A story of strategies

It was just about a year ago today that EMC pushed aside the engineer that put it on the map. The engineer is Moshe Yanai, and the product he created is the EMC Symmetrix.

The story begins late last November when EMC realized that storage hardware was becoming a commodity and that it must pursue an open-systems software approach. Yanai opposed the idea. After reorganization, EMC introduced its WideSky and AutoIS software strategies, and Yanai faded into obscurity (albeit stinking rich).

But before we continue, let's introduce another character in this story: Doron Kempel, the former EMC vice president who was sued about a year ago by EMC.

He was taken to court for accepting a position - CEO of SANgate Systems -- that violated the terms of a noncompete clause in a contract between Kempel and EMC.

Now, and somewhat remarkably, the two are again linked to EMC through Diligent Technologies. Diligent is a new company that includes many former employees of an EMC research and development lab located in Israel, which EMC cast off last month. In exchange for the lab, its technologies, and $5 million in cash, EMC received a 24 percent minority share in the company. Also part of the agreement, EMC will resell, nonexclusively, Diligent's forthcoming products.

Here come the interesting connections: Kempel is Diligent's chairman and CEO. And Yanai, through his association with venture capital firm Credo Group, hasinvested a portion of the firm's $10 million investment in return for a majority ownership in Diligent.

Digilent is now working on four unnamed products in the areas of tape virtualization; backup and recovery; and data sharing and message queuing. A fifth product may also emerge from its current work.

The first is a product that EMC currently sells under the name of EMC CopyCross. CopyCross sits on a mainframe and allows enterprises to copy tape data to disk-based storage without making changes to the applications on the mainframe. Diligent will now sell CopyCross instead of EMC, and subsequent releases by Diligent will also support open systems.

So after all this, you're probably wondering what our friggin' point is in bringing up the whole sordid EMC-Yanai-Kempel angle. In fact, it has everything todo with EMC's plan for the future.

EMC's decision to give up this lab is yet another indication that EMC is really betting the farm on its open-systems software strategy. By selling off an R&Dlab that focused on discrete software products that didn't fit into the WideSky or AutoIS architectures, EMC has all but committed to the open-systems decision-- and that may be a mistake. It's too early to tell, but in one year's time, we might know if Yanai's departure was more symbolic than we thought.

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