EMC World – a familiar new song (includes video)

emc world 2016Last week was EMC World, one of the big shows of the year. As many of you will know I prefer to let a little time pass before contributing my thoughts to the blogosphere, simply to let the Kool Aid evaporate somewhat!

Of course, it was something of a strange installment of this event — it is presumptively the last one as the Dell spaceship loomed large and ready to take the EMCers back to the [integrated] future. And yet it was still EMC World; so, while it started a bit like a great band doing a cover of a song it had to do but didn’t really know, pretty soon it settled into a familiar rhythm — bold statements, touches of humor, extensive announcements and a bunch of busy-ness happening all around…

Before I get to some specific takeaways, take a look at the ESG On Location video that some of my colleagues and I pulled together in Vegas to give a taste of the event:

One of the things I’ve always been impressed with regarding EMC is its ability to simultaneously sermonize on the magnificent and seemingly permanent structures it is building, while also very openly talking about the shifting industry sands upon which that construction is occurring. Its ability to embrace change is a core competency beyond all the engineering and marketing skills….it’s going to be vital as the new Dell Technologies group emerges from its nascent state, and it’s one of the key reasons that I am optimistic about the outcome of the combined organization. While we await the arrival of the new super-band on stage, the current lineup gave us a few new twists on familiar tunes that are also clearly going to be staples in the set that the new Dell-EMC plays:

  • Under the theme of “Modernize”, EMC was anxious to assure everyone that “innovation” is still flourishing and will continue so to do: there were notable advances in copy data management, a new ViPR, the debut of InfoArchive 4.0 and much more.
  • But, to me the most notable new pieces were three:
    • The Virtustream Storage Cloud is EMC’s stake in the — for now, specialist — public storage cloud, which is sure to be a vital new component for the joint company.
    • Unity is a (and, to the extent EMC ever backs specific horses in its portfolio, the) brand new, all-flash, easy-to-use, and attractively-priced mid-range storage array. It looks good now but just wait til the Dell channel gets its hands on it…
    • MyService360 showed that EMC ‘gets’ the ever-growing importance of support in the emerging IT world. The easier IT stuff gets to deploy and use (just like with cars and many other things), the less anyone knows how to monitor, optimize and fix it; so having real enterprise-class capabilities here is going to be massively important for the “newco”.

It was hard at times to tell if the event was the support act or the main attraction — the former never gets quite the same staging (and that was true, at least compared to prior EMC Worlds, early on in the big tent sessions), but then we had some good old standards belted out as well as what seemed like a sneak peek as to what is going to be on the first new Dell EMC album. It might have some new songs, but you felt you could hum along already.

Video transcript:

Announcement: The following is an ESG On Location video.

Mark Peters: ESG recently attended EMC World. Its theme this year was "Modernize", and indeed, there were nods aplenty in the presentation, signage, and exhibition hall to both the past and the future.

Of course, some things were the same. Lots of people, myriad meetings, a stage longer than a football field, a dramatic expo, the hunt for freebies, and coffee, a sprinkling of razzmatazz, and a ton of new product and service announcement. But there was change too. Michael Dell, front and center of course with Dell items as door prizes. Joe Tucci in jeans and then photo ops as the industry patriarch took a bow. Much was unsaid. The anticipatory nature of what will be once these two behemoths are officially hitched, but plenty was said in the business as usual category. That of course means there's way too much to cover in this quick report, but four of my ESG colleges each provide a sample insight. Here's our report from Vegas.

It's spring time. We're back at the lovely Palazzo for another EMC World. Usually, there are big banners as you go into the convention center, but you can see this year in front of me on the floor is like a floor banner, and I wondered about that. And I think maybe it's because we're here at if you like, the ground floor of something very new and potentially very important for the IT industry, the arrival of Dell Technologies and Dell EMC when it comes to the enterprise part of things.

Kevin Rhone: Shortly after the announcement that EMC and Dell were going to combine their companies, ESG conducted some end user decision maker research and found out that 75% of the respondents felt that the combined company would be stronger and better able to provide technology and innovation going forward, and a full 60% of those respondents indicated that they would probably increase their purchases.

My colleague at ESG, Scott Sinclair delivered that information as part of a presentation to a large and enthusiastic partner audience at Global Partner Summit here at EMC World 2016. And I had a chance later to talk to a number of solutions providers who have been long-term EMC partners and are looking forward to continued relationship. The announcement yesterday at the summit was that the companies would maintain two separate programs for the next three business quarters, and then merge them into one combined program hopefully to incorporate the combinations of the two. The caveat is that it will take some serious execution on the part or parts of the company and coordination to bring all those things together, and if there was a reservation on the parts of the partners, it was the ability to execute that and navigate through that carefully over the next 24 months or so.

Having said that, a lot of enthusiasm in the room here today, and partners looking forward to the benefits of the combined company.

Scott Sinclair: On the storage front here at EMC World, we have seen a tremendous amount of innovation across the breadth of portfolio. But I think one of the interesting things that stood out to me is when you look at innovations and announcements like Unity or their project Nitro, which is an all flash Isilon array. What you're seeing is EMC showing up what was their soft underbelly. Essentially the areas where competitors saw EMC as having a weakness, as being vulnerable, EMC is continuing to innovate in these areas that were once seen as prime targets, which is critical because if you think about it, as much as EMC would like to talk about this digital transformation that's moved to the third platform, at the end of the day it's those product sets that are driving the share of the revenue which is going to be critical as they transition over to Dell technologies.

Tony Palmer: I'm standing here in the EMC World Solutions pavilion in the midst of the modern data center, an array of big iron behind me. But I want to talk about something smaller. Smaller but packing a really huge punch. The DSSD D5 has the potential to be a very, very disruptive solution offered by EMC, and it really shows their vision and why they're a leader in storage using brand new technology. It's very early, very on the bleeding edge, but providing a very, very useful solution to customers, and definitely worth taking a look at.

Nik Rouda: I've been interested to see what they're going to do with some of the software assets, particularly in the area of big data and analytics. There's quite a bit to play with here in the Dell Software group. They have a lot of data management tools. There's statistics up for analytics. Of course, on the other side of the house Pivotal has quite a bit to bring to this space with GemFire, Greenplum, their Hadoop distribution.

And I'm trying to figure out how that all comes together. I had a chance to ask Micheal Dell and Joe Tucci about this during the Q&A, and interestingly they didn't have a clear answer for this part of the business yet. They pointed back to infrastructure supporting big data. They talked about cloud-native applications and faster development, but I really want to see what is the big data story. How are they going to put together the data lakes, the angle that's going to make this combined company more than the sum of its parts?

Mark Peters: So I deliberately wanted to close out this recap of EMC World by standing in the expo hall with all that stuff and the vendors behind us, because the most important thing we heard about this week was a thing called VCIO. It sounds like a new product, but it's not. As the two companies come together, Dell and EMC, they have this thing called VCIO, the Value Creation and Integration Office. Just think about that very deliberate naming for a second. If these two companies get the second part of that name right, the integration office, it's going to be a pretty impressive, broad IT systems company. But if they get the first part right, which is the value creation and integration, it could be really quite dramatic in the IT landscape.

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