The 10 Biggest EMC Stories Of 2014

Disrupting The Industry, Disrupting Itself

The year 2014 was very disruptive to the storage industry as a crop of all-flash startups, software-defined storage technologies and ever-falling prices threatened the status quo on which so many legacy vendors depend.

EMC, as the largest independent storage vendor, had the most to lose, but in 2014 aggressively countered industry disruptions with a healthy dose of its own disrupting. The company took on the all-flash storage array startups with its own startup, set itself up to be a nimble cloud provider and showed its ability to turn its legacy offerings into software-defined technologies.

CRN was there recording the birth of the new EMC. Turn the page to journey through the year with the company that tried to outdisrupt the disrupters.

10. Big And Small Upgrades: VMAX3, VNXe2

EMC in 2014 expanded its portfolio with upgrades at both the high end and the low end of its product line.

July saw EMC update its flagship VMAX storage solution with new software and a new storage hypervisor that could potentially allow it to run nonstorage applications. It can dynamically allocate up to 384 Intel Ivy Bridge processor cores between different front-end and back-end applications, and has a new operating system that allows applications to run inside the storage system instead of on a separate server.

On the entry storage side, EMC in May upgraded its VNXe entry-level storage array to support three times the number of virtual machines, virtual desktops, Microsoft SQL transactions and Exchange mailboxes when compared with the current VNXe 3150.

9. Big Upgrade Issue: XtremIO Gets Flamed

A mountain or a molehill?

In September, EMC's competitors took advantage of its plans to upgrade the capabilities of its all-flash XtremIO line to version 3.0 via a new hardware controller to go with the greatly enhanced software by calling the move a "destructive upgrade," which is storage-speak for making a change that requires data to be moved someplace temporarily to do the upgrade.

EMC countered that the XtremIO is fairly new, which means few customers will see disruption, and that the upgrade is not really necessary for many of those previously installed as they were used for the most part for VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure).

8. Big Upgrade For Company: EMC Reorgs

EMC in October went through its sort-of annual reorganization, this time dividing its core business into two organizations, and forming a new business unit focused on its cloud management and orchestration product line.

The storage giant reorganized its core businesses into two new divisions: the Emerging Technology Division and the Core Technology Division. The new Emerging Technology Division brings together EMC's Isilon scale-out NAS technology, its ViPR software-defined storage technology and its startup DSSD business focused on developing rack-scale, server-side flash storage technology.

The company also unveiled a new cloud management and orchestration product organization targeted at developing software that brokers workloads between different cloud environments, including OpenStack, Amazon Web Services and VMware.

7. EMC Federation Bore Its First Fruits

EMC in October unveiled the first of five planned integrated solutions based on technology sourced from multiple parts of the EMC Federation, which includes EMC Information Infrastructure; virtualization leader VMware; big data and custom apps developer Pivotal; and security technology developer RSA.

That initial solution, the Federation Software-Defined Data Center, combines EMC and VMware technology into a flexible platform upon which further EMC Federation technologies can be built. Those future solutions, expected to be released over the next few months, include Platform-as-a-Service, which combine technology from EMC, VMware and Pivotal; a virtualized data lake featuring Pivotal technology; end-user computing with VMware and EMC technology; and security analytics, which will add RSA to the virtualized data lake.

6. Project Liberty: VNX To Go Software-Only

EMC in May signaled its ability to turn its storage hardware into software-defined solutions by unveiling Project Liberty, a plan to turn its VNX midrange storage array into a virtual array that could run in a cloud or potentially on commodity server hardware.

Project Liberty also could be used to create virtual arrays directly on commodity servers, although there are no concrete plans to do so at this time, EMC said. One use case would be to build software-defined VNX arrays for test and development, letting customers quickly spin up a virtual array to test new application functionality and then move the workload to a hardware VNX when ready.

Project Liberty is slated to be available in either 2015 or 2016.

5. Acquired: DSSD

EMC in May 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 acquisition gave EMC the storage industry's widest range of flash storage solutions.

Unlike EMC's XtremIO all-flash storage array, which substitutes high-performance flash for disk to store data, DSSD is developing rack-scale, server-side flash storage designed to speed up application performance, Burton later told CRN.

DSSD, which had been in stealth mode, is not expected to start shipping products until some time in 2015, EMC said.

4. Acquired: Three Cloud Companies

EMC in October unveiled the acquisition of three small cloud technology providers that, together, are aimed at advancing its ability to help customers build hybrid clouds.

The first, San Francisco-based Cloudscaling, is a cloud computing startup that develops technology that allows the building of OpenStack-based private clouds on customers' own choice of hardware. The second, Mountain View, Calif.-based Maginatics, gives EMC a consistent global namespace accessible from any device or location as a way to address cloud data protection requirements with a unified data protection and management solution across private, public and hybrid clouds. The third, Austin, Texas-based Spanning, provides subscription-based backup and recovery for ’born-in-the-cloud’ applications and data.

3. Acquired (In A Manner Of Speaking): VCE

EMC in October also confirmed weeks of speculation about whether it and partner Cisco Systems would change their VCE relationship by unveiling a plan to make VCE part of the EMC Information Infrastructure business, which is led by CEO David Goulden. After buying out most of Cisco's 35 percent share in VCE, EMC moved it into its federation of subsidiary companies, which includes VMware, Pivotal and RSA.

The primary focus of VCE -- the building of Vblock converged infrastructure solutions containing EMC, Cisco and VMware technology -- has not changed. Instead, VCE continues to have its own mission, operating charter and organizational structure, with VCE CEO Praveen Akkiraju continuing to lead the organization.

2. Promoted: David Goulden, Heir Apparent?

EMC in January named 11-year veteran David Goulden its new CEO for its core information infrastructure business, a move likely to solidify his position as a top candidate to replace EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci when he retires.

Goulden served as EMC's CFO for seven years prior, and before taking the CEO role was EMC president and COO of EMC's Information Infrastructure Business Units.

The storage industry has been speculating for years who will succeed Tucci as EMC chairman. Tucci stated in September of 2012 that he plans to remain in charge of EMC through early 2015 even though he has already passed age 65, which is when he had been originally expected to step down.

1. The End Of EMC As We Know It?

The biggest EMC news of 2014 was what didn't happen: EMC neither sold VMware nor itself to a major system vendor.

Investor pressure this summer pushed EMC to explore a couple of alternatives, including selling its 80-plus-percent stake in VMware, and/or either merging with or selling itself to a major systems vendor. So far, EMC has resisted the pressure despite entering into active negotiations with Hewlett-Packard and Dell, and perhaps others, according to reports.

Talk about the possible breakup of EMC subsided after word leaked that EMC and HP, which had negotiated a possible deal, broke off in September. However, the future organization of EMC will be a much-discussed topic in 2015.