At VMworld 2016 Senior Contributing Editor Mike Otey sat down with Steve Herrod, a partner and managing director for General Catalyst, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley that makes early-stage and growth equity investments. Herrod is also a former CTO and senior vice president of research and development of VMware. Herrod shared his insights into emerging technology trends, the challenges IT pros face today, and his unique perspective on how a venture capital firm views IT today. Here are some highlights.

Q: How do Containers and VMs compare? Are they the newer replacement for VMs?

A: Each one has different purposes, but in the future it is likely that they will be combined.  I think the two instances are trying to accomplish roughly the same thing, which is portability. I think there’s a false argument on do I use one or the other. Containers are one way to deploy apps like the .exe format for Windows and it has a couple of traits that are better than VMs. It has a couple that are not as good. Most apps are going to wind up being a combination. Like you’ll run SQL Server in a full VM and it will be attached to it by other parts of the app that are running in containers. If you’re stateful you’re more likely to end up in a VM. If you’re ephemeral and hopping up and down you’re more likely to end up in a container.

Q: You work with tech companies that focus on security solutions, and they are offer both on-premise and cloud-based options for their products. What are you advising them these days?

A:  Within the data center space I think it’s one of the best areas for two reasons. There’s all this heterogeneity. It’s harder than ever to secure containers. Being a CTO is not so different than working at a venture capital firm in that you still need to look ahead at where things are going as well as know and evaluate technologies. There’s no doubt that as the cloud becomes more important, security will also continue to be a very high priority for many businesses. Preventing things like the recent high profile ransomware attacks are things every business really needs to be able to defend against. Some companies used a DR solution and point-in-time rollback to recover from ransomware attacks.

Q: In your view, what are the important technologies of the future IT professionals need to be watching?

A: IT pros need to stay on top of emerging technologies in these three areas: 

  • The Cloud – There’s no doubt the cloud has taken on an important role for many businesses and the cloud offer a lot of new opportunities. You have to at least be conversant and understand why people move there. The need for IT skills is not going away but not keeping up with cloud technologies could be career limiting.
  • Containers – While containers are a new leading edge technology and they haven’t been widely adopted yet, they are sure to be an important IT infrastructure component for both open source and Windows-based IT organizations.
  • Open Source – Open source has become main-stream, and that is certainly evidenced by Microsoft’s recent full on support of Linux. IT pro should be super conversant in open source, how it works, and know how to leverage open source technologies. It’s a much bigger part of Microsoft now. Linux is supported on Azure, SQL Server has been ported to Linux and even PowerShell now runs on Linux.