EMC, Dimension Data Form Hybrid Cloud 'Catalyst Alliance'

EMC and Dimension Data have formed the "Catalyst Alliance," a four-year initiative designed to accelerate hybrid cloud offerings for midsize enterprise customers that have between $1 billion and $7 billion in annual revenue.

The pact, announced Wednesday, is billed as a way for EMC and Dimension Data to jointly market and sell comprehensive hybrid cloud solutions, including storage and managed services, using a pay-for-consumption model, and allowing EMC customers to "burst" to Dimension Data's public cloud.

The alliance is an important move for EMC to retain as much installed base as possible, TBR analyst Geoff Woollacott told CRN, especially during a "massively disruptive time in the industry." It also underlines the pressure EMC is under to compete with Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and cloud innovators that are not beholden to an expensive, hardware-centric legacy business model.

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Arnold Bennett, director of sales, North America, for Wakefield, Mass.-based EMC partner Northern, drove that point home.

"EMC still seems convinced that there will be a need for on-premise storage," Bennett said. "If you buy into that strategy, then this is a solid move for EMC."

However, Bennett has seen the other side of that argument firsthand.

"We have a large customer that will move several petabytes of storage to the cloud next year on the AWS Cloud," Bennet said. "We know that EMC has forecasted $2 million in new hardware sales for that customer next year, and that just isn't going to happen."

Andres Rodriguez, founder and CEO of EMC competitor Nasuni, said the Catalyst Alliance gives EMC the opportunity to prove to customers that it can compete in the cloud with Amazon or Microsoft.

"This partnership goes all the way to how EMC is going to license its technology as a cloud-like offering," Rodriguez told CRN.

"Amazon and Microsoft are not running EMC or traditional tech in their data centers. They're running automated software that can scale and can use commodity hardware. It doesn't need the same ratio of IT managers," Rodriguez said.

"EMC, like all traditional vendors, is just starved for being able to show themselves as relevant in the world of the cloud. It's a lot of pressure they're feeling," Rodriguez said. Customers aren't fools. They can do the math. They know how much they'll consume three years from now, and they're going to fight you. There's pressure to change the model and lower the overall cost with real commodity in the hardware layer and real scale provided by the software layer. The traditional guys stumble on the hardware layer."

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Still, the Catalyst Alliance doesn't mark the commoditization of EMC, said Kevin Leahy, Dimension Data's group general manager for data center solutions.

"It's the opposite of commoditization," Leahy told CRN. "We work with clients, and they need the ability to work in a hybrid environment. The expectation is quite different from commodity, but they want to consume it in a way that matches that."

Through the alliance, Dimension Data and EMC plan to deliver solutions across private cloud, either on- or off-premise, public cloud and hybrid cloud, all combined with managed services for storage. Pricing will be flexible and consumption-based, and the two companies have assembled a team of sales, tech and marketing specialists tasked with aligning customer workloads with appropriate solutions, the companies said.

Joint offerings include Private Cloud Enterprise Edition with Dimension Data Cloud Control; EMC's Enterprise Hybrid Cloud bursting to Dimension Data public cloud; managed services for storage incorporating EMC's ViPR controller; and VCE's Vblock.

In the future, the alliance plans to offer storage-as-a-service, disaster recovery as-a-service and backup-as-as-service, as well as federated private cloud.

Jay Snyder, EMC senior vice president of global strategic alliances, told CRN the alliance helps EMC get out ahead of customers who haven't made a move toward cloud yet, as well as customers that may move away from EMC as they move toward public cloud solutions.

"For a lot of folks, this is where they need to go, and they've been asking for this, and for other customers, they've been asking for this, and they've been putting pressure on us to meet this market," Snyder said. "It really depends on the customer you're talking to. You try to respond, try to foreshadow, and you can be way ahead of them, or they can be saying, 'it's about time.'"