VMware Hires Former SAP Mobile Chief Sanjay Poonen To Shore Up Executive Ranks

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Former SAP Mobile Chief Sanjay Poonen has been hired to run VMware’s end-user business, a move that will help to shore up the virtualization company’s executive ranks after a long run of high-profile departures.

Poonen will join VMware as an executive vice president and general manager to run the business group that is home to the company’s Horizon suite, a platform designed for IT to manage users’ desktops and mobile devices.

Poonen was most recently president and corporate officer of Platform Solutions and the Mobile Division at SAP AG. He worked at the company for seven years, starting in the analytics group.

VMware has shifted course over the past 18 months. The virtualization leader has worked to become more of an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provider. It has shed its end-user technologies, such as  enterprise email platform Zimbra and slide presentation service SlideRocket.

Socialcast, the activity stream technology it acquired, is still part of VMware. Its future appears to be more solid and has the potential to serve as a linchpin for the company’s mobile strategy. In July, VMware Socialcast launched a new version of its iOS mobile app and plans to launch more apps in the coming months.

Poonen has 20 years of experience working with enterprise vendors in strategy and product management. It’s that experience that VMware needs after the departure of a number of executives, including CEO Paul Maritz who left to join parent company EMC as the No. 2 to Joe Tucci. Maritz is now leading Pivotal, the spinoff that includes groups from EMC and VMware. Steve Herod left in January as CTO to become a venture capitalist. The team that led Cloud Foundry moved on to Pivotal or left the company. VMware is now led by CEO Pat Gelsinger, who had been at EMC and then transferred to take on the CEO job.

Poonen is well-regarded in the tech industry. In an interview he downplayed the significance of executives leaving VMware or of a “brain drain.” He instead calls it a chapter change for the company. He does not know what the next chapter will look like, but sees how SAP shifted in 2010 to a co-CEO team. Since then it has focused deeply on analytics and mobile, as well as a particular emphasis on startups and growing its developer community.

Jon Reed is a longtime SAP mentor and expert about the company. He is part of a core group of influencers who have encouraged the company to build a developer community. He said Poonen is one of the few executives who actually does listen. As a result, SAP does have the beginnings of a developer-focused company.

Poonen said he will help play a similar role at VMware.

“It is all about the developer, ” Poonen said. ” The developer, the developer, the developer.”

VMware has a focus on cloud computing and software defined networks as well as end-user computing. Poonen’s challenge is helping weave the message and help it move beyond its roots as a virtualization company.