My Take On The “Last” EMC World

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I was in Las Vegas last week for the “last” or at least last independent EMC World (there will be a Dell-EMC World in 2017). As a former EMC employee, I was interested in seeing what the messaging would be as EMC enters uncharted territory as an acquired company (say it with me three time “This is not a merger”).

Three themes emerged for me as I watched the keynotes and spoke with attendees:

  1. This is Michael’s world. Everyone else in the Dell “Family” just lives in it.
  2. EMC is all in on the whole Bimodal IT approach, at least as a way to message their offerings in the attempt to remain relevant.
  3. EMC is doubling down on what is still currently the Federation and placing theirs on VMware and Pivotal.

I will make some observations based on these three themes but will not attempt to do a comprehensive review of all announcements and keynotes. I leave that to more capable folks like Brian Gracely.

Living In Michael’s World

Day 1 was devoted mostly to the transition from the Joe Tucci led EMC to the new Michael Dell led Dell Technologies. It started with a poorly executed attempt at a Saturday Night Live like host intro of Tucci which could only be loved by EMC Fanbois. It unfortunately was the first of many cringeworthy attempts at humor by keynote speakers.

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Once Tucci finished pretending that he knew how to ride a hoverboard, he did deliver a heartfelt farewell to EMC World attendees that drew a well deserved standing ovation from the audience. After a sentimental trip down memory lane and expressions of gratitude to EMC customers, Tucci turned things over to Michael Dell. At that point, the keynote kicked into another gear.

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Dell made it very apparent that once the acquisition closes, this would be his company and his alone. That was made apparent with the unveiling of the new company name- Dell Technologies and the fact the the EMC brand would be playing second fiddle even in the new Enterprise System Division, Dell-EMC, which will feature all the EMC products that remain. To the victor goes the spoils.

The reality that Michael Dell has won the game and sits on the throne was reinforced with his keynote, which positioned him as they IT visionary that will lead the new Dell Technologies into a triumphant future. My expectation is that most of the current EMC executives may leave at first opportunity, especially since they are all younger than or are the same age of Michael Dell and have no chance at becoming CEO of Dell Technologies in the near future. Stu Miniman, from Wikibon, though suggested otherwise by pointing out the following:

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Making A Better Bimodal IT

EMC World was the second conference in two weeks I attended where Gartner’s Bimodal IT concept was front and center. Unlike the OpenStack Summit where Bimodal IT was derided, EMC seemed to revel in the concept. EMC’s stated goal is to help administrators run their legacy/traditional infrastructures more efficiently and effectively. Not only have they internally organized around the concept (Core Technologies Division and Emerging Technologies Division), but the keynotes and product announcements were structured around the Bimodal pillars of Mode 1 and Mode 2 workloads. Day 2 keynotes were focused on Mode 1 with Day 3 keynotes focused on Mode 2. It made me wonder if they should have told their customers’ legacy infrastructure teams to stay at the casinos during the Wednesday keynote since cloud-native doesn’t apply to them.

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The two biggest Mode 1 product announcements were about the new mid-range all-flash Unity storage system and the creation of a Virtustream storage cloud based on EMC’s Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) product. Unity is EMC’s answer to similarly positioned products from rivals such as Pure and priced to be a loss leader. I expect most Unity systems to be baked into larger purchase orders as free giveaways in an attempt to win market share and to put pressure on competitors in this space. It did seem to me though that Unity is a rushed release given the lack of data services that will be available at GA. That may explain the “Fantastic Voyage” like tour of the Unity hardware. The CGI looked great but I couldn’t help think to myself that we were back to the 1990s when storage was all about hardware and speeds and feeds.

The Virtustream Storage Cloud has been positioned by some as a competitor to Amazon Web Services’ S3 object storage service. That is not entirely correct, based on EMC’s own messaging. Instead of a offensive move to draw customers away FROM AWS, it seems to be a defensive move to keep current EMC customers from moving TO AWS. As such, I expect this service may have appeal to current EMC enterprise customers.

