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EMC World 2015: Expect backup, flash, future directions

EMC will roll out products in its Data Domain, XtremIO and ViPR platforms at EMC World 2015, but what about a CEO succession plan?

LAS VEGAS -- EMC next week will try to prove that it can adapt better than its rivals to a rapidly changing IT landscape in what could be the last EMC World presided over by CEO Joe Tucci.

At EMC World 2015, EMC will roll out and preview new products, upgrade existing ones and lay out its strategy for emerging technologies such as flash, hyper-convergence and hybrid clouds. It will also try to show how all the pieces of the EMC Federation -- EMC Information Infrastructure (storage), VMware, Pivotal and RSA -- work together to produce a holistic answer to IT problems.

EMC executives are also expected to offer insight into their acquisition strategy and in what direction the Federation will head after Tucci's retirement.

New high-end Data Domain expected at EMC World 2015

EMC will launch a new high-end Data Domain backup disk target, enhance its XtremIO all-flash platform and add to the ViPR software-defined storage platform. Other product areas likely to receive significant attention include the DSSD shared flash appliance for in-memory databases scheduled to ship later this year, Isilon scale-out NAS as a platform to run Hadoop and create data lakes, and VCE converged infrastructure bundles.

Also, much will be made of how EMC's storage team is working with VMware technologies such as EVO: RAIL and EVO: RACK hyper-convergence, Virtual Volumes and vCloud Air for hybrid clouds. Pivotal's CloudFoundry platform as a service technology will likely receive a lot of attention for finally being ready for prime time after a two-year ramp up. 

M&A strategy: 'String of pearls' rather than large deals

Product launches may not be enough for EMC's detractors, however. Frustrated by what they and Tucci consider an underwhelming stock price, investors have pushed EMC to make bold moves and have urged them to sell off pieces, initiate large acquisitions or mergers, or allow itself to be acquired by a larger company. Those calls may increase in light of EMC's disappointing financial results in recent quarters.

Tucci will likely continue to fight calls to break up the company. He claims EMC's technologies are intertwined and work better in combination rather than as distinct pieces.

Tucci said EMC will continue with its "string of pearls" M&A strategy during the company's earnings call last week. That means acquiring companies with technology that fills holes in EMC's portfolio rather than mature vendors that add significant revenue. He didn't rule out those larger deals, though.

"Our highest priority is to assure that we augment our strong product portfolio and roadmap with additional compelling technology assets," Tucci said during the conference call. "Additionally, as the violent secular shifts in the IT landscape play out, I believe there will be consolidation opportunities that could be quite accretive. We will certainly investigate those opportunities."

EMC CEO: Who's next?

It's hard to separate EMC's future from that of Tucci, the company's CEO since 2001 and who became its chairman in 2006. Tucci has already postponed retirement several times until the board finds an adequate replacement; but how long will he stick around?

EMC has several internal candidates who could replace him, including three CEOs -- David Goulden of EMC Information Infrastructure, Pat Gelsinger of VMware and Paul Maritz of Pivotal. President of products marketing Jeremy Burton also has CEO experience.

Tucci has agreed to stay on as chairman after stepping down as CEO, and said he remains as involved as ever while waiting to pass the baton. He said the board has a "robust" succession plan.

"I love this company," Tucci said. "I believe in its mission and bright future, and I am fully engaged and enjoy coming to work every day. I am traveling to see customers more than ever, and I am spending time on strategy, Federation alignment and on assuring we create long-term shareholder value."

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