VMware CTO on giving staff choice of their own devices

Each week we ask chief technology officers (CTOs) and other high-profile tech decision-makers three questions.

Image caption Stephen Herrod says doing more with less is a constant challenge

This week, Stephen Herrod, CTO and senior vice president of research and development, is providing the answers.

VMware is a global provider of virtualisation and cloud infrastructure software, including VMware vSphere. The Silicon Valley-based company had revenues of $2.9bn (£1.8bn; 2.1bn euros) in 2010.

What's your biggest technology problem right now?

I was in London last week and had a chance to meet a huge number of public and private sector companies. The technology problem that we're tackling there is how are we able to do a lot more with less.

The British government is an obvious example where they have less funds than ever, and are responding to the need for more services, and pretty exciting events like the Olympics. How to handle the influx of people and technology needs are obviously front and centre.

But it extends to the private sector as well. The technology problem now is how do you take what they have today and make it substantially cheaper to operate.

There's a lot of talk of cloud computing everywhere, but cloud is often portrayed as this nirvana, this perfect way of doing things with technology. But it often seems in order to accomplish it you have to throw away everything you've invested in.

So our top technology problem is really bringing the benefits of cloud computing to all of the customers in a very evolutionary and very pragmatic way.

What's the next big tech thing in your industry?

My passion is around a lot of things going on in the mobile industry.

I was in Barcelona a few weeks ago for the Mobile World Congress: 50,000 customers, partners and people coming together to look at how smartphones and tablets are coming together. What's interesting is that these are mostly consumer types of devices today.

You and I probably buy and use interesting devices at home that we can't use in the office.

What I'm really excited about is how we let individuals choose the best device for what they want to do, how do we let them have the freedom to bring that productivity-enhancing device to work.

Companies have responsibility for putting controls in place and making sure that data doesn't leak out from their company. So we're really focused on how we allow people to bring their device to work and then allow IT to let them use it, but in a very safe way.

What's the biggest technology mistake you've ever made - either at work or in your own life?

That's a tough question to ask people!

I went to graduate school here in Silicon Valley at Stanford. It's renowned for churning out a lot of interesting companies. My first office mates were the founders of Yahoo, and I distinctly remember telling them to stop wasting their time and focus on their school work before they went off and started that.

And then not learning from my mistake, I then went on to share the hallway with the founders of Google and had a pretty similar conversation with them.

So after telling two multi-billion dollar companies it probably wasn't a good idea, I feel I've learned a little bit. The good news is that Silicon Valley keeps churning out new companies so you get it right eventually.

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