EMC World 2014: News, Surprises And Intrigue

Welcome To Las Vegas

EMC just held its annual EMC World 2014 conference in probably the only city large enough to host such an event: Las Vegas.

But in addition to having the infrastructure to handle an event the size of EMC World, Las Vegas is still Las Vegas. And that means plenty of opportunity for fun, whether it was solution providers taking customers to swanky nightclubs or getting EMC rival Hewlett-Packard to spring for a pink gorilla suit.

Curious about some of the very serious and the much-less-than-serious happenings at EMC World? Then turn the page, and attend the event with CRN.

HP Goes To EMC World, But Not To Play Fair

Hewlett-Packard claimed success in its attempt to lure customer attendees at last week's EMC World to look at HP storage by offering them an opportunity to try some of Las Vegas' biggest attractions at no charge.

HP offered EMC World attendees with an EMC World badge who tweeted "#72hoursofyes" during the first three days of the conference the chance to ask for pretty much anything valued up to $599.

HP offered to fill up to 40 requests each of the three days of the promotion, with the retail value of the requests limited to no more than $599.

The company got a lot of takers.

Taking Advantage Of HP At EMC World

Herolind Dema, founder and chief giver at Phoenix-based DemaNation All Stars, which helped develop HP's "#72hoursofyes" promotion, was one of three drivers running shuttle busses from the Las Vegas airport to the Strip for EMC World attendees.

Several EMC World attendees took advantage of the promotion. YouTube videos show attendees getting Cirque du Soleil training, driving a bulldozer, getting a tattoo and a helicopter tour of Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon.

Other attendees received Godiva Chocolates, a Gucci bag, a pink gorilla suit, NASCAR race car driving, tickets to a Britney Spears concert and a chance to try indoor sky diving.

Seeking The Wisdom Of Tucci

The highlight of EMC World was the keynote by EMC Chairman Joe Tucci.

Getting to the keynote was an exercise in patience. Your reporter thinks the old Sands Convention Center, now a part of the Venetian resort complex, may not have seen crowds like this since Microsoft's Bill Gates' last Consumer Electronics Show keynote back in 2008.

Well-Traveled Crowd

About 4,200 end user executives, along with a large number of solution providers, attended EMC World this year. They were a seasoned bunch of pros, including this gentleman with the Dell bag he probably got at an event sponsored by one of EMC's key rivals.

Hola, EMC!

What could possibly be a more fun way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo than listening to Tucci talk about his company's vision? Why, starting off his keynote with a mariachi band.

While Tucci is known to pick a mean guitar, for EMC World he limited himself to clapping in time with the band.

Tucci: Managing All That Data Is Not For The Faint Of Heart

Tucci, citing IDC numbers, said that by 2020, mobile "connected things" will be generating about 27 percent of all data, while 40 percent will be generated on the cloud.

That will require companies to rearchitect how they handle data, Tucci said. "This is what will bring on what we call the rise of the software-defined enterprise. ... Every company will use software-defined as an offensive weapon, or they will fade away," he said.

To get ready, EMC over the last couple years has spent about 12 percent of its revenue on R&D, and 10 percent on acquisitions.

"To fund this is not for the faint of heart," he said.

EMC Acquires DSSD, Gets Andy Bechtolsheim In The Deal

Speaking about acquisitions, Tucci then said EMC has acquired DSSD, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based developer of server-side flash storage, and unveiled plans to use the company's technology to accelerate applications running in the server.

The DSSD team includes Andy Bechtolsheim, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, and the chairman and chief development officer of Arista Networks, and Bill Moore, Sun's former chief storage engineer and employee No. 1 of 3PAR, now a part of Hewlett-Packard.

Once the acquisition is complete, DSSD will become a stand-alone unit within EMC's Emerging Technology Products Division. Moore will lead the DSSD business within EMC while Bechtolsheim will continue as strategic adviser.

Meeting Challenges With The 'Bear'

Bear Grylls, a U.K. adventurer whose dreams of climbing Mt. Everest were nearly dashed after a parachuting accident in Afghanistan nearly killed him only to come back and eventually crawl his way to the top, opened the solution-provider-only portion of EMC World with words of inspiration for partners.

