After nearly a decade at VMware, prominent exec Jerry Chen left last month to join VC firm Greylock Partners.
Chen’s decision caused a collective gasp in the enterprise world.
He was an early employee at VMware, joining when the company was about 400 employees strong. (It has about 15,000 employees today.)
He was also the Vice President of Cloud and Application Services, a critical team for VMware.
His departure was seen as part of a bigger brain drain at VMware now that former CEO Paul Maritz has moved on, replaced by Pat Gelsinger.
We recently caught up with Chen. He left VMware as part of his mission to build what he calls the “post server world,” he told us, and he’s inviting other current and past VMware employees to join him.
In many ways, this is what VMware is already doing, from its flagship “server virtualization” product (which allows one physical server to run multiple operating systems) to its leadership with a new tech that threatens Cisco called software-defined networking.
Here’s a lightly edited transcript.
Business Insider: There’s been a lot of talk about the number of execs leaving VMware. What’s going on and why did you leave?
Jerry Chen: At 15,000 employees there will be some employees coming and going. VMware is in transition and the industry itself is in transition.
For me, every five or 10 years you have to ask yourself, am I in the right career? As the VP running a big team, I wasn’t getting my hands as dirty as I wanted to. I love working with new tech and creating category-defining technologies and products.
BI: What’s the next big technology that you’re working on?
JC: The “post server world.” People understand that [the term] post-PC era means we’re no longer using PCs as our primary computing devices, we’re using tablets and mobile phones.
The analogy is that enterprises used to buy servers, networks, storage. In the “post-server world” you’re no longer buying racks of servers and storage. You are buying an Amazon extra-large instance and 2 terabytes of storage per month. Enterprises are quickly moving from building their own data centres to renting capacity in the cloud.
BI: So “post PC” refers to the changes in consumer tech. “Post server” refers to the same trend on the enterprise side?
BI: Former VMware employees have launched quite a few startups. Do VMware employees have a friend in you?
JC: VMware is interesting. There’s a growing alumni network. We’ve been calling it the V-mafia, like the PayPal mafia. For sure the VMware alumni connection will be a great source of entrepreneurs and executives to join companies. I hope that they look at me as a friend or a mentor.
BI: The V-mafia boss?
JC: [Laughs]. Like Don Chen.