EMC on the Brain

Vendors must learn that juxtaposing one’s own products with EMC’s as a means for advancing one’s own value proposition is silly.

When you are an industry big shot like EMC Corporation, you have a tendency to draw criticism both for what you do and for what you don’t do. It is difficult to cast EMC in the role of a hapless victim, but recent communications floating across my desk from competitors certainly miss their mark when they try to take on the Hopkinton, MA storage giant.

The first came my way from Dan Tanner, Vice President of Business Development for KOM Networks in Westboro, MA. His e-mail began with a quote from EMC CEO, Joe Tucci:

"While the storage industry has come a long way since the creation of single, redundant arrays, through enterprise storage, to networked storage, and finally to automated networked storage. The next step in the process—moving to information lifecycle management (ILM)—will represent a greater shift than all of those steps put together. ILM, which is the ability to match the value and the age of the data a customer wants stored with appropriately priced storage, is one of the hottest buzzwords in the industry right now, and everyone who's anyone claims to be at least working on it. EMC, with its broad product offerings within storage hardware, software, and services, is uniquely positioned to address this growing space."

To me, the statement seemed pretty accurate in its basic premise: information lifecycle management is important and has rarely been accorded the importance it merited in the distributed systems world, mainly because of limitations inherent in older storage/server connection models. Of course, the last sentence in the quote was obviously self-serving market speak.

Tanner apparently felt the same way, underscoring the first couple of sentences in red and highlighting the conclusion of the quote in blue to denote “what [Tucci] would like the world to believe.” He added that his product, KOMworx, “is open ILM in the field now.” He hoped to have the opportunity to demonstrate it to me at a forthcoming trade show.

I haven’t had a chance to review KOMworx yet, and I certainly hope to have the opportunity. From the description on the company Web site, it sounds like interesting technology. What I was left wondering from the note was why Tanner would choose an EMC quote to introduce me to his product. I suspect that it has been a long, tough road for companies like KOM to draw attention to the need for ILM, and it must smart to have EMC garner instant popularity for the concept with a single pronouncement from their CEO almost as though they invented it. My advice: if you want to take on EMC, it is probably a better strategy to contrast the strengths of your solution with any weaknesses in theirs. Why not do a bake-off?

The second note about EMC was actually forwarded to me by my editor. It was a press release with an accompanying note from a press relations person who handles part of IBM’s image-making. The press release was a blah-blah thing about IBM’s financial success this quarter. What was interesting about the correspondence was the defensive tone of the PR person who sent it. Entitled “Who is the real storage leader?” the note read

“This morning, IDC released its revenue figures for world wide storage systems in the second quarter of 2003. By now, most of the vendors would have touted their numbers, but one trend that isn't spelled out is IBM's double digit year over year revenue growth, while EMC reported year over year revenue decline.”

Apparently, the PR representative was laboring under two misconceptions: first, that anyone other than stock traders believes (or even cares about) quarterly market share numbers from IDC or any other supply-side research and analysis firm, and second, that anyone believes company hype about being the “storage leader” – whatever that is.

The point again is that juxtaposing one’s own products with EMC’s as a means for advancing one’s own value proposition is silly. It means virtually nothing to readers or columnists where a company’s product is situated in relation to Hopkinton and it leaves the impression that EMC is the center of the universe, which it isn’t.

Seems to me that in a down economy and with so much data at risk from poor storage management and worse storage architecture, vendors should be focusing less on EMC and more on improving their own products.

About the Author

Jon William Toigo is chairman of The Data Management Institute, the CEO of data management consulting and research firm Toigo Partners International, as well as a contributing editor to Enterprise Systems and its Storage Strategies columnist. Mr. Toigo is the author of 14 books, including Disaster Recovery Planning, 3rd Edition, and The Holy Grail of Network Storage Management, both from Prentice Hall.