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What was said and heard at EMC World 2006, Part 2

May 04, 20064 mins
Data Center

* How is EMC using its Smarts?

Today, more of what I heard at EMC World 2006 last week, plus some commentary.

Howard Elias, executive vice president of Global Marketing, on branding: “The Legato brand is going away.” Look for EMC to move to a single brand, with a few major software product families (something like “EMC Smarts”; “EMC Documentum”; etc.). This sounds loosely similar to what IBM has done (Lotus, DB2, Tivoli, etc.).

Elias, on strategic alliances: “Our partner ecosystem is key to our sustained growth.” Partners of the first magnitude include, Cisco, Dell (which as a sales channel represents 14% of EMC’s total revenue), Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Oracle, and SAP. Interestingly, IBM was also included in this listing of most important partners.

Several other topics worthy of mention:

ISCSI: EMC’s iSCSI business is almost all in the small-and-midsize business segment so far, and represents a very narrow slice of EMC’s overall revenue. Still, buyers (and competitors) should keep in mind that EMC is adding iSCSI connectivity to a lot of hardware these days, so in most cases, for those who want it, it’s there.

Smarts: Understandably, Smarts is playing a key role in most of EMC’s effort to extend its management capabilities to the non-storage domains of enterprise IT. At EMC World, EMC announced EMC Smarts Storage Insight for Availability, which provides storage-area network and network-attached storage monitoring and failure analysis information to the company’s ControlCenter management console. The Smarts Application Discovery Manager, a 1U box that maps out relationships and interactions between applications and different pieces of the infrastructure, is also the first in a series of applications appliances from EMC.

The Smarts technology is extremely useful, but no one should assume that it is (or even approaches being) foolproof. With Smarts, the less frequently a root cause has been identified in the past, the lower will be the likelihood that Smarts can identify that particular root problem. Based on everything I have heard from the Smarts spokespeople, it looks as if Smarts’ probabilistic approach to analysis will be very useful in established topologies, but will be of decreasing use in systems whose states change to incorporate new elements or, in some cases, new combinations of existing elements.

The good news is that the problems Smarts is likely to find most challenging are the ones that will happen (by definition) infrequently. The bad news – troubles like that, statistical outliers, may be the ones that cause the greatest difficulties. Probably (sorry, I couldn’t resist that) such circumstances require software that can learn, building rules on the fly as it picks up new information. Smarts (and everyone else that I am aware of) is a long way from that.

Training: I was very impressed by EMC’s customer education capabilities. The company offers a logically laid-out set of educational services that will be useful to just about anyone who uses EMC’s stuff. I recommend you check it out.

Virtualization: EMC has moved into a leadership position when it comes to two of three aspects of virtualization: VMware is the clear leader when it comes to virtualizing x86-based servers, and Rainfinity provides a growing list of proven file-based virtualization services for NAS. Providing such functionality for SANs has been a chink in EMC’s virtual armor, however. Now, at very long last, EMC’s InVista SAN virtualization product is beginning to appear. The marketplace will have a chance to decide if it was worth the wait.

Security: Expect EMC to push vigorously into this space. Its new Vice President of Information Security, Dennis Hoffman, indicated that “information-centric” security would be a major piece of EMC’s strategy going forward. Look for a mix of services and products that goes far beyond the current offerings, and that aims to protect data throughout its lifecycle. We should all watch this space closely.

Finally, I think most attendees got good value from EMC World, and that most of us found it was well worth putting up with the occasional bloviating executive to find out what EMC is really doing.

As for a bottom line, I’ll suggest two. First, EMC’s competitors are going to have to live with the fact that EMC is a company that is doing a lot of things right. Second, in many respects EMC is still a company that listens to itself much better than it does to others.

Make of that what you will.

*** The 2006 edition of The Great Storage Haiku Contest is in its last week. Remember to take advantage of Rule No. 8, “Preference will be given to haiku that demonstrably were written on company time.” Go here for the complete contest rules and send entries directly to me. Winning entries will appear in this column in May.