EMC Shows Its Data Center Strength at Inaugural Dell EMC Conference

NEWS ANALYSIS: Dell EMC World is the first big customer show for the merged companies, but this time EMC held the spotlight, making the event look more like EMC World Lite.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The EMC takeover of Dell is now complete, or so it seemed at the first combined Dell EMC World show. Despite the exuberant presence of Michael Dell, it wasn't quite clear whose show this was. It was Dell World in Austin, but it had all the trappings of EMC World in Las Vegas. Call it EMC World Lite.

All the usual suspects were here. Jeremy Burton, chief marketing officer, did his fun skits and demonstrations by the coffee-juice bar; David Goulden, president of the Dell EMC enterprise division, talked up storage; and Chad Sakac, president of EMC VCE unit, extolled the face-melting specifications of the VxRail hyperconverged data center system.

If it weren't for Jeff Clarke, Dell's Client Solutions chief, who presented the latest Dell laptops and displays, there was very little of "legacy Dell" in evidence at the show.

Of course, it was Dell that acquired EMC for $67 billion after a yearlong endeavor that closed just last month, creating the "largest enterprise system company in the world," Michael Dell told the 8,000 attendees at his opening keynote here. Many observers were wondering what the new company would look like. Well, the enterprise side of Dell Technologies looks a lot like EMC.

That should have been expected. EMC's leadership in storage products, virtualization and data protection is why Dell bought the company. Now that they are one, Dell EMC is wasting no time doubling down on the lead it has in several enterprise categories by integrating its product lines.

For one, it is making Dell's market leading (in terms of revenue) PowerEdge server series the backbone of all of EMC's converged infrastructure products, starting with the aforementioned VxRail and the higher-end VxRack. It's also putting together several elements of the respective companies' security products.

The merger has actually helped Dell integrate and innovate, Chris Ratcliffe, senior vice president of marketing, EMC Core Technologies, told me. "Dell used to run storage as several different businesses," he said, referring to the Compellent and EqualLogic lines, among other products. "When that happens, walls get built. Now we are one organization, and we are encouraging innovation across the teams and focusing on the competition outside the company and not internally."

For example, the PowerEdge and VxRail integration creates a hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) appliance that now has five models and up to 250 possible configurations, with a starting price of $45,000. They include the V-series for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, the "P" performance series and "S" dense storage series.

VxRail, which is built around VMware's software stack, leaves Dell's competing product, the XC Series powered by Nutanix, the company that essentially created the hyperconverged infrastructure concept, to fill in the gaps.

"VxRail is quickly becoming the leading HCI platform," said Sakac. "But if you want to lead in the most important infrastructure segment going forward over the next five to 10 years and come out the other side with 60 to 80 percent of the market, you can't do it with an offering tied to one stack. You do it with choice, and XC is going to be our product for customers who don't want to link themselves super close to VMware."

The other product that has benefited from the Dell EMC partnership is the XtremIO all-flash array. Until now, it has supported block-type storage exclusively. But in a sneak preview for press and analysts, Dell officials discussed how next year, a next-generation "X2" XtremIO will feature file system NAS (network-attached storage) support.

Interestingly, the new feature is based on FluidFS, a technology Dell acquired from Exanet in 2010. It turns out that Exanet and XtremIO (acquired by EMC in 2012) are neighbors near Tel Aviv, Israel, and had been collaborating in secret to bring its file services to XtremIO. Now that the companies have merged, the XtremIO and FluidFS teams felt compelled to share their efforts.

While EMC has brought its core competencies and many other pieces to Dell EMC, Dell is able to bring to bear its supply chain and operations expertise that has made it so efficient over the years.

It's easy to see what's making Michael Dell so excited, but there is one topic he is a little sensitive about—discussing Dell and EMC as separate companies. "Make no mistake," he said. "This is one company."

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.

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,...