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Taneja Blog / Cloud / Data Center Systems / Data Protection/Management

Much Sizzle At EMC WORLD 2012

I spent three days at EMC World, the longest time I have ever spent on a one-vendor show. It was exhausting. And thrilling. I know most bloggers will write about the 42 products EMC announced with fanfare at the show. As will several of my team members. And that is all good. But I was more interested in where EMC is at, relative to the market and where is it heading. NetApp recently announced good numbers for the quarter but a lower forecast for the next quarter. HP announced significant layoffs, even if it is not clear how big the impact was on the storage side (we suspect little since storage is a lonely bright spot for HP). Dell's storage numbers are down quarter over quarter. Yet EMC is showing bullish numbers all around. Why is this? What magic does EMC possess that others don't? Here is the way I see it.

EMC is one pragmatic company. It does not seem to have any serious biases for or against products that it sells. Well, maybe sometimes it does. The InVista comes to mind. But, all in all, I still think EMC is extremely unbiased as to what it sells. It sells what sells. Just look at its acquisition track record. We will use the Isilon acquisition as an example. It was late in buying a scale out architecture-based NAS product. NetApp had pulled the trigger on that in 2003, having purchased Spinnaker while most IT folks didn't know the difference between Scale-Out and Scale-Up. NetApp had an excellent opportunity to take the market by storm and destroy EMC's NAS business. Instead they took eight years to productize something that could have given it a five year lead. So what does EMC do? It grabs Isilon and tells the Isilon management team not to miss a beat. It gives them access to the enterprise customers that Isilon alone could never have dreamed of penetrating. The sales of Isilon catch fire. The $200M run rate at the time of purchase now stands at $1B. Where did all that additional business come from? You guessed it. Practically all at the expense of NetApp. Mind you, NetApp grew rapidly during the past few years. But in my opinion it had the power to annihilate EMC's NAS business had it productized the scale-out product several years earlier.

The same story can be repeated for Avamar, Data Domain, WysDM, Kashya, Greenplum, and so on. Acquire the market leading company and acquire it early when the market is clearly there but the laggards are still debating what to do. Is it risky? Of course, it is. But it is less risky than not doing anything. Or doing it when the market has passed them by. But it is not the act of acquiring that amazes me. It is the fact that unlike other firms (Sun/Oracle, for example) EMC welcomes the newcomers and puts them on a pedestal and eggs them on to achieve what they could never achieve alone. It energizes the new team. It opens channels for them that they never dreamed possible. So who wins? EMC does. This is a lesson the rest of the industry can learn from EMC. And it was clear at the show this week. All newcomers were put on a pedestal and elevated in stature.

I am not minimizing the across-the-board-product announcements. A full refresh of VMAX alone would have been enough. But to that add the new Data Domain models, new release of Avamar and updates to Atmos, and VPLEX and RecoverPoint integration, among a number of other enhancements. But to me these are par for the course for EMC. They are expected. To me the more important issue at hand is the consistency of home runs that EMC continues to hit with its acquisitions. They have made an art of it. All major competitors can learn deeply from it. This is not to say that there are no other examples of acquisitions done well. I think Dell has done a great job with their EqualLogic acquisition. HP has done it with 3PAR. But the long term consistency prize goes to EMC for sure.

The other thing that struck me about the show was that EMC, while always a master of pomp and show, has graduated to a different level of spark and sizzle. I had never seen one continuous screen bigger than the length of a football field (300 feet for the non-US readers) spewing sparkle to an audience of several thousand. And I have had the good fortune of organizing some pretty big shows in the past myself. The show was all in good taste, even if the mascot (I hope not) they used for the show was the ugliest image one could consciously create. Do I personally care for all that sizzle without much content? No. But the end user audience seemed to like it. And the show is first and foremost for them.

All I ask is don't let the sizzle take away the fundamentals that have made EMC what it is today. And that is solid products and excellence in marketing and sales. I would hate to see EMC World become Comdex. I am sure some of you remember that one. All in all, well done, EMC! 

  • Premiered: 06/04/12
  • Author: Arun Taneja
Topic(s): EMC NetApp HP Dell NAS Avamar Data Domain WysDM Kashya Greenplum EqualLogic 3PAR

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