10 Takeaways From EMC Forum

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EMC held its annual forum in Long Beach, Calif. earlier this month. Cloud computing, of course, dominated the messaging. But there were plenty of other subjects in the spotlight. Here are 10 major takeaways from the show.

1. Cloud Ubiquity

A year ago, EMC was pushing the cloud heavily. Now it’s everywhere in popular culture.

“You can’t go anywhere without hearing about the cloud,” said Frank Zappia, EMC areas vice president. “My kids even talk about the cloud. It is about the most overused term in IT.”

According to Gartner, two thirds of companies in the United States will be on or looking at the cloud.

2. Recession, What Recession?

There are plenty of areas of storage hurting in the current economy. But not EMC. According to Zappia, the company had a record year in the Southern California region in 2010.

“We had year-over-year growth of 35 percent,” said Zappia.

This was reflected in overall attendance, which jumped from 900 last year to 1,100.

3. Backup Remains Important

Backup may not be sexy anymore, but it remains a core business for EMC. The company devoted one of five tracks to backup during the EMC Forum. It covered subjects such as moving from tape to disk-based backup, replication, deduplication and where the company is going with its various backup and recovery solutions. For example, it is incorporating technologies from Data Domain and Avamar into its Networker backup software to provide a broader data recovery product.

4. Big Data Gets Bigger

Big data–it’s really, really big and it is going to get much bigger. EMC calls this the data deluge, and it is well on its way to building out an integrated big data strategy via its Greenplum acquisition.

“Information in the enterprise will grow 50X this decade alone,” said Bill Teuber, vice chairman of EMC.

5. Big Data Is About Finding Things

Frank Hauck, president of VCE (an alliance between EMC, Cisco, VMware and Intel–VCE stands for Virtual Computing Environment), simplified the hype around big data by highlighting what it really is all about–finding things.

“Storage via big data is in the needle in a haystack business,” said Hauck.

In other words, it isn’t so much about being a repository for a whole lot of data as it is about finding the right drop of water in a vast ocean of data–and being able to do so in moments rather than months.

6. Hadoop as Part of Greenplum

EMC said it offers the only complete big data analytics stack. This consists of the Greenplum database, Greenplum data computing appliances, and a collaboration platform for those interested in the data. Any analytics applications or engine can be laid over this. In addition, it incorporates an open source element known as Greenplum Hadoop as a data repository for unstructured data. Hadoop facilitates the storage and analysis of large volumes of data, thus vastly decreasing the time needed to arrive at conclusions. EMC is clearly betting big on Greenplum as the cornerstone of the its big data play, and Hadoop will play a big part in its potential success.

7. Underpinning the Cloud

Part of the reason EMC is pushing the cloud so much is that it plans to be the primary vendor supplying the underlying plumbing–or at least the storage part of it. As such, it is positioning its Symmetrix platform as the repository for the bulk of cloud data. But this isn’t the old Symmetrix with lots of big bulky disk arrays. It consists of the latest Symmetrix VMax arrays as well as its VNX unified storage technology.

Symmetrix VMAX scales up to multiple PB of usable protected capacity when you combine several systems. This type of array uses virtualization to consolidate workloads and store more data within a smaller footprint than traditional arrays. It can be deployed with flash drives, Fibre Channel and SATA drives.

In addition, the company is lining up its VNX unified storage units as core cloud components. This deals with multi-protocol block and file-based storage. So although disk arrays sit under all this, EMC has integrated it with virtualization-based technologies to make them agile enough to work in a cloud platform.

8. Big Boxes Are Coming

Big data may be getting talked about, but big boxes are definitely coming in fast. According to IDC, sales of storage, server and networking hardware are going to be relatively flat in the coming years. The one area of hardware sales is big boxes, which represent the convergence of storage, servers and networking.

Oracle, of course, is big in this area with a couple of preconfigured boxes doing well on the market. HP has convergence products, and VCE represents the combined might of several industry heavyweights, including EMC. VCE’s vBlock includes blades, storage, networking, virtualization and management layers.

“Instead of buying the individual elements yourself and cobbling it together, you just plug it in,” said Hauck. “This helps IT to find a better way to innovate and fulfill business requirements.”

9. IT Job Market Looks Good

Despite the employment market today, IT looks to be a good field to be in. According to Teuber’s numbers, IT staffing is going to increase from 15 million worldwide in 2010 to 22 million in 2020.

“You are going to have jobs, but you will become very busy, as employment won’t grow nearly as fast as the amount of data you have to manage,” said Teuber.

10. EMC Walks the Talk

For a year or two, EMC has been talking about the journey to cloud. Instead of a being a mere marketing slogan (although it is a very effective one), EMC is living this journey in its own internal IT environment since 2004. By 2008, it had virtualized 35 percent of its infrastructure. Currently, it is 75 percent virtualized, and by the end of this year, it plans to be at 85 percent.

“This has radically altered the cost of IT for us,” said Teuber. “We realized tens of millions of savings just by moving our server farms onto a virtualization platform.”

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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