Mark Lewis Unplugged: Why He Left HP For EMC

Hewlett-Packard EMC

Lewis, who after HP's acquisition of Compaq was vice president of worldwide marketing and solutions at HP's Network Storage Solutions Group, four weeks ago abruptly left HP to take on the role of executive vice president of new business ventures and CTO at EMC.

Lewis in the past was vocal in his criticism of EMC, publicly slamming the company for its monolithic architecture vs. the legacy Compaq StorageWorks modular architecture and saying that Compaq's open approach to storage was much more user-friendly than what he derided as EMC's proprietary approach.

At his keynote, he brought up that past himself.

"The first thing I said to Joe [Tucci, president and CEO of EMC when I started was, 'What were you guys thinking?' " he said. "Didn't you really see all the stuff I said about you guys? All these years, you know? There was probably no bigger critic of EMC for years than Mark Lewis."

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Lewis said that when he got to EMC, his new colleagues were wondering what to do about all those old quotes. Pointing to some of those quotes, which were projected behind him on the stage, he said, "I said, well, we're going to present them. We're going to talk about them. We're going to talk about all the different things that I said over the years about EMC."

Lewis said that if one looks closely, it becomes apparent that he has not changed.

"My vision for storage hasn't changed," he said. "It's everybody else in the world that has changed. Everybody is changing. Companies are changing. You're seeing a lot of change in the industry--things that you wouldn't even have expected from EMC, say, a year ago, two years ago. It's quite a different company today. There's a lot of change happening in the industry, and you have to look at your suppliers, and you have to look at this in terms of what we're doing, the actions we are taking. What is today's strategy and vision. You can't look at the past here, in this case, to see where the vision is going forward in the future."

In an interview with CRN, Lewis said that what has happened over the past 12 to 18 months is a sea of change in terms of vendor mindsets.

"I haven't changed my opinion of what a good storage company is, but I do believe that EMC has significantly changed direction," he said. "And I believe that other companies as well have changed direction, to the point where, when I decided to come to EMC, it was really [a decision based on [the fact that I felt that EMC was now the company that was really closest to being able to achieve and be in line with the vision that I believe in for storage."

Lewis declined to go into detail about what happened since HP's merger with Compaq. However, he did say that customers should look once again at the strategies of the new HP, as they are not necessarily the strategies of the past.

"You have changes organizationally, you have changes through mergers and acquisitions," he said. "And like with EMC, you have changes in thinking that can go on within companies where CEOs come into place, like [EMC's Joe Tucci, saying 'We're going to do things differently.' With this amount of change, what's wrong for customers to assume is that a strategy that a company that no longer exits two years ago is the same strategy they have today. It's not. Strategies change, and customers need to look at that and see whether those strategies still match their expectations."

For instance, EMC's strategy was completely focused around Symmetrix and selling it direct to the user community for a very long time, said Lewis. However, today the Clariion line has become an important part of EMC's overall strategy. The company has more of an indirect strategy than in the past. Symmetrix technology is being migrated to the Clariion, and the two have a common management platform. "[There are common attributes across a very modular product line," he said.

HP, on the other hand, had Compaq and a value strategy of supporting open systems with a modular architecture. However, by becoming part of HP, that strategy was compromised as HP continued with the Hitachi Data Systems line OEMed by HP. "And now [HP has two product lines that don't have common management capabilities, or [common software capabilities."

Lewis said there was no single event at HP that caused him to decide to move to EMC. Rather, he said, EMC's overall strategy better matched his career goals, giving him a chance to play a major role in a storage-focused company.