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VP dishes on EMC products and 'invigorating' competition

Chief of EMC's Core Technologies Division talks about changing storage buying patterns and how technologies like flash, cloud and hyper-convergence affect EMC.

When we last caught up with Guy Churchward, he was running EMC's data protection group and working on integrating those technologies with other EMC products. In October, Churchward was promoted to president of EMC's new Core Technologies Division, which combines data protection with EMC's major primary storage platforms.

We spoke with Churchward about his new role, and how EMC seeks to combine its technologies to try and fight off challenges in nontraditional storage markets such as flash, cloud, hyper-converged and converged infrastructures.

What does the Core Technologies Division (CTD) group comprise inside EMC, and why was it created?

Guy Churchward: CTD includes enterprise primary storage plus data protection. If we look at how people are purchasing, we're seeing a tighter affinity between those pieces. On the primary side we have VMAX, VNX and XtremIO. We're not going to collapse data protection with primary storage, but we want to make sure there will be an overlap between the missions of the two. It's easier for one person to solve it, like a single throat to choke.

We're going to keep these teams separate enough to make sure they've got their specific identity, and they'll have dedicated sales forces as we do today.

What is the goal of the reorganization?

Churchward: It's not completely true, but in the past we've heard customers say, 'The only place I see [EMC] products coming together is on the purchase order.' From an EMC perspective, we look at it like we have to spend a lot more time understanding how to bind the technologies.

We recently released a product called ProtectPoint, which enables you to directly split from a VMAX into Data Domain. ProtectPoint is a perfect example of how we can bind the technologies together.

We had three different business units working on this product to bring it to market. It's still early days on the revenue side, but we believe it is the du jour way that we need to look forward. The dirty secret from an engineering organization is, you spend a lot more time worrying about the next feature to add to your products so you can launch products and make noise than you spend looking into your companies' sister product lines.

We did that inside our data protection products, with our Data Protection Suite and we did some things with Avamar and Data Domain. We spent a lot of time the last couple of years understanding how to integrate the pieces and make it much easier for companies to operate our technology at a high scale and performance. Now the question is, can we do that across primary and data protection, because those worlds are coming tighter together. So you'll see more of that in things like ProtectPoint, but even across the primary platforms in the way we do replication and encryption.

You moved the XtremIO all-flash platform from the Emerging Technologies Division into the group with traditional VMAX and VNX arrays. Does that mean flash is no longer emerging and is a mainstream storage technology? And how do you position those three systems?

Churchward: It was important for us to bring the factions together on the block-based primary storage side, and that was VMAX, VNX and XtremIO. We believe there are certain functions that customers really need to do and they use a platform specifically to handle that. We've seen that XtremIO as an all-flash array has a sweet spot with high performance, low latency. And it's definitely carved its name aggressively into the high-end primary storage bin. We didn't want to have teams internally seeing that there's wins and losses on either side. We wanted to get the organizations together to make sure we can federate the success across them and ensure that if there's duplicate work we can minimize that, because the more engineers we've got [who are] writing code and innovating as opposed to reinventing wheels, the better. It was important for us to bring the factions together on block-based primary storage side, and that was VMAX, VNX and XtremIO.

Will XtremIO eventually be able to share data with the other platforms?

Churchward: There's two ways that EMC looks at it. Obviously there's a campaign of flash everywhere. If you look at hybrid arrays, we have hybrids on the VMAX and VNX side. So we check that box. The question is, where does an all-flash array play, and does it go upstream or downstream? If you look at XtremIO, it's picking up roughly between the VNX and VMAX. So with additional storage services, we can move upstream. With additional ease of use and bang for the buck, it would move downstream. So by joining the three teams and making sure we get best practices across them, I would fully expect acceleration around the thought of federating our flash strategy across different arrays.

It's a comfort statement that EMC says, 'When you purchase from EMC, you can expect overlaps.' We see that overlaps are better than having gaps.

Will you combine XtremIO's sales team with the other platforms?

Churchward: No, on the sales side there are specialty sales organizations dedicated to product lines. Inside CTD there will be at least three specifically unique sales organizations, so they wake up, live and breathe it every day. It's rewarding to know we have 2,000 to 3,000 people in our sales organization waking up every day living and breathing data protection. You really don't want to lose that.

You added cloud vendors Maginatics and Spanning to your group through acquisitions in October. Where does Maginatics fit versus TwinStrata, the cloud gateway vendor EMC acquired for the VMAX platform earlier this year?

Churchward: We bought Maginatics because we wanted to have a distributed file system, deduplication, and more importantly, separation of metadata from the back end. So we're going to be driving that aggressively toward creating a bridge to any cloud.

TwinStrata is a specific gateway and it's really honed for the VMAX. It will push to VMAX. The difference between the two is TwinStrata is really a product delivery and execution vehicle and Maginatics is a platform that we can build a bigger base on. So if I'm looking to transition basically my business or my clients from on-premises to a hybrid cloud, I need more than just a gateway to do that. A lot of the gateway products are a push model into a single place. Because Maginatics separated the metadata, you can actually do cloud-to-cloud mobility inside of it. You can push to an ECS [Elastic Cloud Storage appliance], but then transition to a vCloud Air or to a [Microsoft Windows] Azure environment. We wanted to make sure we had the facilities to provide a dynamic brokerage service. There is some overlap between what TwinStrata will do and what Maginatics will do, but from a use case and scalability standpoint, they are very different products. But we will make sure the teams will cross the DNA.

With flash and the cloud, there are a lot more vendors out there going after EMC. How would you describe the competitive landscape for your group?

Churchward: It's like a caffeinated competitive landscape. It's amazing, even on backup and recovery. There are net-new ways of doing business. The cloud didn't really exist a couple of years ago. It does now. Plus there's net-new competition. On the primary side, there's the classic competition we've always fought against. Then, you have things like flash, converged infrastructure, hyper-converged infrastructure, hybrid arrays and cloud. I think it's invigorated the organization.

The way in which people are constructing solutions is changing. And there's a lot of new technology and new concepts coming to market on how to deliver workloads in a more cost-efficient way. You either take changes as being scary, or you get ahead of it and you enjoy it. Frankly, it's a bit of a rush and it's exciting.

Is hyper-converged storage in your group?

Churchward: Hyper-converged is under C.J. [Desai, president of EMC's Emerging Technologies Division]. Obviously we're working extremely closely with them. We're also working on EVO: RAILs with VMware and VCE is something that we will drive more aggressively around converged infrastructure. Converged and hyper-converged infrastructure will be a federated solution that goes across different business units inside CTD.

So when will EMC launch its EVO: RAIL product?

Churchward: I don't want to get myself executed so I'm not going to say, but my guess is not too far away. But good try.

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