EMC Federation: Whole Greater Than The Sum of its Parts?

LAS VEGAS: Aristotle said the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A number of centuries later, Ben Franklin quipped “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

It’s Day 3 of EMC World, and after talking up the latest additions to its products and services portfolio, the -virtualization-information management-security-and Big-Data company has been extolling the virtues of its unique federated approach, staying customer-focused while continuing to innovate and differentiate itself from the competition. That’s a mouthful, and a complex set of objectives.

The theme of this week’s event is Redefine, but is that supposed to mean redefine your business for the of IT, AKA SoMoClo (social, mobile & ) and/or CAMS (, analytics, mobile and social)? Or does that refer to redefining EMC as a of businesses – storage, , , and – that are strategically aligned but loosely coupled?

EMC’s executive leadership – Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci and four of his key subordinates, Jeremy Burton, President, Products and Marketing, EMC, David Goulden, CEO, EMC Information Infrastructure, Pat Gelsinger, CEO, VMware, and Paul Maritz, CEO, Pivotal – explained why it is so critical to the company’s future, and provided some details on how it works during a keynote and media scrum. Noticiably absent from the keynotes, scrums and any significant participation in was RSA, but more on that later.

During his conference keynote, Burton said IT has to be redefined, because CIOs have evolved from driving innovation to keeping the lights on, while non-IT are pushing for advantages with the latest CAMS developments. “Business doesn’t look to IT for innovation.”

Increasingly, they’re coming to EMC and asking for help beyond just products, he said. The federated approach is a means of providing that assistance, giving customers choice, but not locking them in to one vendor.

Following his presentation, EMC’s executive brain trust did a federation Q&A session with the media. Tucci said the federation process starts with strategic alignment across the business groups, but each of the business units is free and encouraged to create their own ecosystems to go to market and succeed.

“The EVP (EMC/VMware/Pivotal) solutions is one part of the glue that holds us all together,” added Goulden. Plus there are a number of teams working together across the businesses, he said.

Gelsinger, who noted his own evolution from silicon after 30 years at Intel, to (storage) hardware at EMC and now software at VMware, said federation is about aligned but independent businesses. It’s “strategically aligned and loosely coupled.”

This can create tensions, with competitors in one business being embraced as partners in another. “We definitely have a co-opetition model in each of the three businesses,” said Maritz. “We believe that’s just reality.” There will never be an EMC-only world, he said.

This independence and co-opetition has to be closely managed, said Tucci. “If you don’t overlap, you leave a seam for competitors… but if you have too much overlap, it’s not healthy”. So a little co-opetition is healthy, “but not too much”.

In the latest issue of Pund-IT Review, published just prior to EMC World, analyst Charles King wrote it is difficult to think of a vendor better positioned or suited to shoulder through existing barriers and capture potential opportunities than EMC. “Along with continuing to grow share in traditional storage hardware and software markets, the company’s strategy of tempering external acquisitions with continuing internal investment has resulted in an innovative collection of technologies, solutions, services and partnerships that has and should continue to benefit both existing and potential customers.”

There are many who use the term “built to last”. King argues that a close examination of EMC’s activities over the past decade and its most recent quarterly results provide a primer on building an IT organization to last.

Now back to RSA. While the four senior EMC execs all talked about the importance of security and RSA as a critical part of the federation, the security arm was conspicuous in its absence.

Analyst Edward Haletky, The Virtualization Practice, was confused with how EMC was presenting its security business, RSA, as a member of the federation. “The messaging at the show was inconsistent, with the RSA brand being maintained but a lack of discussion on what RSA is really doing within the federation.”

DISCLAIMER: My chief disclaimer is that I’m attending EMC World courtesy of EMC. And I’m an EMC shareholder. My two chief disclaimers are that I’m attending EMC World courtesy of EMC and I’m an EMC shareholder. And I own VMware shares. My three chief disclaimers are that I’m attending EMC World courtesy of EMC, I’m an EMC shareholder and I own VMware shares. And I have a fanatical devotion to editorial impartiality. My four… no… Amongst my chief… Let me start again.

(With apologies to Monty Python and the Spanish Inquisition sketch)

Author: Steve Wexler

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