Grylls said it is important to challenge oneself. "Challenges are opportunities. ... Without challenges, there can be no success," he said.

Success also comes from continuing even after running into roadblocks, Grylls said. "The rewards in life don't go to the biggest, or the strongest, or the most intelligent," he said. "The rewards go to the most dogged."

Ambulos Zips Onto The Partner Stage

Gregg Ambulos, EMC's senior vice president of worldwide channel sales, took the stage by coming in on a zip line despite a fear of heights and the fact that Grylls earlier declined to zipline in after an equipment malfunction.

"If you put your mind to something, you can accomplish anything in the world," he said.

Ambulos introduced the new EMC Business Partner channel program, which includes such planks as the flexibility to use funds from the program to invest in any EMC solutions regardless of where those funds were earned, as well as new services for such solutions as virtual desktop infrastructure or hybrid clouds.

Partners applauded when Ambulos said they would receive rebates as soon as they made sales instead of waiting until some goal was met.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes For EMC Partners

Jeremy Burton, president of EMC's products and marketing, outlined several changes in the IT industry that will have a profound impact on channel partners, including the fact that line-of-business directors, and not IT directors, are driving IT decisions.

Burton also said that while the IT industry is quickly adopting cloud computing, businesses are still very much tied to their on-premise infrastructures. "We're moving to a hybrid environment. ... We have to get comfortable brokering the cloud," he said.

At the same time, EMC continues to evolve from a product-led to a solution-led business, Burton said. "It really is a dramatic change to the playbook of the channel," he said.

Partnering With EMC, And With Each Other

Terry Breen, EMC's senior vice president of global strategic sales, said that 60 percent of EMC revenue came through channel partners in the last 60 months.

"Playing together is the only way we're going to win, and we're going to win if we play together. ... Make no mistake about it, we view you as a critical part of our sales force," Breen said.

Solution providers can also win by partnering with each other, Breen said.

"Each of us are stronger if we work together."

Flash Storage: The Bear Awakens

Bill Scannell, president of global sales and customer operations at EMC, told partners to ignore Pure Storage and other rival flash storage vendors who were meeting customers outside EMC World, and to focus on EMC's XtremIO flash storage offering.

"I like to say, it's like poking a bear," Scannell said. "If you poke a sleeping bear, the bear awakes. Guess what? The bear is awake."

Scannell unveiled EMC's channel priorities for 2014, including to defend and extend its industry leadership and to help partners build well-run hybrid clouds instead of watching customers move operations to public clouds. "I ask, are you sure your apps will all be in public clouds in five years?" he said.

Yes, We Will Enter The Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Business

David Goulden, CEO of EMC Information Infrastructure, admitted during a question-and-answer period for channel partners that EMC will enter the hyper-converged infrastructure business, confirming CRN reports that the company would do so.

Goulden, seated here between Scannell (left) and Tucci, responded to a question from a solution provider who said that startups in the hyper-converged infrastructure, all-flash array, and cloud backup appliance market are "kicking our butt."

Goulden said EMC will have a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance by the end of 2014. "It will be very competitive to products starting with 'N' or 'S,'" he said, referring to Nutanix and SimpliVity.

Relaxing On Cloud 9 (And 10, And 11, And. ...)

Where better to rest after a hard day at EMC World than on a cloud, sponsored by the company looking to be a leading provider of technologies for clouds?

These puffy, soft, cloud-like-even-though-they-are-blue cushions provided respite from the conference and the product pavilion.

Party With Your VAR

Several solution providers, including CDW and Worldwide Technologies, held parties for their customers and potential customers during EMC World.

The prize for best party, and for shortest party, goes to Dallas-based Lumenate, which took several of its customers -- and one channel-focused reporter -- for a ride in Linq, a ferris-wheel-like device that takes riders high over the Las Vegas skyline. The Linq wheel takes a whopping 30 minutes to make one turn, which just happened to be how long the Lumenate party lasted.

Brad Maltz, chief UberGeek at Lumenate, was host to the party.