Mark Lewis, EMC Corp.s new CTO, said the company has made progress in its attempts to reinvent itself as a software vendor, but still sees changes coming in both software and hardware.
In an wide-ranging interview with eWEEK on Friday, Lewis, who came over to EMC from Hewlett-Packard Co., said he plans on essentially following the same path as that laid out by Jim Rothnie, who now is CTO emeritus at the Hopkinton, Mass., company.
“As CTO coming in, I will try over time to put out, and we will try to become more articulate, not just over our products but our direction, more insight into where we are going,” he said.
A key part of that strategy will be continuing to grow out the companys AutoIS management software initiative, Lewis said.
Next week, CEO and President Joe Tucci will unveil what he is calling “chapter two” of the companys AutoIS storage management software strategy. The key new developments, sources said, are resource management and virtualization software, and more abilities to manage hardware from Hitachi Ltd. and IBM, based on reverse engineering. EMC will also announce EMC Data Manager 5.0, based on technology from Solid Information Technology Corp., of Mountain View, Calif., officials of that company said.
Lewis declined to comment directly on next weeks announcements at the Storage Decisions 2002 show. However, he said, “We get things pretty full from a within a completeness perspective. We are filling out the product … with respect to the connectivity it offers” from the reverse engineering angle. HP currently leads that trend.
However, “its unlikely that it will ever be done, in the sense that software does evolve to hopefully get better,” Lewis said. “In all of the major categories for AutoIS, we plan continual progression.”
Among the more controversial parts of AutoIS is WideSky–EMCs middleware for translating third-party programming interfaces into code that the ControlCenter application can oversee. But EMC built that as a necessity, not a nicety, Lewis said.
“We dont want to write WideSky,” he said. “Its not a desirable thing. Itd be much easier if we didnt, but we do want to solve our customers problems.”
The company does want the CIM (Common Information Model) and Bluefin specifications to succeed and to expand in scope to make WideSky unnecessary, he said. There has been criticism within the industry that WideSky proves that EMC is anti-standards. “Having said that, we faced a reality of a situation that said we need to get products out today,” and no vendors hardware–not even EMCs–supports the new standards yet, he noted.
: The Hardware Side”>
On the hardware side, Lewis discussed the future of commoditization, IP storage and networking, all areas hes tasked with planning for. EMCs most important next hardware launch, Symmetrix 6, was planned before he arrived.
Robert Gray, an analyst with International Data Corp., said he has mixed feelings about EMCs software vision.
“No top-share supplier ever finds an awful lot of motivation to make it easy for the second-tier competitors to plug them, to be compatible,” he said. However, “over the last 18 months Ive seen actual changes” in the companys attempts to listen to customers.
“Ive seldom found storage customers who didnt get what they want taken care of,” he noted, referring to EMCs reputation of having excellent customer service.
Regarding EMC and hardware, Gray said: “Heres what you can expect: Back in their labs, they will set a little team of engineers together … to run Symmetrix with Serial ATA [drives], and theyll experiment, and theyll do it with the first set of Serial ATA drives they can get their hands on. Will they talk about what theyre doing in the experimental labs? Not to me, but Im 100 percent certain theyre doing that, because theyre smart.”
Regarding commoditization, EMC already uses general-purpose chips, drives and processors in its arrays, Lewis said. Drives that use the ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) interface, which are cheaper but less reliable, will likely reduce tape archiving “more and more … to a tertiary environment,” he said. “It is now outpacing many tape library technologies in cost-per-megabyte. Strategically, we see more and more recovery moving to disk.”
Using ATA drives in higher-end hardware, like Symmetrix, is still years from being a reasonable consideration, unlike with Centera, he said. If EMC or a rival does use ATA drives, “we expect for the near-future, [it] will still require a good deal of engineering to get the full robustness,” with designs for a bus structure, caching and fault-tolerance, Lewis said. “Just because you have ATA drives doesnt mean well put them in JBOD [the industry term for just a bunch of disks] configurations,” he said. While third parties continue to roll out specialty products using Centera, “my impression is itll remain a very segmented product for quite some time,” he said.
In networking, “Fibre Channel will be with us for a long, long time. We still have so many inherent differences between how LANs and WANs want to move data,” Lewis said.
Real-time storage will be plagued by IPs random packeting and high error tolerance rates. But applications like replication are already becoming IP storages sweet spot, as its acceptable time delay gives the IP network time to keep up efficiencies, he said.
“iSCSI will play a role in entry-level networks and what we call stranded servers,” Lewis said.
EMC also is competing against the plans of storage switch makers, like Brocade Communications Systems Inc. and McData Corp., and, more recently, against networking giant Cisco Systems Inc.
“Theres certain features over time that have a good fit within the network,” Lewis said, but EMC plans to offer them directly. Examples are provisioning and virtualization, he said. However, Lewis declined to explain the relationship between those examples and next weeks AutoIS news.
“Just because the network comes in doesnt mean we wont sell an awful lot of software,” he said.
Lewis would not comment on EMCs planned investment in spin-off Diligent Technologies Corp., which is not yet finalized. Diligents products, according to sources, will be SRM, tape virtualization and backup/recovery acceleration. Next weeks announcement covers SRM and backup acceleration, but do not yet involve Diligent, sources said.
(Editors note: This story has been edited to include the comments from Robert Gray of International Data Corp.)