Conferences and trade shows are typically oriented around a theme. EMC kept it very simple at EMC World 2014 with the simple word: “Redefine.” Now, a theme provides a mental handle for attendees to keep everything in context but it also focuses the alignment of the thinking of presenters and others. “Redefine” also calls to attention the challenges that EMC feels that the IT world needs to meet.
Jeremy Burton, president of EMC’s Information Infrastructure products group, pointed out that “Third Platform” applications will redefine business in every industry, redefine infrastructure in every IT department and redefine storage. The conference put meat on the bones of those statements with announcements that included the acquisition of a rack-scale flash storage start-up DSSD, greater detail on EMC’s software defined storage strategy and a new Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) appliance.
Note the use of the term Third Platform. This relates to IDC defining eras in the IT industry according to three platforms. The first is the mainframe, the second is client server/Web, and the third is a conglomeration of mobile, cloud, social and big data (in essence, a catchall for the emerging trends in IT). IDC views the Third Platform as an opportunity for growth and innovation that occurs every 20 to 25 years, and few in IT are likely to dispute that assertion.
EMC is obviously not abandoning the first two platforms (Happy 50th Birthday, IBM Mainframe), as these two traditional platforms are not going away and constitute a large percentage of company sales. What EMC and other vendors are doing, though, is actively extending to and embracing latest Third Platform technologies and trends. By doing so, EMC is not only redefining the world to IT, it is also redefining its own world from both product and organizational perspectives.
The Federation Lives
Since 2013, EMC has viewed and described itself as a federation of three parts: VMware, Pivotal, and EMC Information Infrastructure (EMC II). Although the company owns majority interests in VMware and Pivotal, both are legally independent companies. That is critical, as VMware and Pivotal are successful only so long as they continue to work fairly and neutrally with everyone in the industry and, to their credit, they have done so. However, the tricky part is that VMware and Pivotal also need to align strategically with EMC II, as many customers want some combination of the three to work together (what is called EVP, after the first letter of each of the companies), and each represents an EMC “brand.” Although nothing is perfect, EMC has seemingly balanced the necessity for independence with its customer needs.
In addition to the three EVP brands, EMC considers RSA, its security division, as its fourth brand. RSA works with all members of the federation, but it is not a financially independent entity, such as VMware, but still operates in an independent manner similar to VMware and Pivotal. And that does not end how EMC works organizationally. For example, VCE (nominally the Virtual Computing Environment Company) is a joint venture of Cisco and EMC.
EMC Continues to Invest in the Future
Not only is EMC redefining itself organizationally, but it also invests to redefine its future and has done so consistently for many years. Joe Tucci, chairman and CEO, says that EMC invests about 12% per year of revenue in R&D (organic investment) and 10% a year in technological acquisitions (inorganic investment). The highlighted acquisition at EMC was DSSD (if anyone knows what DSSD stands for, they were not communicating it), a four-year-old company that plans to have a product available in 2015. What DSSD is doing is not being communicated in detail, but it has to do with what it calls “rack-scale flash memory” optimized for in-memory databases and high performance/real-time analytics. One could speculate that the product is going to be some combination of custom hardware and software and not just software alone that works with commodity or existing storage products.
The interesting part is that EMC is acquiring an impressive engineering and management team and not just a product. EMC is smart enough to know that it cannot motivate through money alone, but rather by allowing the team that has invested so much in their work to be the proud parents at the birth of their product as well as seeing it successfully adopted in the marketplace. Although one could probably find a few exceptions, EMC has tended to have a “green thumb” as far as technology acquisitions are concerned. Count me in as one who looks forward to the unveiling.
VCE’s Winning Combination in Converged Infrastructure
An event such as EMC World covers so many things that selecting only a few to discuss is difficult. However, VCE can serve as an illustration of how the company is redefining traditional IT infrastructures, and the new EMC Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) appliance can serve as an illustration of how redefinition is needed to accommodate multi-PB and up-cloud environments.
VCE was launched by EMC, Cisco and VMware in November 2009 and began shipping products the following year. VCE serves up Vblock Systems that combine compute, storage, and network components integrated and virtualized into a converged infrastructure. VCE recently announced that it surpassed $1 billion in sales in 2013 and currently has an annualized $1.8 billion dollar run rate. Now, a billion is not easy to achieve for a venture in so short a span of time, even with financially-endowed parents and a market for its products.