EMC has been test driving their Next Big Marketing Initiative for some months. Expect them to start pounding the drums for Intelligent Information Management this month. It appears that IIM, the concept, will be embodied in software products taking pieces from several EMC acquisitions, including Documentum, Smarts, Authentica and RSA. The goal is grandiose: data security built from the inside-out rather than outside-in. The pieces: unstructured data classification software that enables admins to decide how long to retain files, who gets to access them, and what compliance policies apply.

The inside-out piece is interesting. Corporate America is slowly realizing that they face more problems from PO’d employees than they do from professional hackers. Remember the prosecutor’s mantra: means, motive and opportunity. IT pros too often have all three. So, in theory, IIM protect data from motivated and capable folks inside the firewall. Uh-huh. Good luck on that one.

Now We Explain Those Acquisitions
IIM has two goals. One is to explain all those software acquisitions. Second, EMC humbly wishes to bring incredible user value and improve the industry, just as the brand vision says. No, just kidding. Second, EMC is catering to the new-found Enterprise concern over data protection. Not, on the face of it, a bad idea. But do we really need another TLA to promote it? For once, can’t we have something a bit more fun, like “Dumb Information Management”? An acronym, DIM, that actually describes itself?

About Those Acquisitions
It makes a lot of sense for EMC to reach beyond arrays to grow their business. Just as the railroads lost because they thought they were in the railroad business instead of the transportation business, an array company should think bigger than arrays.

Therefore my question: has EMC chosen wisely in extending their business with the acquisitions they’ve made? Backup software is a no-brainer as it is still the largest single storage software market. Yet as you get further away from the rotating rust and high-margin cache, what you offer tends to have less general appeal and requires more specialized selling and targeting. SG&A goes up and, at some point, sales efficiency goes down. Worse, if you can’t move as nimbly as the smaller firms because you’ve already committed big bucks to one solution, you risk having your lunch eaten by smaller and smarter competitors, as NetApp is doing right this very minute.

The Glass House Death Spiral
The urge to climb the value chain deep into the datacenter is well-nigh irresistable. EMC is a total gross-margin slut. A match made in heaven? I don’t think so. As Lew Gerstner demonstrated with his re-invention of IBM as a middleware and services company, and his predecessor, John Akers, didn’t, there is a time to climb-down and return to the basics of adding value and solving real problems. Is IIM such an inflection point? StorageMojo.com is on the edge of its virtual seat.

Prepare To Be Amused
Over the next few months EMC’s marketing gnomes will be promoting IIM through every possible medium except StorageMojo: the speeches have been prepped; the Powerpoints loaded;the gushing ESG white paper breathlessly promotes EMC:

One vendor that boasts many of the technologies required to manage information more intelligently is EMC. Through a series of software acquisitions and expansion of storage management software, EMC has quietly built solutions that, when integrated, can help its customers locate, classify and take action against information.

From a resource management standpoint, EMC owns a unique capability to gather and analyze data in networks and other systems with its SMARTS solution suite. SMARTS architecture is perfect . . . ;

What Can I Say?
Stay tuned for the IIM follies. I’m hoping EMC marketing does a better job with this than they did with ILM. So far, EMC has been heavy on the hype and light on the delivery. Perhaps IIM will signal a sea change. Or pigs might fly. You be the judge.

Comments, as always, welcome.