Road to Effective Information Management Part Two

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rahul Neel Mani

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Road to Information Management Part One Here

In the second part of his interview Manoj Chugh, President India and SAARC, EMC Corporation in a long, exclusive conversation with Rahul Neel Mani talks about how the company has reacted to customer demands, private clouds and EMC’s role in sustainability.

Q:How has the company reacted to customer demands?

A: One secret that we can ascribe EMC's success to is our ability to remain close to our customers. We listened and acted upon our customers’ advice. Initially our customers hesitated to buy EMC because of the prohibitive costs. A lot of them told us to be more affordable. Based on the feedback, in 2004 on one single day EMC launched 12 new affordable products. Majority of those products were focused on mid-market.

It was a remarkable shift, which allowed us to go after a market otherwise out of our reach. That was our frst response – customers felt they were being heard. That was also the frst time that EMC introduced a range of products comprising not just storage but also backup, recovery and information management.

We repositioned ourselves from being just a network storage company to a company that was trying to tell enterprises that storage itself was not enough – it was important to manage that information also. This was also the time when business continuity and disaster recovery were becoming extremely important because of a number of natural calamities or terrorist attacks.

This is the time when we also took a position of leadership and said that network storage and managing your assets is important, but what is also important is disaster recovery. EMC went into the market and deployed very early implementations of a three-stage disaster recovery.

In those days when we went and spoke to the customers about storing their information, protecting it, business continuity planning and disaster recovery they came back and asked us about security. In 2006, we acquired RSA and gave an answer to the market. I do not think we could have given a better answer to the market than RSA. We were very quickly able to integrate RSA technology into our products and were able to offer it to the market place.

Then the customers said that the information is growing but it is more in the unstructured content than structured content. Then there was this concern about compliance. EMC acquired Documentum at that time, which played a pivotal role here. Customers started coming to us for their 360-degree storage needs – that included – storage, management, security, BCP, disaster recovery and unstructured data.

Then came the problem from customers that in a day we have only 24 hours and our backup window is only 24-hours; god-forbid with this huge growth of information where we cannot control backup windows. At this time, Indian IT companies were making signifcant IT investments. While they have been perfect at different points of time it also created heterogeneity in the data centres.

One of the biggest challenges is in managing this. EMC answered this by very simple ways – first, consolidation at the storage level. This amongst many other EMC products and solutions solves the problem of heterogeneity. Every point in time during our history in this country in the past 10 years, we have listened to our customers and we have provided real, value-added solutions that made a difference to the customer.

Q:Technology, consulting and outsourcing are the three things that any large IT vendor should offer, also the competition to EMC has been offering these. How do you see yourself in these areas as compared to the competition?

A: First, we have been able to distinguish and differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We are a very focussed technology company with an infrastructure focus – we are very clear about this positioning. Within IT infrastructure we play in Information and virtual infrastructure.

These are the two core elements of our policy and are mutually reinforcing. From a go-to-market perspective – EMC is the vehicle which we use for information infrastructure and VMWare is used for virtual infrastructure. We have no pretentions of being anywhere else.

We are at the forefront of innovation and will remain there. We want to have the deepest and broadest range of products in infrastructure. We want to lead in terms of technology and in terms of depth as we look at our product portfolio.

One of our biggest differentiators from our competitors is that we are a company focussed on technology. There are many different players that lead with service and have technology; and (for them) products are important but not that important. In some cases it is quite incidental. There are other players that are quite focussed on software. EMC is a technology company that has hardware and software which helps us in building superior products.

We have great competitors but they limit themselves to single point products – it is our ability to focus on the whole information infrastructure space in terms of depth and breadth of our portfolio that is second to none.

Q:You mentioned about the private cloud and the way enterprise users are at various stages of adopting the private cloud – what do you think will be EMC’s role.

A: If you look at the EMC history – we started with saying that we would help customers store the colossal amounts of data that they have in their organisations. Now we do it for a large set of customers.

Cloud takes centre stage in driving efficiency, choice and control. Clearly the data centre is getting re-architected as we speak. The IT real estate in the data centre is going to go undergo a transformation. This transformation is being driven by the desire to be more efficient. 

Seventy percent of IT budgets of organizations are spent on keeping the lights on. Only 30 percent are being used to drive business benefits. Clearly organisations and leadership teams have different expectations of IT. The expectation is IT investment must drive more benefit for business. It became more important in the last year, where IT faced a lot of pressure to deliver more business benefit.

We continuously hear from CIOs that their managements are expecting them to drive far more business benefits including – acquiring customers, better customer service, creating products and ecosystems. There is a clear need to re-architect the data centre if you want to meet those expectations.

While you want to get more IT budgets, you do not want to touch current applications. You want greater efficiency, more choice and better control but do not want to be very disruptive. This means that when you re-architect, you must do it in a phased manner and you want to do it in a way that the business benefits are very evident.

Again, the first step is consolidation, and the second is virtualisation – we find that has started, more within the IT department. You start by testing your own applications, kick the tyres and do 20-25 percent virtualization. At this time some organisations have already started putting business applications on this journey towards virtualisation.

The other big technology that will help organisations in this journey is federations. When all these things come together, only then IT will be truly delivered as a service.

This is a journey that is going to be very exciting – it is not going to happen overnight. The wave of cloud computing will be far bigger than any other wave for IT. If we are able to ride this wave well, we will be able to deliver the promise of IT that we have been talking about for many years. IT as a fifth utility and we are on the journey to make it possible.

Our goal is to provide products with other ecosystem players, provide the infrastructure, based on which the organisations can then drive services to different user groups.

When you build your cloud infrastructure, we as EMC want to be the infrastructure block provider for that.

Q:Can you talk about the sustainability aspect?

A: We were the first to launch flash technology in India and people were surprised why we launched them – they were 40-times more expensive than a normal drive. We had a simple goal, that you get significant reductions in power and cooling apart from the (gains in) performance.

The Digital Universe study by us in partnership with IDC speaks about the growth of information. It says that by the end of this year we must have created or replicated – as mankind – 1.2 zetabytes of storage. This is equivalent of the whole population of this earth tweeting for 100 years simultaneously. That is the amount of information we are creating. All this needs to be stored somewhere. If you use only classical storage, imagine the amount of power needed.

If the information is growing by 60 percent every year and you are increasing your storage accordingly. Imagine the impact on sustainability.

This is where organizations such as EMC come in and say how do we make sure that you are able to manage your information assets in a fashion where the most critical information resides in such a space that is most critical for you at that point in time. So, if the information is not that important right now, can that information be moved to a real estate that consumes less power.

That makes a huge impact. A lot of technologies are required to be able to enable this. These technologies are extremely important in reducing the hot spots. When you look at power and cooling when you want to reduce these hot spots. That is where EMC has played a very important role in India, by bringing these technologies first to market. Nobody has brought these technologies to market except us.

Our challenge here is to popularize these technologies. Many times these are not adopted because of the lack of budget. We need to convey that this is a very important aspect while making new technology purchases.

This is because by postponing sustainability efforts we are just postponing the inevitable. If there is one area where there needs to be a big difference, it is in organizations truly doing something about it – not just articulating and recognising it. Unfortunately it has not come to the level of heightened importance when it comes to signing the cheque.

Can we change the outlook and instead of saying that I will choose the option with the lowest price, I will pick the option that will save the most number of trees – that will make a difference.

Cross-posted from CTO Forum

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