VMware's Maritz sees 'post-document' era

Huge streams of data will define hardware and change IT practices in the coming years, he said

The PC era is giving way to a world centered on data, where devices and infrastructure are shaped by the information that users want to get from them, VMware President and CEO Paul Maritz said on Wednesday.

"I do agree with Steve Jobs when he says we're at the beginning of the end of the PC era," Maritz said at the Gigaom Structure conference in San Francisco. "Perhaps, in the long term, [what is] more profound is the post-document era," he added. The PC was originally invented to automate a workplace where white-collar workers primarily created documents, but the main task for people today is filtering and distributing streams of data, he said during an on-stage interview with Gigaom founder Om Malik.

That data will determine what devices look like, rather than the other way around, because it will outlive any particular piece of hardware where it may reside, Maritz said. "All of us are going to be characterized by a body of individual information that's going to have to live with us our whole lives," he said. Meanwhile, there will be conflicts over who can control that data and make money from that data.

The lessons learned by consumer companies, such as Facebook, that are grappling with these problems will not be lost on mainstream IT departments.

"People already in that space have already had to evolve architectures that have to deal with data sets far larger than you find in the enterprise," he said. As a result, new data architectures such as Hadoop are migrating from big online companies to general enterprises, he said. Companies of all kinds want to become more efficient in how they run their infrastructures. Automation, in the form of moving workloads around a virtualized environment, is VMware's top priority, he said.

"We can't afford, this next time around, to write applications that have inflexible schemas that can't be scaled, and that require a new set of data paradigms," Maritz said. Developers have also adopted programming environments such as Ruby and Spring that provide scalability without their having to think about it, he added.

Greater efficiency has also found its way to VMware, where Maritz said he was proud that the company can come out with a major new release of its highly complex flagship software once a year. The next major version of Vsphere is due later this year, he said.

"If that release comes out on schedule -- which every indication is that it will -- it will actually be the first major system software release that I've ever been associated with that has actually shipped on time," Maritz said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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