Is It Still EMC's World? (Part 1 of 2)

Sometimes a little distance is good in order to get a perspective on things. I certainly think that’s true of big vendor events….while you’re there it’s all too easy to drown in the Kool-Aid, so a week or two to dry off and evaluate in a more objective spirit is probably best.

So, a review of EMCWorld 2012. Objectively? I’ll try! Well, it was big! Indeed, it’s interesting how the major vendor events (EMC World, Oracle Open World, HP Discover, VMWorld etc) have become the big storage industry events, often pushing the more generic events to the sidelines. Anyhow, so we were gathered in the dungeons of the Venetian/Palazzo ‘meet-tropolis’ to watch small segments of a very large screen [in case you’re wondering, it was wider than a football field is long…with end-zones and even a little room for photographers!]. It needed to be this big to accommodate the 14,000 or more attendees. Not only big in scale, but big in ambition – this year the event was dedicated to the idea of ‘Transform’…transforming one's IT, one's business, and even oneself. Oh, yes, and it was big in press releases too – the ‘mega-announcement’ contained no less than 42 new products or features, niftily beating out the 41 from a couple of years back [and, for Douglas Adams fans, thereby making EMC the answer to the meaning of the universe along the way!]. Oh, ooh, er… and let’s not forget the intergalactic babes (this was Vegas after all) that guarded and guided our seating. And then – sandwiched between the never-ending (and superbly managed) buffet lines, the incessant (and unnecessary) DJs in the corridors, the massive and very-EMC-ish Solutions Center, and before the happy and fun Maroon 5 concert - came the meat.

Despite the rah-rah, the mega-launch and the prerequisite hubbub, what was most interesting to me was what wasn’t there, as much as what was. Sure, there was a raft of new products, and plenty of good ideas…but there was no new strategic vision per se and – frankly – that is a good thing. Actually no, not good...excellent. We all have enough to do with digesting Cloud, Big Data, Flash, et al, without having some new mantra rammed down our collective IT throat. So this EMC World was as much about considered, and even pedantic, progress as about any grand new universal designs. I remember Lou Gerstner, on becoming the head of IBM, saying something like ‘the last thing this company needs is another new vision’; and I think that’s true of EMC today. There’s no need to apologize when you are fleshing out a compelling strategy. Nor am I being an apologist for EMC, since its steady and capable march on multiple fronts must strike terror into the hearts of many a competitor. Sure, it may require the occasional dip into the M&A ‘petty-cash’ to keep the IP up to where it needs to be; and, sure, it may require the EMC sales machine to paper over occasional delivery timeline ‘cracks’: but the fact is that EMC keeps most of its customer base pretty happy most of the time and it has sketched out – and in Vegas it continued to color in – a pretty compelling picture of why they should stay committed to the company. And, by the way, ’commitment’ was a clear part of the theme in Tucci’s opener at the event. In commenting on EMC’s own transformation he talked about the elements that are key to companies – he cited brand, people, process, and information, and talked of the keys to success in Big Data and Cloud being trust and security. Not a whiff of 'our drive is bigger than your drive' in that.

In Part Two of this piece later this week, I’ll cover a few more specifics in more detail, but let me just give a couple of storage highlights that interested me:

  • Adding ‘Thunder’ solid-state soon in what EMC terms the "server area network"
  • Extending FAST to cover Hitachi and IBM devices too
  • A VMAX-SP designed to make the life of service providers easier
  • On the file storage side, a ‘OneFS’ approach, called Mavericks
  • A whiff of the future by talking of allowing storage to run VMs (in 2013) and running storage platforms on VMs
  • DataBridge, a management mashup platform
  • ….and of course new, bigger, faster, more integrated, and ‘washes whiter’ versions of products across the board.

Of course the 42 announcements were dressed up as if EMC had discovered the wheel, sliced bread, and Viagra (hey, it was Vegas) on the same day. And at the event itself I was almost ready to agree. But with a little distance I’m more realizing that the event simply marked a spot on a journey and not a destination; and in my opinion that steady progress is more worthy of positive recognition than all the galactic claims and Star Trek analogies. They were fun, but they perhaps distracted us from the fact that EMC is already on a mission...

Topics: Storage IT Infrastructure