I’m always curious about the context of the communications as well as the content. The Bush administration, for example, has been very disciplined in releasing bad news late Friday in the reasonable expectation that most people won’t ever hear about it.

Why some enterprising editor doesn’t have a Monday morning front-page box: “What the White House doesn’t want you to know” is beyond me.

So I get an EMC press release on Friday . . .
Nothing nefarious, since the release actually went out Thursday and didn’t get reported until Friday. The two major bits are:

  • “. . . former Dell and Bain executive Louise O’Brien has joined the company as Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Development. O’Brien will report to Joe Tucci, EMC Chairman, President and CEO, and be responsible for overseeing EMC’s corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, Office of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and New Ventures Group.”
  • ” . . . EMC promoted three of its senior executives to President. Mark Lewis, 45, has been named President of EMC’s Content Management and Archiving (CMA) business, after having served most recently as Chief Development Officer (CDO); David Donatelli, 42, has been named President, EMC Storage Division; and Howard Elias, 50, has been named President, EMC Global Services.”

Let’s see, the CTO reports to a sales, marketing and strategy person
Him-m-m? Nothing new for EMC, whose CTO has typically been tasked with making a dog’s breakfast product portfolio look good to customers. EMC has always been a sales company where technology is secondary. Just an observation folks.

No, this is the interesting part
Putting Lewis in charge of Content Management and Archiving. He’s been an internal advocate for storage clusters and grids, which horrifies the Symm folks, but there is no doubt that clusters are coming and EMC has to do something.

So how to thread the needle, i.e. keep up the high-margin Symm sales while slowly introducing scalable storage clusters without inducing a mass migration? Simple. Sell storage clusters as the place where your data goes to die.

Massive, cheap – compared to Symms, but the gross margin remains sacred – capacity with some nifty lock-ins to keep customers coming back for more. Archive meta-data?

ILM rises from the dead
ESG, always a reliable indicator of and cheerleader for EMC thinking, is pushing the model of dynamic data and persistent data. There is a lot more persistent data so you’ll need a lot more capacity but without the performance requirements of database apps.

Enter the grid
EMC has been seeding money among innovative startups for years with a special emphasis on network-based storage. Now it is harvest time. I expect they’ll be buying, under Ms. O’Brien’s watchful eye, some of the grid/cluster/network companies they’ve invested in.

Persistent storage is actually much harder than dynamic storage because it is anti-entropic. And if you can get a customer to buy enough you will have an annuity business for many years.

The StorageMojo take
Yet the competition isn’t standing still. The movement of companies into cluster-based storage isn’t over by a long shot. The line between persistent and dynamic data is drawn by Moore’s Law and the system architects, not by the data itself.

Oracle’s adoption of direct NFS and the coming pNFS standard both point to a world where massive capacity clusters are also capable of massive IOPS with low latency. And archival storage based on open standards will have an intuitive appeal that even EMC’s high-commission sales force won’t have much luck fending off.

Nonetheless, expect EMC to introduce their first cluster product by year-end ’08. They’re hoping to get it out before June but I don’t think they’ll make it. This stuff is always harder than it looks.

Also, I tap Ms. O’Brien as the next CEO of EMC. She may look like a dark horse, but those Bain alums are smooth operators.

Comments welcome, of course. Also, I am formally abandoning my promised Part III of EMC has Ph.D’s Pt I and Part II. Every time I looked at the list of EMC patents I’d have terminal brain cramp. Maybe an ardent EMC’er will do part III instead.

And it’s a bit pointless anyway. EMC buys its innovation if I’ve heard them correctly.