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My Top Three Takeaways from EMC World 2011

EMC World is always a crazy, energetic, bop-till-you-drop type event and this year’s EMC World was no exception. Highlighted by keynotes from EMC’s CEO Joe Tucci, VMware’s CEO Paul Maritz and a closing night customer appreciation event that featured the wildest hats I have ever seen and a performance by The Fray, EMC World 2011 was both fun and informative. But now that the dust has begun to settle, I had a chance to reflect on what I had seen and heard to consider what my top three takeaways from EMC World were.

Like most other analysts and press at EMC world, I kept busy throughout the event but held off on blogging about it until I was on my way home. While I tweeted pertinent information during certain keynotes or when some interesting factoid came to my attention, I opted to first take in the whole event and then reflect on it on the flight home which I did last night.

So as I thought back over this past week’s activities, briefings, on and off the record conversations and meetings in which I was involved, three themes about this year’s EMC World emerged.

First, EMC’s data protection products will be a force to be reckoned with in the next few years. Data protection has always been an extremely competitive market with over 20 vendors fighting it out for the privilege to protect your data in the small, midsize and large enterprise space.  But the introduction of disk as the preferred, primary backup target coupled with the use of data deduplication to optimize data storage has fundamentally turned backup and recovery upside down.

Companies are looking to redesign their backup architectures for obvious reasons: backup to disk works and works well and data deduplication puts the cost of disk on par or even below that of tape. That’s music to EMC’s ears and it is playing that song over and over again in its customers’ ears.

But while every other backup software provider sings a similar tune, EMC differs in one important aspect: It offers both backup software (EMC Avamar) and a data deduplication appliance solution (EMC Data Domain) that individually are both at or near the top of these respective classes of data protection and is actively at work integrating them together. The best evidence of this is its recent release of DD Boost.

But equally important in the conversation is EMC’s industry-renown reputation for providing enterprise service and support. Whether you love or hate EMC products, EMC’s fanatical dedication to service and support is unequalled in the storage industry.

This combination facilitates its sales reps and partners to deliver a single, integrated turnkey solution to its customers. This may well shape up to lead many organizations to adopt an end-to-end EMC solutions especially when one considers that backup is ripe for change in many customer environments and EMC has marketing and sales forces that are unequaled in their persistence and persuasiveness.

Second, EMC’s definition of “Cloud” is still a little cloudy. 
From the moment I got off the flight to standing at the baggage claim to getting on a taxi to the hotel to checking into my room with my card key, all I saw was the picture of street sign showing the intersection of Cloud and Big Data.

cloud big data signpost.JPG

Well, the “Cloud” and “Big Data” may be here but with EMC liberally applying the term “cloud” on each and every storage solution it provides, the definition of what “cloud” meant got, well, a little cloudy.

By way of example, it referred to its V-Max as “the Cloud.” EMC Atmos was “the Cloud.” So was EMC Isilon and its new VNX. Everything was “the Cloud.” Even its V-block was “the Cloud” except that upon further investigation each V-block is really its own cloud and could not easily share and move data between V-blocks.

So the “Cloud” is, according to EMC, analogous to looking up in into the sky on partly cloudy days. On those days you still see clouds; you just see lots of them. So when you look at or implement an EMC Cloud, you likewise will see numerous clouds that individually may scale out to hold very large amounts of data and may be called a “Cloud,” but collectively they are still individual clouds that are managed and implemented very differently.

The question that plagues me is that what people think of when they think of they think of “The Cloud.” I personally don’t view it that way. But how each company and each storage provider defines the cloud is still pretty cloudy as this point suggests and EMC’s cloudy definition of the cloud may well be sufficient for its customer base. Time will tell.

Third, EMC has embraced the next generation. 
One item that somewhat surprised me at this event is that the age of everyone at that show was substantially younger than past shows. It used to be you could tell you were at a storage show because the average attendee at these shows was male, balding, over 40 and had a pot belly. 

Now I get to this year’s show and you could tell that EMC had done a great deal to cultivate the next generation of computer geeks as it was much younger than in the past. To grab the attention and interest of these folks, EMC has gone full bore into social media with its blogging, FaceBook and tweeting efforts. I even had the pleasure of seeing one of DCIG’s tweets appear on the big screen on the main stage.

But even beyond that, EMC seemed to bend over backwards to cater to this generation at this event. I already know it made my sons lifelong fans just based upon their reaction to the lighted caps that EMC gave away at its closing night customer appreciation event to each attendee.

jimnashcrazyhat.jpgWhile the headline for the event was a concert by The Fray, when I got home and gave each of my 3 boys one of the crazy hats that EMC gave away, my middle son lamented, “Why can’t you ever take us to these events?” To EMC’s credit, in the future I just might.


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