From the Top: EMC's David Webster - Key storage drivers

EMC president, David Webster talks about the progress being made around information lifecycle management and predicts the rise of virtual datacentres

In the first part of an in-depth interview with ARN's BRIAN CORRIGAN, local EMC president, David Webster discusses the progress being made around information lifecycle management and predicts the rise of virtual datacentres.

Information lifecycle management (ILM) is a core strategy for EMC. What progress is being made?

Our view would be that ILM is a customer strategy and different organisations are at various stages of adoption - some already have a comprehensive approach while others are just starting out. That's because different sizes of organisation will have a different approach to how they classify their information, how they tier their storage and how they manage information based on its value. ILM's key benefit is that you can reduce the cost of storing and managing information over time. We see organisations taking ILM forward as a strategy because they know that if they don't the cost of managing information will not reduce. You need a range of platforms and software solutions to be able to execute on ILM properly. We have and that's foundational to why our business is growing so successfully right now.

So big banks and government departments are deploying comprehensive ILM strategies but how is it developing within your partner community?

If you look at our product portfolio we have Symmetrix at the high end, Clariion in the mid-range and a new entry-level Celerra NS20 platform for IP storage. In our channel community, their customers range from the very largest organisations in Australia down to SMBs. They operate everywhere we operate and are reacting to customer needs for an ILM strategy. The partner community is starting to embrace a broader set of EMC platforms, which allows them to go to customers and position a tiering strategy. You will see them position Clariion storage platforms together with Centera archive platforms as a two-tier store and archive solution. They will start to take ILM concepts forward by classifying data as to what's important and what can be moved off for archiving. We are spending a lot of time educating them, as well, so there's a strong connection between the customer need for ILM and the partner community getting more involved in influencing them.

Compliance has been a big issue for the multinationals due to legislation such as Sarbanes-Oxley but do you think it will ever have any major impact on the local SMB market?

It has an impact today because a lot of mid-market and SMB companies are customers of, or suppliers to, larger corporations. The requirement to comply has a chain-link effect and larger organisations are starting to push responsibility out beyond their own business walls. In the IT sector, we have a partner community that has to deal with organisations they supply to as it relates to compliance. You then get the business opportunity for resellers to do consulting and provisioning work around compliance-driven need. That is happening around storage systems where people have been keeping everything on one platform without an archive policy and are now realising that they need to recover information from seven years ago. That is driving a need for archive platforms and we are seeing a reseller community that is becoming much more active around archive and protection of information to satisfy compliance requirements. It's just a natural ripple effect that occurs when large corporations have to comply with regulatory and legislative requirements. I think it's a tremendous business opportunity and our partners are doing a great job.

We have seen server virtualisation really take off recently. Do you see similar potential in storage virtualisation?

EMC has a three-pronged approach to virtualisation. We have the server virtualisation [VMware] momentum, which continues to go from strength to strength, but the other two areas that we lead in are file virtualisation [Rainfinity] and storage virtualisation [Invista]. We view virtualisation as a strategic platform that helps organisations reduce cost and become more efficient. A very strong side effect of that is lowering the carbon footprint and having a positive impact on the environment. If you look at the mid-market in Australia, there is very significant growth in file servers and file systems. Getting those under control and managed is a fundamental issue that customers want to address and resellers have to move with it. We recently announced a small form factor Rainfinity appliance that resellers can offer as a file management solution. We think this will be a very strong focal point for the channel as they become involved in file virtualisation. It's a simple platform that plugs onto an IP network and instantly provides a view of what's going on in disparate file systems. In the future we see the datacentre being virtualised contextually. If you think about servers, file systems and storage subsystems being virtualised then you have a virtual datacentre and organisations don't need to care what device they are on or what operating system. All that will matter is what capacity they have and what content they can get access to.

This three-pronged approach has led to some criticism that your virtualisation strategy was confused. Do you think the market understands it now?

If you talk to our customers now, server virtualisation is where they have seen the most impact. That is where the early adopters have started. That has delivered a requirement for storage area networks to support virtualisation so I think customers see the difference between virtualising server, storage and file system environments. They see them as three separate areas they can impact economically. I don't think they look at it holistically and decide to virtualise everything. They might focus on servers now and then look at Invista [storage virtualisation] later. We can manage an EMC array as well as anybody else's array under Invista. With Rainfinity we can do the same thing whether it be an EMC IP device or a NetApp IP device.

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