EMC channels their inner prankster

by Robin Harris on Saturday, 26 February, 2011

EMC is spending time and money to prank NetApp. Why?

Stephen Foskett documents things EMC is doing to irritate NetApp:

  • A small fleet of Minis with EMC colors parked in front of NetApp HQ
  • Marking the sidewalks in front of NetApp’s HQ with EMC slogans
  • Sharing photos of these pranks at EMC events

Here’s a photo, courtesy of Mr. Foskett, of the sidewalk branding:

OK, cute. But none of these will get enterprises to spend more money on EMC. So what is the point?

Marketing chess
Great competitive analysis reverse engineers the competitor’s messages and tactics to understand top management’s world view. For example, once you understand what top management considers their biggest weakness, you, the challenger, can goad the company on that point knowing they’ll have no good answer.

That’s a nice tactical win. Score bonus points when their top management has a clumsy response to your goading and draws attention to the weakness.

The StorageMojo take
NetApp’s current marketing narrative is: “we’re pulling away from the pack to become EMC’s chief challenger.” This narrative is supported by their growth and profitability.

EMC doesn’t often talk to StorageMojo, so I’ll guess their narrative is something like: “we’re way bigger than NetApp, and now we have competitive products, so ignore them.”

Then the customer says: “can you spell NetApp so I don’t accidentally ask them for a quote?” That’s the problem with pranking on a smaller competitor.

There’s another possibility: NetApp’s success is demoralizing the EMC sales force. The pranks are intended to tell the field: “sure, we’ve been losing to these guys for years, but that’s over – we’re taking the fight to them!”

That may work. But the products have to walk the talk, or soon the sales force will feel demoralized and betrayed.

The feel-good pranks are, at bottom, a distraction and waste. If EMC now has a converged storage infrastructure as good as NetApp’s, let them prove it: convert some high-profile customers and get testimonials. That’s what will sell the glass house.

That shouldn’t be too hard, given that Isilon has been taking business from NetApp for years. EMC’s real challenge is to cannibalize their own Clariion and Celerra business with their new Isilon or whatever gear faster than NetApp can.

Let’s check back in a year to see how it’s working.

Courteous comments welcome, of course.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

John (other John) February 27, 2011 at 5:33 am

Ooh! I was always told (handy rule of thumb) never to mention the competition. And that the best way to disrupt the competition is to hire their best people. If you do that, the selling gets a bit easier, but first you have to sell to the salesman, so your idea better be good!

This just seems wrong. If you’re the 800lb silverback, and there’s a scuffle, you sit in the corner scowling disapprovingly, until you have a Plan. Don’t move ’till the youngsters tire themselves out.

Has the Marketing Ghost of 1999’s Bubble, just decided it’s Christmas?

But, whilst i point out i hold no related stock, shares, warrants or even personal wagers on this, maybe a positive spin would be that EMC are doing something, and the flutter might presage more interesting changes.

What i’d do, allowing there is a Plan, is instead paint the sidewalk outside the big customers and prospects, with the direct line of at least a SVP, and an open invite. OK, that’s just as nuts, but the sentiment might be appreciated. I’ve worked some pretty hard boiled sales floors, but somehow outfits with the biggest sales functions always tend towards forgetting the actual sales call. It’s like having an imaginary silver bullet. “No problem. We’ll outsell them. We can always do this.”

I really cannot describe how i feel, when i get close to a sales team that’s being pulled apart at the seams. So, at a human level, i hope things go right for them.

But is this not merely annoying the enemy, the stronger to make him (or his troops) resist?

Excellent reporting.

– j

jqp February 27, 2011 at 8:13 am

Or, none of the above and this is the same attention-seeking sort of faux journalism published over at ZDNet. IMO either this is a lame attempt to persuade EMC to sit at your table, or perhaps you have run out of more important things to write.

One thing is certain. You’re over-analyzing it. Most people love a good harmless prank, even if only secretly. My guess is someone at EMC with a sense of humor (one that I do not share) has a little too much time and budget on his hands and gets a thrill from giving a competitor a noogie. I write “his” because the prank has a frat boy vibe and I can’t imagine an adult female engaging in adolescent shenanigans.

Scott Lowe February 27, 2011 at 11:51 am

(Disclosure: I work for EMC, but I do not speak for EMC.)

