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Q&A: EMC's Gahagan focuses on storage management

EMC's hardly ever introduced anything that hasn't come under fire, but its open software initiative, AutoIS, has come under extreme scrutiny ever since it was introduced in October of last year. To sum it up, critics say it lacks substance and makes a mockery out of open standards. But, Chris Gahagan, EMC's recently appointed senior vice president of Storage Infrastructure Software defends his company's software strategy and says critics can criticize all they want. He's heard it all before and it's their claims that have no substance.

As the traditional storage hardware company pushes aggressively in the software storage management arena, Gahagan, formerly of BMC Software, was brought on to oversee the development of EMC's storage infrastructure software, a critical component of EMC's open storage software development efforts and part of the AutoIS strategy. Gahagan reports to Erez Ofer, EMC's executive vice president of Open Software Operations.

EMC's Open Software Operations is one of EMC's three major operating units and includes the software portfolio in support of the AutoIS initiative, such as EMC ControlCenter/Open Edition and other management software programs, as well as the recently introduced WideSky initiative and open connectivity programs. AutoIS is designed to provide management technologies and heterogeneous storage applications necessary to make storage management automated, simple and open.

Here Gahagan talks to SearchStorage about his priorities and how he believes those priorities will stop critics in their tracks.

As I'm sure you know, there are a lot of AutoIS critics out there. Many of them who claim AutoIS, WideSky -- your overall software strategy -- have no substance. How do you respond to those comments?
When you hear things like that like that, it's not from our customers. It's from our competitors. If you look at what we have to offer today and for the future, we have a comprehensive solution. They're afraid. The feedback from our customers is positive. Why do you think EMC has been hit so hard by the competition with claims that AutoIS is not fostering an open systems concept because it requests the exchange of propriety APIs? What is EMC's response to the anti-open claims?
That's the most amazing thing. AutoIS and WideSky are about open systems. We not only provide access to our product line but to other storage vendors, as well. If you look at others, including other software vendors, we are more open than they are. The competition is avoiding the discussion of who is really providing the most value. Is AutoIS or ECC a real product? I mean is it currently being shipped?
It absolutely is a real product. The recent appointments of yourself as well as former Compaq/HP executive Mark Lewis seem to indicate a software-heavy executive lineup.
I've known Mark for years. From my perspective, EMC couldn't have found anyone better. Mark, as CTO, reports to Joe [Tucci] directly and they're out there looking ahead of where engineering is being executed. Mark provides that forward-looking vision. He takes that vision and turns it into product plans. His beliefs in how storage should be managed is directly aligned with where EMC believes it's going. What do you mean by "more open?"
ECC supports not only our own interface, but those of others. We provide APIs that allow others to be able to control our software. We're giving you access to all our APIs. We give you a common access to our direct competitors. We're doing that because we believe there's more benefit to us and to the industry in the long term, even though we're enabling the competition. What's the benefit to EMC?
We want to change the discussion of who's open and who's not to who can drive customer value. We can no out execute the competition in delivering value. We want to stop that conversation and say who's providing more capabilities to the customers. EMC has taken the industry lead and these things will evolve to standards and then the conversation will be over. How does EMC's storage management software compare to offerings of other Big Iron vendors, such as HP's OpenView, IBM/Tivoli, etc.? In the way of features, what does the company have over its competition?
Depth. They provide broad technology coverage, but not much depth. There are four vendors -- HP, CA, IBM and BMC -- all those products are overarching frameworks. They provide a high-level environment to manage the top of your infrastructure. They don't go very deep. Our goal is not to be a framework vendor. Our goal is to be the best storage technology manager. What we care about is storage. Moving forward, what is your major objective?
To insure that our vision around virtualization is delivered. We believe virtualization happens within the array, in the fabric and on the host. Our approach is pretty different than others. They're concentrating on one. But by doing that they ignore other areas of virtualization. The key becomes management. Virtualization solutions without management make it unusable. We're focusing on the management and that's what gives us the edge over our competitors.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kate Evans-Correia, Senior News Editor


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Will EMC continue to support the development of industry standards like CIM and WEBX?
Absolutely. In fact, we're sitting on the chair of a lot of those committees. We want standards. It's in our best interests.

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