Top 5 observations from EMC World 2016

EMC World 2016

This year’s EMC user conference—the last before Dell becomes owner—highlighted things to come

Last week’s Interop conference in Las Vegas was filled with with news from different IT vendors trying to one up the competition—as is typically the case.

Just a couple of miles down the Strip, though, a second conference took place: EMC’s annual user conference.

EMC World happens annually, but this event was somewhat special because next year at this time EMC will be under the ownership of Dell. The conference is in the books now, and here are the most notable things I took away from it.

1. Joe Tucci says goodbye.

joe tucci and michael dell 500x375

Joe Tucci and Michael Dell

Joe Tucci took over EMC in 2001 when its revenue was a shade under $7 billion annually. Under his reign, the company took on the personality of its CEO and became a scrappy fighter that was never willing to lose a deal to any competitor, for any reason. Tucci very much has an attitude of “there’s no problem too big to solve,” and that permeated throughout EMC.

In 2015, EMCs revenues were just under $25 billion, making the company over three times the size it was when Tucci took over. The handoff from Tucci to Michael Dell was made official at EMC World 2016. Tucci may no longer be the face of the company, but his legacy will live on.  

2. EMC up-levels its message.

Historically, EMC World has been a highly technical show with themes directed at a technical audience. EMC World 2016 was different. The theme of “modernize” was a business-level topic that focused on creating some urgency for organizations to prepare for digital transformation. Most of the breakout sessions still focused on the hard-core technologist, and the conference could have used a few sessions that drilled down on the business implications of digitization, but this was a great start.

Kudos to EMC’s relatively new CMO, Nina Hargus, for putting together a strong business theme and being able to tie it back to the technical level through the lens of the cloud.

3. Who’s your daddy? It’s Dell.

In 2004, Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez (the greatest pitcher of all time) lost his third consecutive game to rival New York Yankees. When asked about it, Martinez said, “Call the Yankees my daddy,” meaning the Yankees owned him. On stage, both Tucci and Dell used the word “merger” over and over, but make no mistake—this is no merger. Dell is the daddy, and the new name reflects it.

The combined company will be known as Dell Technologies, which will take on a structure similar to the EMC Federation. Dell Technologies will be composed of Dell (core dell business), EMC II (storage), VMware and Virtustream (virtualization), Pivotal (cloud platform), SecureWorks and RSA (security).

Over time, there should be additional shuffling of the deck chairs. For example, the products in the current Dell security group should move over the RSA group. Also, I’d like to see Dell take networking more seriously—to go acquire either Extreme Networks or Aerohive and create a Dell Networking group. 

4. Storage is now flashy.

emc flash everywhere

One of the common themes we heard in the keynote and breakout sessions is that 2016 is the “Year of Flash,” when organizations use flash as primary storage for most business applications. The price of flash has come way down and now is priced at about 30 cents per gigabyte, whereas traditional storage ranges from about a nickel to a dime per gigabyte.

Flash, however, is much more reliable and requires much less maintenance. It also has greater densities per rack, so the cost differential is now nominal.

While the growth of flash will be a rising tide that lifts all flash boats, EMC has over 70 percent share, so pushing the industry to think “flash first” disproportionality favors EMC.

Almost all of the major announcements at EMC World revolved around flash solutions. The company announced a number of new rack-scale, all-flash offerings, including DSSD D5 systems and flash for VCE VxRack (coming in the second half in 2016).

5. Blocks and racks and rails, oh my!

There’s no question that most businesses are thinking “cloud first” today. It’s also true that hybrid cloud will become the norm, as organizations want to leverage the benefits of the cloud but keep the infrastructure on premises for security and control purposes.

A third truth is that most companies do not have the technical skills to build their own private clouds. Enter VCE, the former joint venture between VMware, Cisco and EMC that is now owned by EMC.

The company’s flagship product, vBlock, is a converged system that brings together storage, networking, servers and networking technologies from the three market-leading organizations. The company applies some “VCE magic” to the system and enables its customers to stand up a private cloud in about a week with a pre-configured, validated solution.

However, converged solutions aren’t for everyone or all use cases. The hyper-converged market has exploded over the past few years, and VCE has a solution for everyone.

VxRail is a 2RU system that enables customers to start small and scale up from there. VxRack is a rack-level solution that lets customers start big and has massive scale out capabilities.

Hyper-converged systems initially appealed to smaller organizations looking for a single box. Now that the technology is moving upstream and customer requirements are becoming more architectural in nature rather than box-specific, VCE should become one of the dominant hyper-converged vendors.

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