Personally, Robin, I agree with you. I’d love to see EMC start talking up some of the technologies roaming the halls of our facilities and stop talking about the competition. There is some phenomenal stuff going on within EMC, but it’s getting lost in the noise.

My 2 cents…

John Martin February 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm

I work for NetApp, however these views are my own.

Interesting analysis, I’ve been trying to figure out what EMC’s marketing organisation was hoping to achieve by doing this.

From my perspective it just seemed to increase NetApp’s unaided awareness metrics, and generated a decent amount press coverage in both social and traditional media which pretty much says “NetApp is the only competitor EMC is focussed on”.

As a morale-booster it might work, though I suspect that the more business minded folks are privately shaking their heads in dismay, and from a marketing perspective it seems kind of counter-productive. Overall I’m rather hoping they keep it up.

mwg February 28, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Disclaimer: I work for a reseller who sells both. I’ve actually had very good experiences when working with EMC products, but of the two I mostly work with NetApp products.

Put me in the counterproductive camp, though. It just doesn’t seem like the actions of an organization which is confident about what it is doing.

TM March 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

Looks bad on company of EMC size doing monkey marketing. Though EMC is a market leader it is only just 25% of the market. The rest are not far behind and it is only time they will catch up. Innovation is the key and looks like NetApp is working on a single code lines for 20 Years and maturing it. EMC on the other hand has 20 different lines of codes that they have acquired and increasing the complexity of storage subsystems. Again to me their VMax’s are great and the rest is a bunch of slideware supported arrays.

Steve Shockley March 6, 2011 at 10:56 am

Whenever I’ve seen EMC compete directly against NetApp, they always want to get the filer faceplate and take compromising photos of it (if they win). I’ve always found that just a tad unprofessional.

Chris March 26, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I have supported EMC and NetApp SANs for years and do not like either. Both companies rely to heavily on caching and CPU and don’t expose the available IOPS in each drive properly.

Over the past 2 years I have been migrating services onto Compellent storage and have been amazed at how I can get every available IOP from each drive when needed. Our Compellent started out with 1.5 trays of 15K drives and every 6 months we added another tray. Before our last upgrade we were running Exchange 2007, AD, Oracle, SQL, MySQL, Flash streaming servers, multi TB file servers with home directories, etc on 2 trays of 15K and 2 trays of 7.2K. 27TB of production services at the time on 4 trays of disk. Those 4 trays of disk could sustain 5000 IOPS all day long without significant latency spikes. A month ago I added 2 trays of 2.5″ SAS (15K/10K) and 2 trays of 2TB 7.2k drives. In 2 days I spread 33TB of data blocks across the 8 trays of disk sustaining 1.3GB/s on the backend ports. During the data rebalance I didn’t recieve a single latency spike above 100 ms on any of the 250+ servers running off the Compellent. Try that on an EMC or NetApp! With 8 trays I am up to 15,000 IOPS regardless of controller cache. Did I mention that we have hit 90% of every drive block in use a couple times now without any impact to performance.

I think EMC is noticing Compellent as a significant threat. They were in a few weeks ago and were offering to double their standard trade in value for the Compellent in order to get us off of it. I laughed (inside).

EMC has been trying hard to add new features to their SAN products. For example they have added tiering but they use 1GB slices instead of the 2MB block size Compellent uses for tiering. Not very efficient. I admit that EMC is trying hard but I don’t see them catching up with the times.

One last thing… We adhere to JIT manufacturing practices in our Compellent and VMware environments. We only buy capacity when we are approaching 80% resource utilization. We are also sticking to a 3 year life cycle to ensure constant capacity and performance growth in a static power/cooling/rack footprint. I talked to EMC about this and their only response was commit to the full rack of drives up front and we will turn on capacity when you need it. Why would I want to buy resources that aren’t going to be used for potentially years. Why would I have such a large portion of capital investment sit their idle and depreciating? Why would I lock into today’s capacity when every year it gets better? They don’t get it!

storage stevenage October 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm

What’s the point? As you say they shared the pranks at EMC events. So if nothing else it was probably great for morale with EMC staff which is in itself a very good thing. Many people think anyone working in the IT world is a nerd, something those people are highly aware of and something those guys like to de-bunk at all opportunities and this is a gilt edged example.
Silly – yes, unprofessional – possibly, but relatively harmless and I for one found it funny!

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: