EMC’s Innovation Journey: from storage to information centric computing

November 15, 2007

EMC’s Innovation Journey: from storage to information centric computing

Today I am at EMC’s annual analyst meeting. Just like IBM, EMC’s theme is innovation. EMC is on an interesting journey from its roots in storage managment. EMC has been on a journey for a number of years with acquisitions in information and content management (Documentum and eRoom) and security (RSA, Verid), management software (Smarts, and NLayers), virtualization (VMware), Software as a Service (with the Mozy acquisition). Initially, it looked as though EMC was going to position itself as a technology holding company. I have changed my mind after listening to the management team talking about EMC’s evolution. Over the past four years EMC has spent an average of $2 billion a year acquiring 30 software companies. So far, EMC has spent $8 billion acquiring software companies. I expect that we will see more over the coming years.

Joe Tucci, EMC’s CEO provided some interesting insights about EMC’s transition. Clearly, it was a lot easier in the days when the company could only worry about storing and retrieving information. Now that EMC has gone well beyond that vision, Tucci has done a good job of both focusing on the core competencies of the company. Tucci has made this look easy. But, in fact, it is hard. In essence, what he has done is to keep to its knitting — buying software that is adjacent and complementary to storage. And this makes sense — storage is about putting information somewhere (obviously an over simplification). So, not surprisingly, the theme is information.

Now, EMC is trying to take its core assets focused on “information” so that there is cross leverage across product lines. For example, EMC is leveraging its security software in order to provide higher levels of security in storage and document management. I think that Tucci put it well, “the information infrastructure is a shared set of products, serivces, and best practices for storing, protecting, optimizing, and leveraging information.”

Where is EMC taking this strategy? Clearly the Mozy acquisition demonstrates that EMC is looking at the SMB market and at Software as a Service (SaaS). How about information and storage in the cloud? Why not.

I expect to see EMC focus a lot of attention on unstructured and semi-structured information. One executive during the meeting commented that 90 percent of a customer’s information is unstructured in a variety of formats (images, documents, etc.). Not surprising, this unstructured data has huge storage requirements. Now think about the security of this information including rules for who is allowed to look at, copy, and modify that information.

And, of course, virtualization of information, storage, and collaboration isn’t lose on EMC — with VMware. VMware is clearly one of the jewels in the crown and I expect that EMC is going to find more and more ways to leverage virtualization across its portfolio.

According to Jeff Nick, EMC’s CTO, EMC is focused from a strategy perspective on infrastructure, information assets, applications, and interaction. From his perspective, security is at the core of this approach — not an unreasonable assumption. I like his view on taking a holistic view of how all of these components are interrelated. Taking a holistic view of information management is music to my ears! I also liked the fact that Nick spent considerable time talking about the fact that you can only provide this holistic approach through a service oriented approach. He went on to point out there is a whole different way of managing based on SOA. In this way, you take applications and operating systems and leverage them as elements and virtualize them in the context of how they are used within the customer environment.

This thinking is good but it will require that a lot of pieces come together. Clearly, this isn’t a short term strategy. If EMC can pull this off, it will be quite interesting for the company’s future.

The bottom line is that I see EMC as a company that is changing itself from a storage leader to one that is reaching beyond its comfort zone. Suddenly, its acquisitions make a lot more sense. However, the road will not be especially easy. There is a lot of work to do on information management itself — including the entire areas of meta data and master data management. EMC doesn’t have a master data management strategy and it does not control the databases and data stores where this information lives. Clearly, the key players in this market will not necessarily want EMC to emerge as the leader. In the management space, EMC has made some good strides in leveraging its Smarts and NLayers acquisitions to make its products more manageable. Will it strive to be a management vendor and take on players like HP and IBM? Not clear yet.

EMC is a well managed company that has made good acquisitions and managed their integration into the company fabric well.




About Judith Hurwitz

Judith Hurwitz is an author, speaker and business technology consultant with decades of experience.

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