Elias described EMCs challenge as working to own the vertical stack, what it calls ILM (information lifecycle management)turning data management into a service. "Everybody has to protect data, have operational recovery, disaster recovery, but frankly its all still very point technologies," he said. "What we want to do is let that become a service, in fact dial in the recovery point objective and recovery time objective, and let the infrastructure be automated in such a way that we can provide that recovery." On the horizontal dimension, Elias pointed to VMWare and its ability to drive a virtual infrastructure that abstracts severs, networks and storage into a pool of resources. He went on to characterize VMWare as "very disruptive, but one that were keeping at arms length." VMWare works closely with IBM and HP, both potential competitors to EMCs core business.Microsoft has a unique business model, unlike the other IT companies presenting at Vortex. "Ninety-six percent of Microsofts revenue comes through others, through partners," Lewin said. He compared his companys business model with Dell Inc.s approach. Dell used to build motherboards when they provided a competitive advantage, but now theyre a commodity that the company gets from the lowest bidder. Software functions such as payroll and 401(k) are like motherboards and can be shopped out as well, he said. Microsoft took considerable heat about being a closed platform during the conference, and Lewin agreedup to a point. Lewin rebutted the argument that Microsoft offers a closed environment, to a point. "You get a choice of multiple languages to program in when you come into the dot-net world," he said. But when you compile, "you are picking Microsofts stack." As expected, Lewin was down on open source, calling it a "challenge to the capitalist system where people make money and pay taxes." Microsoft is gaining market share on the server side, he insisted, while gaining in the enterprise but really making strides in the midmarket. Linux, on the other hand, "is gaining share, but primarily at the expense of Unix." Although he called Salesforce.coms success "extraordinary," Lewin was less bullish on the promise of grid and distributed computing. In a backhand slap to Oracles Charles Phillips, who claimed Tuesday that his company has half of the 300 people in the world who understand database kernels, Lewin called Microsoft Researchs Jim Grey "one of the first five guys." Greys paper analyzing the true cost of distributed computing, which concludes that processing needs to be co-located with the data, is fascinating reading. Lewin ended by attributing the Longhorn delay to too much complexity. The three key componentsthe Avalon display, the database file system and the Indigo Web services piecewere just too big of a challenge for Microsoft. "The lesson here is about modularity. We wanted to show exciting things about Indigo sooner rather than later," he said. "Unifying the store [the file system] needs to follow on a little later, in coordination with the server releases, so you can have a distributed store. Itll take time, but itll happen." Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
By the time Microsofts vice president of business development, Danl Lewin, took the stage, the contrast between his company and the others had already been somewhat defined.