Everything Moves Constantly.
Everyone Makes Calls.
Even More Change.
Said nervously back in the day: Eventually Moshe’s Company.
And sometimes snarkily: Evil Machine Company.
Now, no more. At least, not like it was. And, not like many thought it could have been.
For many in the IT industry – and especially the storage-specific corner of it – today is a very odd day. EMC is now part of Dell Technologies. The company customers knew and competitors targeted for so many years is "gone."
For those of us that worked there, it takes on a bit of a deeper meaning. If you grew up there professionally, have been to weddings and funerals for/with EMC co-workers, live about a few miles from its corporate headquarters and grab lunch (or go on vacation) with EMC friends like I do, the feelings are even more acute. Trust me.
Like all many corporate one-time EMCers, I recall my newhire class, employee number and I can name the buildings where I had cubes/offices just by number: 35 (Parkwood), 42, 80, 176 (all South Street.) And, yes, I know what the Pond House conference room is, though I only occasionally joined after hours meetings there.
Last night I drove by EMC's headquarters on my way home and saw the temporary sign covers, clearly ready for a Dell Technologies unveiling.
And it’s a very odd feeling. Very odd indeed.
But, I can’t pretend to be wholly sad.
But not sad, per se, though I do worry about the futures of some good friends. (However, with stock options paid out and corporate functions under a microscope, perhaps I should worry more about a mass exodus and our local real-estate values?)
Regardless, saying I’m sad would be a bit disingenuous at this point.
For the last four years, I’ve been quite-happily working at Hitachi Data Systems. And HDS is an EMC arch-competitor, and in certain parts of the market THE competitor.
With competitive offerings across the spectrum of storage and converged/hyper-converged infrastructure, among others, EMC and Hitachi are familiar foes that customers engage for complex solutions. Personally, I think our Virtual Storage Platform line is a more powerful, more logical and more functional family than the overlapping storage lines of EMC. I believe the technology and direction around our Unified Compute Platform is an excellent alternative for the many nervous VCE customers out there.
But, I cannot deny EMC's success and size in those markets. And SIZE appears to be a big part of what this deal is about.
And, yes, perhaps I might market IT technology (especially against EMC?) with a chip on my shoulder. With the hodge-podge mix of overlapping EMC and Dell products across storage and converged infrastructure that now basically writes its own critique, I'm pretty sure that posture will continue.
But what this acquisition leaves no doubt about, is that the industry IS changing.
The two mega-trends affecting our industry are the undeniable move to cloud (private and public) and the massive opportunity of the Internet of Things (IoT).
The move to cloud has made all IT infrastructure providers think differently about their technology. Private clouds require flexible (often converged) infrastructure solutions with robust APIs to allow easier consumption of native data management services. Providing this needs to be a technology direction for any relevant IT vendor. IT infrastructure answers for public cloud consumption have been all over the map, with many (Dell, maybe?) focused on innovating in cost and supply-chain efficiency more than technology, while others appear to prioritize maintaining a proprietary systems with unique value propositions. But perhaps neither alone is quite right?
With a number of major cloud providers using Hitachi technology (sometimes a lot less publicly than we might like…) we think there is room for BOTH cost and technology innovation. We power multi-PB all flash datacenters for online retailers and global online payments companies. Our converged infrastructure solutions underpin multiple major retail vendors' IT infrastructures and are consumed by different cloud management portals in production environments today. That doesn’t happen from only cost reductions and a commodity-first focus. That’s the result of relentless Hitachi technology engineering and deep services expertise.
How Dell/EMC focuses on that type of innovation while it right-sizes its portfolio and optimizes costs remains to be seen.
Like cloud, IoT can certainly drive down costs and increase agility – but at a business (not just an IT) level. Think: preventative maintenance for manufacturing equipment, trains or any complex machinery, or automatic supply chain automation via RFID and smart-shelves in retail.
But IoT is about so much more. Many customers see massive opportunities for unleashing the value of data. I see it as a part of Digital Transformation, where the focus is seeing how operations, end user experiences and new business models can be improved when data is used as a strategic weapon.
It’s where machine-to-machine data meets social and business data. It’s where operational technology meets IT technology. It is, we think, a Hitachi sweet spot.
And that’s where I return to thinking about my good friends at EMC, errr, Dell Technologies and the new IT behemoth that’s being created. I understand the cost savings benefit. I get the value of scale. Dell/EMC will undoubtedly (continue to) be a fierce IT vendor rival.
But where's the new value... the 1+1=3 for an IoT future?
As I type this, before Dell's big unveiling, I still wonder… are they preparing for tomorrow's battle or yesterday’s?
In a world where machines communicate and operational data is automatically blended with business data for unique insights, the people who have a deep understanding of the "things" in IoT appear to have a strategic advantage over IT-only vendors. It's a world where companies that put their names on race cars will start to see the taillights of the technology vendors who put their names on race cars that are also are filled with their automotive technology.
In a world where business solutions require advanced connectivity of operational systems as well as IT systems, what comes next for a beefed up IT provider? We will all be watching to see the answer to that $67B question.
Because being nostalgic about the good-old-days, when working with bigger vendors meant "you never get fired for buying..." is all fine and dandy, but it may not be the right path forward.
Perhaps the blues of EMC and Dell think they can recreate IBM's old "blue" sales magic in an IoT world. But I’m not so sure why. (And others like TechCrunch certainly have questions as well.)
Either way, it's going to be a heck of a "game" to watch.
But for now: Goodbye EMC, thanks for the memories and the competition.