End Of An Era: 15 Scenes From EMC World 2016

Navigating What Was Likely EMC's Last Great Show

In times past, EMC World was the place to be to get the latest word on EMC programs and solutions. EMC World 2016 had some of that. But the main talk revolved around the pending acquisition of EMC by former partner, former rival, and future owner Dell. That acquisition, if it closes as planned, will make this the last EMC World run by EMC as an independent company, although Dell has promised there will be an EMC World 2017.

The acquisition is not expected to close until later this year, which under SEC regulations means the two are still treated as competitors and cannot publicly discuss post-merger plans. Therefore, Dell had a light presence at EMC World, with Dell Chairman Michael Dell giving the main keynote and a couple of Dell executives addressing customers and partners to reassure them that all's well.

A large industry event usually has a lot going on outside the normal headlines, and EMC World 2016 was no exception. From partner meetings, to booth roaming, to Michael Dell sightings, there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy the conference.

For a look behind the headlines, turn the page and revisit EMC World 2016 one last time with CRN.

Nimble Competitors

Even before leaving the Las Vegas airport, visitors were hit by competitors looking to take advantage of the crowds visiting EMC World.

Nimble Storage, San Jose, Calif., had drivers greeting attendees with free rides from the airport. The company also gave away three prizes, one each day for three days: indoor skydiving, a car racing experience, and a chance to play with bulldozers and excavators.

NetApp Was There, But It Wasn't

NetApp, by sheer coincidence, or maybe not, held its annual sales kickoff at the same time as - and almost across the road from - EMC World. NetApp was in its quiet period as it prepares to release its fiscal 2016 results, Unfortunately, and did not allow channel press (read CRN) into any presentations and declined requests for interviews.

The company had plenty of signs and people waving NetApp placards at the Las Vegas Airport serving a dual purpose: direct the NetApp and SolidFire people to its sales kickoff and grab the eyeballs of EMC World attendees.

Dell A Top Sponsor

Dell had a very interesting presence at EMC World, especially considering it's still technically a top competitor of EMC's.

Dell Chairman and CEO Michael Dell was the top keynote presenter, which at a conference this size is a huge honor. His spot might normally be taken by a top EMC executive, such as VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, who for reasons still to be explained was nowhere to be seen at EMC World.

Dell was also a "diamond" sponsor of EMC World, a position normally reserved for key strategic partners and not competitors.

Lenovo: Not Just Missing, But Cut Out?

At EMC World 2015, Lenovo looked as if it might be the hardware platform of choice for EMC storage thanks to a big 2012 EMC-Lenovo technology relationship the two established. Lenovo used sales and technology presentations, a large booth, and news of its version of VSPEX to show how far the relationship had grown.

But with Lenovo rival Dell moving to acquire EMC, Lenovo was nowhere to be seen at EMC World 2016, with one exception.

At the registration area, the bank of laptop PCs EMC provided for attendees to sign in were Lenovo ThinkPads, although one had to look carefully to tell. Someone at EMC apparently decided that covering up the ThinkPad logos on the PCs with black electrical tape would be a good idea.

Michael Dell Fanboys (And Fangirls)

For all the talk about the limited presence of Dell (the company) at EMC World 2016 because of SEC regulations, Michael Dell himself was at the event for at least three days meeting with customers and partners.

On Day three of the event, Dell was spotted having a quiet lunch in the press and analyst room. As he stood up to leave out the back door, he was suddenly cut off by fans wanting a photo of him. After that photo, he turned to leave …

Fanboys/Fangirls Continued

… was cut off by a new group of fans helped by EMC Netherlands CTO Hans Zimmerman (left).

After smiling for the photos, Dell then went out the back door when …

Fanboys/Fangirls Continued

… he was cornered yet again by more fans.

At this point, realizing just how poor the quality of his photos were at that distance, a CRN reporter went back to lunch, thinking Michael Dell might appreciate stepping out of the limelight for at least a couple minutes.

Virtual What?

As a way to show how EMC technology works with future innovations, the company had a booth where attendees could put on Samsung virtual reality headsets and see a demonstration of the technology. While watching people with thick headsets turning in circles to see what no one else could was interesting, it made for a terrible slideshow photo.

More interesting was this guy on stilts with a black jumpsuit and bright LEDs walking around to get people to try the glasses.

Peyton Manning Addresses The Wrong Fanbase

Peyton Manning, who retired after leading the Denver Broncos to a win in the Super Bowl this year, gave a speech at the EMC Global Partner Summit, held in conjunction with EMC World, in which he talked about his work as a spokesperson for Papa John's pizza restaurant chain and his experience as a quarterback over 18 seasons in professional football.

However, EMC executives, and many channel partners, said afterwards they were disappointed it wasn't Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. The Massachusetts-based Patriots are by far the EMC favorite given that EMC is headquartered in Hopkinton, Mass., just west of Boston.

Tucci's Last Play For EMC

EMC Chairman and CEO Joe Tucci appeared at the EMC Global Partner Summit to bid an emotional farewell to partners.

Tucci, in his short remarks to the partners, said that when he joined EMC, the company was not friendly to partners.

"We kind of basically only did a little fulfillment, where we said, 'Here's what we want you to do. Do this now,'" he said. "Not really getting the full value of your intellectual knowledge and your touch with customers and everything you could do to truly help us."

EMC has since come a long way, Tucci said.

"I know some of you have a little bit of angst because Michael Dell [selling] direct for a long time," he said. "But I can tell you, I've spent a tremendous amount of time with Michael. He is really transformed, and he understands the importance of a really good global partner network. … Together, I think we'll have a great opportunity for the future, and I think you'll enjoy being a part of the new Dell Technologies."

Failure Is Not An Option

The booth for EMC's RSA security business emphasized that "failure is not an option."

Of Course Cisco Was There

Despite how quickly so many people are moving to bury the Cisco-EMC relationship now that Dell is on the way to acquiring EMC, the relationship for now is still in place, even if a bit less subdued than before.

Cisco, along with Dell and Brocade, was a diamond-level sponsor of EMC World 2016, the highest level of sponsorship available. It showed at the conference's solutions showcase, where the Cisco booth was the first thing many attendees saw when entering the floor.

Rivals, Together

Actually, attendees walking into the solution showcase whose heads tilted a little to the right might have seen the Brocade booth before the Cisco booth.

It's not often these two networking arch-rivals appear side by side.

EMC Unity

EMC used its final EMC World conference as an independent company to introduce EMC Unity, a new unified all-flash storage array priced to take market share from high flyers Nimble Storage and Pure Storage.

The new 2U unified storage system, which combines file and block storage capabilities under the new Unity brand, is priced starting at about $18,000 for the all-flash version, and about $8,000 for the hybrid version.

The EMC Unity is not to be confused with the Nexsan Unity, a new secondary storage system introduced in April by Nexsan of Campbell, Calif. Nexsan certainly was not confused. The company late last week filed suit against EMC over the "Unity" brand.

VCE VxRack Neutrino Nodes

EMC also unveiled a new node for its VCE VxRack System 1000 hyper-converged infrastructure platform, dubbed the Neutrino nodes, that allow for the deployment of an enterprise-grade, cloud-native IaaS in just a few days.

The new Neutrino nodes provide quick deployment of cloud-native IaaS services. The first version allows the deployment of an OpenStack private cloud. EMC said there will also be Neutrino nodes for the VMware Photon lightweight Linux operating system for cloud-native applications and for Hadoop big data management.