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EMC's Tucci and VMware's Maritz talk Oracle, Donatelli and cloud

The CEO duo of EMC’s empire, Joe Tucci of EMC and Paul Maritz of VMware, did plenty of talking at EMC World today, with a keynote apiece and a press Q&A session this afternoon.

The two addressed hot topics including coopetition with Oracle, potential future acquisitions and the high-profile departure of former Storage Division head David Donatelli for Hewlett-Packard.

Both CEOs downplayed the impact of Oracle Corp.’s recent acquisitions of Sun Microsystems and server virtualization player Virtual Iron. The deals will bring Sun into greater competition with EMC and VMware. “There are several companies like Oracle developing rich software stacks right now, including us,” Tucci said, pointing out software such as Java and MySQL was most likely the main impetus for the Sun deal. “With that came a hardware business, but I don’t think that will really change the landscape [in the storage market] significantly.”

Maritz said Virtual Iron’s management tools for virtualization “were state of the art two to three years ago, but they’ve fallen behind. Oracle is trying to come from behind and pick up crumbs along the way to improve their position, but we believe vSphere is at least a generation ahead of them.”

With EMC sitting on a reported $9.8 billion in cash reserves, the question of acquisitions came up. Tucci mostly deflected the question, but said that if EMC does acquire more companies, it will be to strengthen offerings in areas where the company already plays, rather than getting into new markets.

Tucci was also asked if EMC might itself be a target for acquisition (Cisco/EMC merger rumors have popped up again in recent months). Tucci replied that EMC is “certainly not for sale. We’re obligated to do what’s in the best interests of shareholders, but [selling the company] is not our core strategy.”

As for Donatelli — whose move to HP is being held up in a legal battle — Tucci didn’t make too much of his departure. “It happens in this industry. People get poached,” he said. “He’s a good leader, but the technologists who designed our products are all still here today. We’ll be just fine.”

Clouds coming together?

Both CEOs also emphasized their converging vision for the virtual data center and the cloud, which Tucci called “first cousins” – similar data centers at each end of the wire that VMware and EMC envision being managed as a federated whole. Both sides would use VMware as a middleware layer to let apps float between inside-the-firewall and outside-the-firewall infrastructures for enterprises.

This is somewhat similar to today’s news about EMC’s new Atmos onLine service, which would use applications linked through Atmos APIs to federate data between on-premise and cloud-based storage.

Things got a little confusing, though, between competing claims of perfect alignment with VMware between Atmos and the new Symmetrix V-Max system. Atmos has a file/object interface making it more suitable to unstructured data, and V-Max is geared more toward transaction-heavy workloads, Tucci clarified. He said he expects V-Max deployments going forward to use sold state as a rule. “The norm with V-Max should be that SSDs will be in the system – it will be unusual to see one without it,” he said. In his keynote, Tucci also said he expects Flash to dominate solid-state storage, with technologies like phase-change memory much further down the road.

Since the launch of VMware vSphere, EMC and VMware have pushed customers to virtualize tier 1 applications, which in the past have been left out of virtualization because of hypervisor performance penalties. Maritz today touted a new maximum performance benchmark for vSphere of 330,000 IOPS on a paravirtualized VM on a 64-core cluster of servers attached to an array of Flash drives (no details on how many Flash drives and what type they were). This is compared to VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3.5’s maximum performance benchmark, which attained about 100,000 IOPS on a 16-core single server attached to 500 FC disk drives on an EMC Clariion disk array.

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I agree that securing and managing the data is paramount as opposed to wiping devices which seems like overkill given the number of quality Applications that now exist. However rendering a desktop on an iPhone or iPad is not the solution either. A more considered approach would be a native App that provides the experience and yet maintains the necessary level of security to and from virtual desktops.

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Smaller devices such as tablets and smart phones are great for *consuming* all sorts of content, but not so great for *creating* it. If you're constantly on the road -- or are really just texting, tweeting, surfing or shopping -- then there's no reason why you need a VDI desktop, Windows or otherwise. If you spend more of your working hours programming, working with spreadsheets or, lord help you, writing documents of more than a page or two in Word, then a larger form factor -- or at least a larger display -- has obvious benefits.

User popularity aside, the problem presented by BYOD of all kinds is that they're all fat clients: they have local state and they store data locally. That means that data can be compromised when they're lost or stolen, and if they contain anything sensitive, IT as well as the device owner ought to worry about the vulnerability of data at rest.

(If you happen to work for the NSA, you can rest assured that they're not the only ones spying on you. ;-))

VDI isn't the solution for all the world's problems, but it handles a few of them very well. If you, or your company's employees, need to access the same desktop from anywhere, there's not yet anything better. If you don't actually need a desktop, then it's not right for your situation, you lucky (or unemployed) devil. For those who need a desktop sometimes but rely on a tablet or smart phone while on the road, there are ancillary solutions -- Horizon Workspace comes to mind -- that can isolate a space on a BYOD where you can use applications that are located behind a secure firewall from your iPad (or whatever), and if/when you leave it at the airport by mistake, or you quit to work for a competitor (or whatever), IT can wipe just the corporate portion and leave the rest intact.
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