EMC, Dell Getting Ready for a Software-Defined Future

NEWS ANALYSIS: Two visions of the software-defined future of enterprise computing took the stage at EMC World and at the Interop conference on separate ends of the Las Vegas Strip.

Software Defined Dell 2

LAS VEGAS—The future of computing was being played out on both ends of the Strip here. On one end, at EMC World, Michael Dell introduced the new tech giant "Dell Technologies" and its enterprise subsidiary, Dell EMC, pending ratification by shareholders this summer.

On stage at the Sands Convention Center, Joe Tucci looked misty recounting his first "Wizards" EMC conference in February 2001 and was thanked with a standing ovation by some 10,000 attendees. Michael Dell was beaming as he figuratively took the mantle from Tucci. "We are building a company that can take you to the future," he said.

We don't know yet what the two have wrought. To be sure, EMC is going into the future aggressively with new data center hardware and software, while executives say the two companies have really clicked in the merger and integration process, looking forward to "Day 1." But the other shoe has yet to drop in this scene, with product consolidation and broad layoffs to come in the days following.

On the other end of the Strip at the Interop conference at Mandalay Bay, a former member of the EMC Federation, Martin Casado, talked about the "end of infrastructure" in his keynote presentation. Casado was founder of Nicira Networks, which was acquired by VMware in 2012 and whose technology became the NSX software virtualization platform.

"The prevailing wisdom is that we are in the armpit of infrastructure. That is overly pessimistic and dead wrong," said Casado, who this year left VMware to join venture firm Andreessen Horowitz. "We are on the cusp of something bigger, better and more innovative. We are entering a golden age of infrastructure."

That new infrastructure is software—open-source software. The rest is so much technology "wrapped in sheet metal," he said, adding that open source is going to further shake the fabric of the industry by "massively disrupting traditional go-to-market engines."

Software-Defined Co-existence

Back at EMC World, Chad Sakac, the new president of EMC's Converged Infrastructure Division, said it comes down to a critical decision for enterprises: "Would you rather build or buy?" The message is that EMC can make it easier and more cost-effective for customers to buy a cloud on a VxRack System 1000 than try to roll out OpenStack on their own servers. He is probably correct for existing EMC customers.

But things are shifting quickly, and more and more we are hearing about companies taking risks with technology, adopting open source and DevOps, rolling out containers on bare metal servers and showing positive business results.

Joyent CTO Bryan Cantrill talked at the Interop Container Summit about how payroll firm ADP, "traditionally as conservative as you can imagine and which has been around since the dawn of computing, is very aggressively trying to disrupt themselves before they get disrupted."

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...