EMC Moves on Multivendor Environment

New professional services division specializes in multivendor environments.

Enterprise storage company EMC Corp. on Wednesday announced a new professional services division specializing in multivendor environments.

The announcement on the new Information Solutions Consulting group comes amid speculation that the Hopkinton, Mass., company is planning further high-level executive changes as it tries to remake itself into a business as reliant on software as on hardware.

The consulting group, with the help of Accenture Ltd., began business Wednesday, initially as a 200-person department with about 100 employees from each company. Its "a major expansion of our professional services capabilities thats moving to include platform-independent storage consulting," said Joseph Walter, senior vice president of the 1,400-person EMC Global Services unit.

The move indicates EMCs recognition that most customers have hybrid environments that include not only EMC products but also those from other vendors such as IBM, Hitachi Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Network Appliance Inc. The group will focus on infrastructure strategy, consolidation, storage management, financial models and business continuance, Walton said. Accentures role is to help with skills development, recruiting and methodology, he said.

One challenge EMC faces will be convincing customers that the new division isnt just a front for its traditionally aggressive sales team.

"I can understand where the impression is there," Walton said. But when the new group helps customers find solutions, "ideally its EMC, but if its not, we want to be able to play a high-level role in that discussion. Weve been working on this for the better part of a year."

Meanwhile, rumors circulating in the storage industry about high-level personnel changes at EMC are coming true. Mark Lewis, former enterprise storage head at Digital Equipment Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp., will begin working at EMC Monday, according to sources familiar with the situation. Lewis will initially have a vice presidency position and will later replace Chief Technology Officer Jim Rothnie, whos retiring this year, sources said.

EMC officials declined to comment, as did Lewis, when reached at his Colorado home Wednesday. "Talk to you in a couple of weeks," Lewis said.

Lewis, who had been in charge of storage at Compaq, became the chief marketing official for enterprise storage after Compaq was bought by HP in May.

HP officials confirmed that Lewis, a mechanical engineer by trade credited with turning Compaqs storage division into an industry leader, quit Monday, though "his critique of the proprietary, dated and costly storage paradigms offered by our competitors is equally well-known," a spokesman noted.

How the industry and customers will take the switch, given Lewis past criticism of EMC, is unknown. For example, at a press event in March, Lewis criticized EMCs marketing of its AutoIS storage management strategy, which involved Compaq in an API-swapping deal. "Were not happy with how EMC publicizes things. I wouldnt expect anything less," Lewis said. Asked then what hed do if he were in EMC President and CEO Joe Tuccis shoes, he said, "They have a structural cost problem. You have to build a business structure that can deal with the realities of life. … You cant cover your ears and say Well, the margins will come back."

At least one analyst disagrees with EMCs hiring of Lewis as CTO.

Hiring Lewis away from Compaq is "a real coup for EMC," said Shebly Seyrafi, of A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc., in St. Louis. But while hes a good strategist, he may not be the best CTO choice. "Hes not qualified to be CTO. That doesnt make sense to me," Seyrafi said. Lewis could initially be in charge of product marketing, a normally midlevel role thats of larger importance at EMC, others have suggested.

For now, Lewis will only focus on filling the shoes of Rothnie, an eight-year EMC veteran and MIT-educated PhD. The switch will generally coincide with EMCs launch this fall or early next year of its next-generation flagship Symmetrix product and with the companys overall new strategy of emphasizing software more than hardware. BMC Software Inc. executive Chris Gahagan was also recently hired, while original Symmetrix engineer Moshe Yanai was moved.