Breaking Down Network Barriers

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rahul Neel Mani

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Steven Leonard, President Asia Pacific/Japan, EMC Corporation, spoke to Rahul Neel Mani at length about the company’s latest vision  — 'Global Storage Federation' and other areas which will take EMC to the next level of growth.

Q:What is the vision for the much talked about EMC Global Storage Federation (GSF)?

A: The whole concept of GSF is to break free from the server farms and make the storage geography agnostic. The biggest challenges facing the organisations today are latency (when the data travels) and the coherence in data cache.

Today we can think of data synchronous capabilities up to very short distances (e.g. 200 kilometers). With Global Storage Federation we are trying to stretch it to maximum — a 1000-2000 kilometers and even more without any signs of latency.

This is what EMC is looking at promoting cloud computing where the organisations don’t need to have an active or passive data centre or a disaster recovery (DR) site as such. GSF will uphold an active-active environment approach.

A company that has one data centre in Tokyo and another in Singapore can look at them as a part of one single unit. The compute environment will see them as one pool of resources. At EMC, we are just fixing the nuts and bolts before we over promote, or over sell, GSF.

Q:How did this vision come into being?

A: It all began with the simple premise of how we can change the concept of physical and virtual infrastructure layers. We were trying to see how we can merge the physical infrastructure into the virtual one.

We wanted multinational, multi-location corporations, which have physical data centre at one or more places, to be able to see the entire storage environment from hundreds of thousands of kilometers away.

Until now it was possible to just move the compute environment in different flexible ways, but it was impossible to move two terabytes storage in a similar way.

So, in order for cloud computing to become more real, we have to be able to overcome this limitation and thus make cloud computing a viable option for users.

A company can operate from anywhere, but the entire set of storage resources should appear to it as one set of resources. Also, as long as a company has a replication solution, they should not bother about backup or DR. That was the basic idea when we started putting together our thoughts on GSF.

Q:Conventionally, corporations have been very DR-oriented. How will that mindset change?

A: It is a very valid point. It will call for a lot of change including the issues related to governance, risk and security.

The boards of directors of almost all the companies will come back asking stern questions because DR and business continuity are the board’s responsibility and not just that of a CIO. We have to begin with a great deal of education to convince the users.

For a matured set of companies, who have replicated information on their network, there is actually no need for a DR. In cases where companies are swamped by regulatory requirement to backup the information, we propose deduplication.

In such cases the data backup blues will go out of the window because there will be a different approach. It is indeed going to be a long-term education journey but so was it for everything else at some point – be it virtualisation or deduplication.

Q:Being the industry leader in storage and having one-fourth market share, what is the company's roadmap going to be in areas other than GSF?

A: There are a few areas that we will be investing our money and resources in. First area is information security because if we are talking about cloud, the adoption and success depends on how secured the environment is.

Wearer investing a lot both organically and in R&D and through accusations in order to strengthen our information security portfolio.

Second focus area for us is virtualisation. Any cloud strategy has to be essentially built on the virtualisation layer. VMware has done some acquisitions on its own.

VMware, EMC and Cisco recently announced a relationship in which we moved some of the IT management suites over to VMware so that they can incorporate it in their data centre. If we look at the storage piece, we are working proactively to show that all our arrays would make more use of the solid state.

Most of EMCs storage that goes out of the door will be solid state, fiber channel and SATA drives to give users a high-performance and high density type of relationship between flash and SATA drives.

That is going to be the story in our high-end all the way to mid-range and low-end storage arrays.

Another big area for us is the Backup and Recovery Systems (BRS). Around nine months ago when EMC acquired Data Domain, we wanted it to be a US$ 1 billion business in one year. Based on the first quarter results, we seem to be pretty much on the track to achieve it.

This year our R&D allocation is close to US$ 2 billion and much of these bucks will go into the areas talked above.

Q:Will this momentum continue over the next few years?

A: Absolutely! I do not want to be arrogant but certainly would like to be optimistic.

Some of these areas that we spoke about - the storage of information, intelligence storage, information moving between tiers, fully automatic software, next generation backup, deduplication, virtualisation, and virtual desktops – are currently getting disproportionate allocation in the user organisations.

Average IT spending across all portfolios in a user organisation is 3-6 percent of the total revenue. The areas mentioned above are getting a big chunk of these budgets. We believe we are in the right areas and we will continue to make investments in these areas.

Q:Based on our inputs from CIOs, there is a radical change in the way IT is now consumed? It is more service/solutions oriented. How is EMC adapting and aligning to this change?

A: In many of our existing relationships, CIOs are talking to us about transforming the traditional IT models and move to a service-oriented relationship instead of a traditional capital-investment, depreciation relationship.

In cases where customers find it most relevant, EMC is going down that path. That’s where the concepts like Private Could and EaaS (Everything as a Service) also hold a lot of relevance. The VCE (VMware, Cisco and EMC) relationship is to create a Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model.

That whole scenario is designed to allow users to adopt the server, the computer, the network or the storage. That would be a prepackaged block for which the customers will be charged on the basis of consumption.

EMC will have different models for different needs of the customers from different market segments.

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