Moving from Mode 1 to Mode 2, the day 3 keynote focused on cloud-native technologies such as containers and PaaS. There were some hight points, particularly the showcasing of work done by the EMC {code} team to integrate persistent storage with Rancher, Docker, and Mesos. However, much of it was marred by EMC trying to turn the keynote into an extended Saturday Night Live spoof of James Bond movies. I am sure EMC thought it would be a great idea to associate products like ViPR, Neutrino, and Native Hybrid Cloud (more on that later) with cool tech gadgets. The net effect, in my opinion, was instead to give the message than these new technologies are toys and not serious business technologies.

The finale for the keynotes was the announcement of the new Native Hybrid Cloud offering – an engineered solution for customers who want a turnkey stack focused on cloud-native applications. Before getting into the details, I have to say that Native Hybrid Cloud (NHC) is one of the more useless names for a product I have heard in some time.

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Does this mean that previous cloud offering like the EMC Enterprise Hybrid cloud is actually a non-native hybrid cloud? What does native hybrid even mean?  Is EMC saying that native hybrid is the same as cloud-native? Should we rename the Cloud Native Computing Foundation the Native Hybrid Computing Foundation? EMC has always had the worst named products in the industry and this is no different. Who can ever forget the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud Software Defined Data Center Federation Edition?

Aside from the regrettable name, NHC may get some traction. The stack itself has good pieces to it with Pivotal Cloud Foundry running on top of Neutrino nodes in a VxRack. The Neutrino nodes run the upstream OpenStack code, leveraging the work done by engineers who went over to EMC as part of the Cloudscaling acquisition, and use ScaleIO as the persistence layer. This stack is integrated with other technologies to build out a turnkey solution that customers should be able to quickly and easily consume.

Doubling Down On The Federation

Prior to EMC World, there was a lot of talk about about why Pat Gelsinger and Rob Mee, CEOs of VMware and Pivotal respectively, would not be presenting keynotes. However, one could not come away from the conference without sensing that EMC was doubling down on the other two companies in the current Federation. It also highlights just how critical VMware and Pivotal are to the Dell acquisition.

The day 2 Mode 1 keynote included a lengthy presentation on the tradition EMC Hybrid Cloud solution based on the Vblock and VMware technologies such as the vRealize Suite. VMware was at pains to try and present the vRealize Suite as the leading private cloud platform, at least for Mode 1 applications. The message seemed to be that EMC had the answer for customers looking to modernize and automate their Mode 1 infrastructure and current VMware technologies is the foundational software.

The Native Hybrid Cloud is a key example of how the Federation might come together to meet the needs of customer who want to move to Mode 2 infrastructure, or at least that is what EMC would like you to believe. As outlined earlier, the current NHC stack does not have any VMware technologies in it; but you wouldn’t know that listening to the keynote where the focus was on VMware Photon as the IaaS substrate for NHC, not OpenStack with KVM.

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In fact, it is telling that any mention of OpenStack, including work done by the former Cloudscaling team, was omitted from the NHC part of the keynote. One would almost think that NHC is currently using Photon instead. I am sure that will be the case if and when VMware actually creates their microvisor instead of relying on vSphere with full blown ESXi hypervisors. My expectation is that while Neutrino is available for customers who want a turnkey OpenStack solution from EMC and customers who want the Native Hybrid Cloud stack without any proprietary software, the go-to-market for NHC will eventually become the following:

  1. Pivotal CF running on vSphere in SDDC nodes in a VxRack or a Vblock as the preferred currently available solution
  2. Pivotal CF running on Photon in SDDC nodes in a VxRack as the preferred future solution

I believe the Neutrino nodes running OpenStack will be available but will primarily be for customers who are adamant about using OpenStack and/or insistent on not using any VMware software.

I am not sure if I will be attending any EMC Worlds in the future but I will follow with interest to see where the new Dell Technologies go in the years ahead. In any case, here is my take on EMC World 2016. What is yours?

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3 comments

  1. Very nice summary with good insights

  2. Craig Tompkins · · Reply

    EMC World 2017 was scheduled for the week of May 8th. Do you know if that is still going on or if EMC World is being rolled into Dell World which is in Austin TX this Oct?

    1. My understanding is that there will be a separate show in May 2017 called EMC-Dell World.

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