EMC’s $30 million acquisition of Acxiom’s grid software operating system might seem like small potatoes compared to some of the company’s blockbuster purchases.
Take a closer look, however, and you’ll see that the company is gradually adding pieces to its information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy that will enable it to better compete with IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems in the utility computing market.
In utility and on-demand environments, customers pay for computing as they need it, an increasingly popular model for enterprises that crave more flexibility in choosing how and when they tap into resources.
Experts have said IBM, HP and Sun all have an advantage over EMC because they sell storage as well as server systems.
But EMC might not need to sell servers like the systems vendors in order to power customers’ enterprise systems: Acxiom’s grid software allows users to provision, schedule and see a distributed group of resources and share them across distance.
With Acxiom’s grid software, Summit Strategies analyst Joe Clabby said, EMC is poised to move up the ladder into larger virtualized environments to better corral customers’ information.
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Acxiom’s grid operating system could also provide a foundation for a service-oriented architecture (SOA) if EMC wants to take it that far. Distributed computing models such as grids and SOAs are cornerstones of utility computing models.
“If they need to move up the food chain into SOA and business process flow, Acxiom is a good partner to choose,” said Clabby.
So is EMC thinking SOA?
Ian Baird, CTO of grid and utility computing at EMC, won’t cop to EMC’s future plans with Acxiom’s software beyond the obvious tie to ILM.
But Baird, who cut his teeth on grid software at Platform Computing before quietly joining EMC a year ago, said he and EMC CTO Jeff Nick picked over a number of grid vendors large and small before settling on Acxiom because it is a “fully integrated solution.”
“If you’re going to manage the information, you need to be able to work with and manage the infrastructure that that information needs to pull information from or deliver information to,” Baird said.
Acxiom’s grid technology should allow EMC to escape the stigma of being a point solution provider for distributed computing technology, specifically virtualization, said Clabby.
“EMC has had pieces of virtualization,” Clabby said, noting that EMC has added virtualization in its arrays, tacked on server virtualization from the VMware purchase and built its InVista switch to virtualize the network.
“What Acxiom does is make them an infrastructure player,” Clabby continued. “This is something they needed to do for a year and a half. Otherwise, they would get marginalized because they compete with IBM, HP and Sun, all of which sell storage as well as systems. They were backed into a corner.”
Pund-IT analyst Charles King agreed, although he wasn’t surprised about the Acxiom deal. He believes EMC has been poised to make a move in grid since April 2004, when it formed the Enterprise Grid Alliance, along with HP, Sun and Oracle.
“If you look back a couple of years, the VMware acquisition was the first point where EMC’s storage competitors, who were also systems vendors, finally got an inkling that the company was not willing to continue being just a storage vendor,” King said.
For example, EMC went on to acquire Smarts Technology to add software that automatically pinpoints potentially damaging incidents on a network without intervention from administrators. Such software is a critical element for utility computing systems.
“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” Clabby said. “It’s exactly what they should be doing.”
Article courtesy of Internet News