An NDA for analysts?
As a newly minted analyst I was looking forward to going to EMC’s annual analyst meeting, getting industrial strength marketing smoke blown at me. Then I found they insist on a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Let me get this straight: the analysts job is to talk and write about the industry to current and potential clients, the press and on the occasional blog, and you expect them to keep secrets?

Is it just me or is that brain dead? On the other hand lots of folks from Gartner, IDC and even Data Mobility were there, so I’m sure they (now) know something I don’t. Not that you’ll hear about it from me. Or them.

In contrast, NetApp, for one, doesn’t ask for NDAs.

I passed
I only sign NDAs with clients because:

  • I take NDAs seriously and I don’t want to know trade secrets unless we have a business reason
  • NDAs are usually a ploy to shift focus from the current shabby reality to some wonderful and ever-receding future
  • The revelations are usually horse-pucky since delivery always slips, prices always rise and features always shrink.

So I’ll continue to just look at what they do, without the benefit of deep insight into where they claim they’re going.

One day I noticed a hit from StorageZilla, where they’d linked to one of my posts.

The first thing that caught my eye was the misstatement of my views. Whatever. Then I saw this:

EMC already has more than it’s share of ideas about the future in active development, or being argued about at ear splitting volume by people with Ph.Ds inside the office of the CTO.

EMC has Ph.Ds? What do they do?
StorageMojo reviews technology papers from all kinds of folks, including IBM, Google, Microsoft, HP, CMU, USCD and more. Until I saw the comment in StorageZilla – love the name – it hadn’t occurred to me that no one from EMC had ever made the cut. Admittedly, my “search method” for cool papers is idiosyncratic, but really, how is it that the major independent storage player, with a huge R&D budget, doesn’t have people visibly engaged with the big storage problems of the day?

Let’s start with the CTO
Naturally, the impetus for this comes from EMC founders. I’m more interested in what is going on with EMC research. I think I’ve heard three EMC CTOs speak and the defining characteristic is a single-minded focus on how wonderful it is that EMC has taken care of everything.

Now any good CTO should be able to sell customers and prospects on the technology vision of the company. Ideally, they embody that all-too-rare characteristic of “thought leadership.” That is, their vision of business, technology and cultural trends is so vivid and compelling that they convince deeply conservative IT execs to decide that not only is some change inevitable, it might actually be desirable.

A true CTO should maintain a 360 degree watch for new technologies, business trends and the impact of the various power factors – Moore’s law and disk areal density chief among them – and puts together the technology forecast of what the world will look like in 3-5 years. From that they push and prod engineering teams and (try) educate marketing and customers while picking up the vibes that might alter their vision. I’ve never had the sense that anyone at EMC tries to do that, let alone succeeds.

Quick, who is EMC’s CTO?
EMC’s latest CTO, Jeffrey M. Nick, came from IBM, where for years he toiled in the MVS group and later, the grid computing and on-demand initiatives. He’s been granted some 50 patents, became an IBM Fellow, and is clearly very smart.

But don’t take my word for it, check out the white paper Mr. Nick wrote. I know from his bio that he is actually well informed about grid computing. Yet hardly a paragraph goes by without assuring us that Invista, Rainfinity, Smarts, VMware and Documentum are there to solve our problems.

I’m fine with EMC flogging its stuff. Where they lose me is the lack of a vision, or goal, that EMC is aiming for. Yes, all this stuff is happening and yes we have all these products, but where is EMC investing its R&D dollars to create the products, services and architectures that customers will need in three years?

End of part I. Stay tuned as I explore EMCs R&D further.

Update: Somehow StorageMojo’s normally rigorous editorial progress broke down and a paragraph got left out. A fine old Chianti Classico Riserva may have been a contributing factor. I’ve added the paragraph back in above.
Update II: I added the note about NetApp.

Comments welcome, especially from EMC folks.