Seven Big Surprises from EMC World

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This year’s EMC World conference in Las Vegas attracted tens of thousands of attendees from all corners of the globe. Its theme of “Redefine” continued the heavy push on the software defined data center (SDDC) that started at last year’s show. But there were more than a few surprises at the event.  

For additional EMC World coverage, see:

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Hardware Diminishes

Like Galadriel who diminished in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, hardware is clearly diminishing as a central factor within the EMC portfolio.

“EMC is a software company,” said David Goulden, CEO of EMC’s information infrastructure (EMCii) organization.

He explained that the focus is primarily on the development of storage software, and that this software is merely packaged inside supporting hardware, which customers may or may not use. That is, EMC is now more than willing to sell software on its own, regardless of whether the customer wants to deploy it on EMC hardware or someone else’s. Quite a change from the old days of proprietary Symmetrix boxes being the company’s cash cow. Goulden rammed this point home by highlighting how today EMC comprises thousands of software engineers compared with only a couple of hundred in hardware.

Security Rises

With so many high-profile data breaches of late, it’s no surprise that EMC’s RSA Security brand was given repeated plugs at the show. Goulden noted that RSA just held its own conference, which was attended by over 30,000 people.

“Security is critical, as it could inhibit the deployment of the cloud,” he said. “On the security side, RSA is focusing on real-time analytics to detect information security gaps, as well as managing access to systems.”

Internet of Things

EMC is positioning itself nicely as a provider of the underlying plumbing to enable the Internet of Things (IOT), aka part of the Third Platform. This Third Platform will consist of billions of users and devices accessing millions of apps. That’s what will happen when cloud, mobile, big data and social trends coalesce in the near future. Numbers from International Data Corp. (IDC) estimate that by 2020, 27% of the digital universe will be generated by mobile devices and 40% of it will be touched by the cloud. These factors are combining to revive the importance of IT in the eyes of business leaders after a decade of its star fading. Just about every keynote at EMC World covered IOT and the Third Platform.

“IOT will consist of 30 billion connected things by 2020,” said IDC’s Vernon Turner. “By then, one third of all business will take place on the third platform. This adds up to a shift from a make-and-sell mentality to a sense-and-respond environment.”

Flash Flood

EMC has gone flash crazy. A couple of years back, company chairman Joe Tucci came to EMC World and handed around a solid state drive (SSD) that was being added to EMC Symmetrix arrays. It continued to add flash across its portfolio in subsequent months. That was followed by a couple of acquisitions including the heavily hyped XtremIO.

The company is at it again. It just purchased a stealth-mode outfit named DSSD, which has no products to its name but is promising something by 2015.

“If you have IO intensive apps that need low latency and high bandwidth, this company will have the storage products for you,” said Tucci.  

He introduced DSSD founder Andy Bechtolscheim, who promised the world’s fastest flash storage array.

“The problem we looked at is how to accelerate big data applications, in memory databases and very high performance transactional workloads, and bring them into a real-time environment,” he said. “DSSD is about how to accelerate Hadoop, SAP HANA and things like that.”

DSSD co-founder Bill Moore explained further.  “We looked at how to design a hardware system that delivers all the latent performance in flash, and how to express that performance in a way that apps can consume,” said Moore. “Traditional storage interfaces just don’t work for that level of performance.”

SAP Partnership

The plot thickened when SAP president and CEO Bill McDermott revealed its tight partnership with EMC, VMware and DSSD. This makes it highly likely that DSSD has something more than vaporware in its arsenal. There have been more than a few instances of IT behemoths backing a startup loser. But when two of them are willing to gamble on it, the chances of market actualization are dramatically greater.

“SAP is committed to being the cloud company, having moved the core SAP business suite and HANA to the cloud,” said McDermot. “We have been in partnership with DSSD on the database side, the application platform and on the cloud.” 

Flash Cash

Clearly, SAP will become a big consumer of EMC flash storage. And it is not alone.  Jeremy Burton, president, products and marketing, at EMC gave a rundown of the bottom-line impact of flash. After releasing XtremIO in November into a market flooded with all-flash arrays, it became the top product by revenue in that category within a mere two months.

He explained how the software EMC deploys gives it an edge over the competition. Its flash array processes all data inline and then writes it to flash.

“Inline data services are needed for consistent performance,” said Burton. “Other arrays that don’t use this approach have higher latency when they are under heavy load. This can render then slower than floppy drives at times.”

The company is strutting its stuff via a $1 million guarantee on flash performance and a trade-in program for other arrays.

Strong Career Path

Anyone hearing stories of tech layoffs and worried about the sustainability of IT as a career path will be heartened to know that IDC predicts the current worldwide level of 28 million people working in IT will soar to 36 million by 2020. Those working in IT may have to augment a legacy background with more current technologies or add complementary skills sets to enhance their worth. But job prospects look good for those who do. IDC reckons IT will remain a strong profession for some time to come.


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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