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EMC has huge appetite for Big Data technology

EMC's president says the company will continue to rapidly acquire companies, but it’s looking more for Big Data technology than data storage.

EMC Corp.’s 2012 acquisition strategy revolves more around Big Data technology than mainstream data storage. The vendor is chasing data analytics, security and the management that ties the pieces together, according to EMC president Pat Gelsinger.

Speaking at an EMC Forum in Foxborough, Mass., last week, Gelsinger said EMC would continue to be an active acquirer. He identified the data analytics market as the biggest focus of the company's spending.

“This is a $70 billion industry, growing at 15% to 20% a year,” he said of Big Data. “It’s big and it’s growing very rapidly.”

As far as data storage products, Gelsinger said, “we think we have all the assets we need. We believe we don’t need to be doing any acquisitions there. One area of interest is flash, and we’re doing that organically with FAST [EMC’s Fully Automated Storage Tiering software] and Project Lightning development.”

EMC spent $14 billion on acquisitions from 2003 to 2010. Most of that money was spent on storage and backup vendors, although EMC has made large acquisitions outside of the storage space -- most notably VMware and RSA Security. Its 2010 Greenplum acquisition was much smaller than VMware and RSA, but it gave the vendor a foundation for the Big Data analytics side to build on. EMC also considers its Isilon scale-out NAS platform part of its Big Data product line. EMC paid $2.25 billion for Isilon in late 2010.

Gelsinger said EMC must add tools for analytics, virtualization, data transport and extract, transform and load (ETL) to increase the value it brings to Big Data.

“There's a lot we have to fill out in that space,” he said. “We believe we have less in that area than more. Those are the areas we continue to work on both organically and through acquisitions.”

Gelsinger said EMC will be busy enhancing products with the storage technologies it already owns, with an emphasis on blending storage with virtual machine (VM) technology. For instance, EMC wants to embed virtual machines into arrays and offer the ability to vMotion the VMs within the array. “So now you don’t have to drag those petabytes across the network,” Gelsinger said. “You don’t have to suffer the latency.”

Gelsinger said moving computing power closer to the storage also helps in Big Data use cases by better serving analytics applications that require computing power to sift through large amounts of data. Moving compute closer to storage is also part of the strategy behind EMC’s “Project Lightning” server-based PCIe flash product. Project Lightning is in beta and EMC demonstrated it at VMworld and Oracle OpenWorld in recent months. It's scheduled for release by the end of the year.

Big Data still not completely understood

Big Data is becoming a hot topic in the IT industry. Even vendors with no history in analytics and scale-out storage are throwing the Big Data term around. However, EMC customers at its event Thursday considered Big Data as little more than buzzwords, even if they see the value in what the underlying technologies can do.

“I think it’s a bit confusing,” said Andy Rushia, a network engineer at New London Hospital in New Hampshire. “It’s another marketing term.”

Jeff Vincent, senior systems engineer at MyWebGrocer, is interested in EMC’s Greenplum HD Data Computing Appliance, but is less interested in talking about Big Data. “It’s a marketing term for large-scale data warehousing,” he said.  

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