EMC World 2012: The Galactic Edge

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I'm at the EMC World 2012 conference this week and I am writing this during the keynote. The opening visual was the launch of the EMC space ship into the galaxy of data and opportunity. The core message the company is driving, given its first point, is that EMC has grown massively over the last decade and that the growth engine isn't the technology it has brought to market, but its laser-like focus on the customer.


What has created the growth, and this is both unique and powerful, is the tight relationship EMC is driving at all levels of the company to the customer. This, they argue, is particularly powerful during the age we are currently in: the age of computing as a service where compute power is increasingly sold and used much like electricity and water.

What is implied is that the customer has changed as well; no more is it just IT, it is increasingly line managers and EMC's tight focus on the customer, whoever they are and whatever title they carry, that has allowed the company to transition with the buying authority and to provide services that are attractive to this emerging class.


From Then to Now

Joe Tucci then took us from the age of the mainframe where capacities were relatively low and costs per data element were astronomical. He then took us through the PC age where costs dropped sharply, but complexity increased and management of the result was increasingly painful. Finally, he highlighted the emerging cloud age where costs are falling at an unmatched pace, complexity is reverting to simpler times and this has had a multiplicative impact on costs and the ability to manage the services that resulted.

The future isn't going to be public or private cloud-based, it will be both. There will be a magnitude more private cloud, but they will be smaller and he presented stats indicating over 75 percent of large companies have plans to do both. The companies that are likely to lead are those that can effectively do both and clearly that is core to EMC's strategic vision.

In the end, this is a world of choice - IT choice, line management choice and individual choice. EMC plans to provide that choice by investing over 11 percent in R&D to create innovative products that can be uniquely customized for the channel (so the company can customize for customers) and for its end customers.


A Day in the Cloud

Tucci then showcased a day in the cloud, which was a part of the presentation designed to showcase the power of the cloud fully applied. He used an example of shopping in the grocery store. His smartphone identifies the buyer and identifies the overarching incentive program (in this case holiday-related) as he enters the store.


The store knows what the buyer likes to eat and directs him to areas where the strongest incentives are in place. The buyer gets the best buys and the store moves the products that have the greatest incentives. The buyer's loyalty is reinforced to the store (because he saved money) and the store gets the most vendor-related volume incentives. In the process of being directed around the store, the buyer passes an optimum number of end caps and opportunities to buy things they didn't realize they wanted when they first entered. By using a cloud service, the store maximizes the value of the customer, the customer optimizes their shopping trip, and both are not only happier, but the buyer's loyalty is reinforced.

To do something like this successfully and have it scale across business types, the winning company must realize that one size does not fit all and it must focus tightly on both industry verticals (for best practices) and the unique needs of each client company. In this world, EMC is arguing that its customer-focused strategy is to provide the right technology for each individual customer.


Dynamic Security

In a world where everyone is connecting all the time, the risk of identity theft is through the roof and so are the costs - both individual and corporate. Attacks are dynamic and personalized and security must be equally dynamic, both expanding massively in detection capability and dynamically altering itself based on the perceived risks to assure that attackers are forced to attack non-EMC clients because they are more cost-effective criminal targets.


Pat Gelsinger: the StarShip EMC

As the video led into Pat's talk, the space theme continued. The virtual ship dodged the IBM Borg Collective, the Apple Singularity, and ended up with Pat sitting in Captain Kirk's chair from the original Star Trek. Pat's talk started by pointing out how virtualization has allowed customers to break out of proprietary frameworks and gain the freedom to run a variety of solutions, and rather than optimizing a proprietary vendor's income, optimize on the customer's budget and unique needs.

To showcase this, they used a control panel that provided the dynamic management of a large SAP application. The control panel was intuitive and what made it powerful was that when you made a major change, the related policy transferred with the change so that provisioning would not only be quick, it would also automatically remain compliant with related policies. To showcase speed, they referred to the VISA case where VISA's massive mobile banking application was deployed in an amazing 3 months - a time nearly impossibly fast given the massive size of the solution.

As you would expect from a storage company, Pat is arguing that data is the new center of the digital universe and cloud computing is largely about acquiring, managing, storing and analyzing this data. To highlight this, Pat launched 42 new products from stage, exceeding the prior record by one. At the high end EMC showcased the Symmetrix VMAX, which doubled in size and has significant customer-driven enhancements for performance and ease of use. Isilon improvements included a 50 percent drop in latency. SyncIQ has significant improvements in failover, restore, and because of the increased enterprise risks, security.

He dropped into an analytics demonstration using Greenplum Chorus, which managed the question and helped manage the answer using a massive data repository. In the middle, they blew up and sounded like an explosion (the explosion damn near knocked me out of my chair - no more front rows for me for a a while - my ears are still ringing). Example customers were eBay and China Telecom.

VNX has crossed the 9.5 petabytes in managed capacity and an expansion of the line with significant speed enhancements with aggressive use of flash. It used a hybrid approach with both internal and external options to better balance costs to performance increases. He hinted at Project X, the code name for next year's total flash, ultra-high-speed solution. EMC plans to be the Baskin Robbins of flash with every flavor for every customer.

Pat highlighted that they have a 7X lead of the next nearest competitor in backup market share. Data Domain and Avamar have up to 3x the backup speed and a whopping 30x improvement in recovery. (I used to work for IBM storage and back then we used to joke that everyone focused on backup and no-one on recovery, which should have been the stronger metric - that clearly has been fixed.) Cloud customer LinkedIn was highlighted as the showcase customer.

Gelsinger, who is an ex-Intel executive, highlighted the EMC partnership with Intel, with VPLEX and one of the very first platforms to use Intel's recently announced Ivy Bridge platform. VPLEX, like its VCE offering, is more about partnerships than technology, and is the only product in its class that is designed against requirements set by EMC channel partners, much like VCE is a unique partnership between EMC, Cisco, VMware and Intel.

Gelsinger closed by saying that when he met with customers after coming to EMC, they told him EMC's management products sucked. This became his personal problem to solve and DataBridge was used as the example for the progress that has been made in this area. Based on the audience response he apparently hit this one out of the park.


Wrapping Up: EMC Squared

EMC showcased some impressive improvements, which isn't that unique in a show like this because every vendor showcases their significant improvements. However, with each announcement there was a showcased customer that apparently helped drive it. That is unique, and where EMC stands out is it weaves customer needs into every improvement and product.

I was sitting next to Pat in the front row of the audience and was reminded why he is one of my favorite executives (I've known him for over well over a decade). He brings passion, excitement and energy to events like this and it is always a personal pleasure to see him at things like this. Despite his position, he is approachable and I'm honored to have known him for all this time. Joe Tucci, Pat's boss, is one of the most beloved CEO's in the industry and I can't think of a better paring.

However, EMC's competitive edge isn't its products or its people, it is its unique focus on driving the company to listen at all levels to its customers. In this, it is unmatched and it is Joe, Pat and Jim Bampos (the guy who heads this effort) that drive this unique and powerful advantage.