed talent is no problem for us. If we are looking for a particular skill set and there is one person in Chennai and the rest of the team is in Palo Alto, we will make that work. You have to be versatile and make sure you attract people in your innovation agenda.

Q: What about India’s specific contribution?


A: India is a very significant percentage of our R&D and contributes to almost every project that we do. The India site is fairly unique. If we look across the broad portfolio of everything we do: From ESX to storage drivers to end-user computing and securing mobile devices, there are groups here involved in all of those things. The groups range from hardcore developers to service reliability engineers and form well-integrated teams.

Our research team was primarily based out of Palo Alto, breaking out a little bit into Europe but now it’s beginning to branch out here and leverage this team here. When you look at new workloads like Machine Learning, deep learning, some of the ways you would manage cloud infrastructure now is very much being enhanced with GPUs and FPGA-accelerators; with new types of hardware configurations and memory. We are looking at the compute parks in a particular way and some of the projects focused here are the best way we can take.

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