'Power Of AI Revolutionary, Will Generate More Jobs'

In an exclusive conversation with BW Businessworld, Purnima Padmanabhan (Senior Vice President and General Manager, Modern Apps and Management Business Group, VMware) speaks about AI's relevance at VMware, developer jobs and interest coming in from customers for AI-backed solutions

Photo Credit : BW Businessworld,

In the current economic scenario, the size of the tech deals are shrinking and smaller players are getting more consideration for new deals. How is VMware getting by?

We are having very good numbers come up but we have been transitioning the company to more of a SaaS and subscription model. So, rather than saying, I am going to plonk in this big bag of gold, then eat it over 20 years. Instead, in SaaS and subscription, you are paying by SIP. So, our model of moving from TCV to ACV or a CapEx to OpEX model has been very relevant to this transition. In the last three to four years, we began this process. But it's really picked up momentum this year and last year. Hence, there is willingness of customers to do a subscription model. We have completely flipped the VMware business quite a bit this way.

How big has AI been for VMware?

For the management portfolio, we have invested heavily in AI. Let’s look at VMware Tanzu and Aria. Tanzu helps you build a platform while Aria helps you manage – every little Virtual Machine (VM), container, network, any little point of traffic. We collect billions of data points per second which no human can make any sense out of. So, we have been investing in AI/ML technology to synthesize that data and convert it into information and insights. We have done a lot of pioneering work in both - models and how to apply them. 

Even experts say jobs will be lost due to AI innovation. Your comments?

Every time there has been a new technology, there has been a fear of job losses. But more jobs have always been created. The nature of their jobs changed. For example, at one point in time – before internet – you had to know all the data. But when internet came, you had to know just how to search for the data and you had to know the links for the data. And yet, jobs did not go away. In fact, volume of search skyrocketed. Similarly, when you think about ChatGPT, it just gives you a response to what you are doing. This is also giving rise to a field called ‘prompt engineering’, a job role that requires one to train a generative system to give you the right output. A human being is still needed to think about ‘what is the need’, or ‘what is the requirement’.

Developers will still be needed but the nature of job will change. And I do not think the jobs will go away. In fact, this is revolutionary and am really excited by the power of this. I believe AI will generate even more jobs.

What is the most exciting part of the AI revolution?

I have always been interested in synthesizing because we live on a mountain of machine level data, which is so hard to interpret and also human-generated-data, which (again) has been hard to synthesize.

With ChatGPT and others, we are able to understand the content that is there. Being able to generate some content is very powerful. And so, the applications for it are just infinite.

Are you seeing an uptick in customers bringing up the topic of AI and AI-backed solutions since December 2022?

Now and then, some people ask. But once you explain how you are using AI and what are you really driving for them, they get extremely interested. With AI by your side, instead of looking at a million points per second, you will get an insight which you can act on in a minute’s time. Earlier, you would have taken 10 hours to find something - a needle in a haystack. So, it's the application of AI that customers are more interested in.

What is the role and responsibility of a company like VMware in the trajectory AI takes in future?

It is a huge responsibility. There are two parts to this. One, we need to ensure that we are doing responsible AI development because AI can harm also. For example, a lot of AI has gender bias. Hence, we must think of how to remove bias from AI. Second, AI needs a huge compute. So, we need to answer questions such as ‘How do I use this development?’, ‘How do I use these APIs?’ and more. For example, in a software development environment, if I'm using GPT-4 APIs, I need a template for it. Obviously, I'm not going go and build it all. VMware can accelerate a lot of this development and simplify it.

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