Five things you don't know about EMC

Unwitting furniture salesmen become storage gurus. Who would have thought?

You may think you know all you want about EMC and its Symmetrix, Clariion and the other offerings. It would be a surprise, however, if you know what product EMC first introduced, how it makes use of a swimming pool on its property and how too much wine at a Passover seder contributed to EMC acquisition RSA Security's first product. To learn more, read on.

1. EMC's first product

EMC didn't start out as a storage company, unless you consider the drawers in the office desks the company first sold. Founders Richard Egan (the E in EMC) and Roger Marino (the M) were both employed at different companies. As Egan recollects, they were approached by a colleague on the West Coast who had designed a desk specifically for computer users. He needed someone to distribute it on the East Coast. Neither Egan nor Marino were furniture salesmen, but with a 55% commission from sales of the desk, they were able to launch EMC in 1979.

The EMC Symmetrix wasn't launched until more than 10 years later -- it featured a whopping 24GB capacity.

2. EMC's second product

Egan and Marino then started selling Intel-compatible memory in 1981. A prospect, Egan recalls, wasn't in the market for the memory EMC sold, but wanted Prime-compatible memory. So EMC started making Prime-compatible memory at a cost that was 50% less expensive than Prime's US$36,000 per megabyte. As the result of sending a promotional brochure to 70 prospects (the list was salted with Prime employees' names), Prime sued the nascent EMC. After a conversion with Prime's president in an airport, where Egan said EMC would countersue for monopolistic behavior, Prime withdrew its suit.

3. EMC's dual-use swimming pool

When EMC began planning for its new headquarters building in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, back in the late 1990s, it was required to have 200,000 to 250,000 gallons of reserve water onsite for fire protection. The company considered building a water tower, but thought it would be an eyesore. Instead it built a pool to be used as a backup water holding tank for fire suppression. Employees use the 250-meter, 100,000-gallon pool for recreation.

4. The EMC band

The first officially sponsored band, the Rockumentums, debuted at the Documentum Developer Conference in 2004, where they performed "some of the classics." EMC's band is not the first musical group formed at a tech company. Others include the Raving Daves (named for then-CEO Dave Duffield) from PeopleSoft, Excite's Where's Julio and Severe Tire Damage, comprising Digital Equipment and Xerox PARC employees.

5. RSA's first product.

You hear about people doodling technical ideas on a cocktail napkin. Well, you can blame the RSA encryption algorithm on too much Passover wine. During a Passover seder, which tells the story of the Jews' exodus from Egypt, four glasses of wine are consumed. At such a seder in 1977, three Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty members -- Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Edelman -- had postulated before on how to implement the Diffie-Hellman algorithm, which was subject to man-in-the-middle attacks. After the seder ended, Rivest continued to think about the problem at home. He called Adelman on the phone and told him about the new algorithm. The next morning, the three began working on RSA (from their last names) in earnest.

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More about ADIDocumentumEMC CorporationExodusIntelMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyPeopleSoftRSARSA, The Security Division of EMCSymmetrixXerox

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