Tucci Talking Tough

Interview: EMC's president and CEO, Joe Tucci, challenges IBM and Hitachi, and promises a virtualization product this year.

EMC Corp., the largest maker of enterprise storage hardware, is in transition. The Hopkinton, Mass., vendor—which started as a furniture company in 1979 and went on to overtake IBMs storage dominance in the 1990s—recorded its first losing quarter in 12 years in November. CEO and President Joe Tucci responded by reorganizing EMC into engineering/manufacturing, software and distribution/operations groups.

Now, while focusing internally on the high-end flagship Symmetrix, the AutoIS (Automatic Information Storage) heterogeneous management software and consulting, EMC is blazing the trail for object-based storage with its Content-Addressed Storage system.

eWEEK Executive Editor Stan Gibson met with Tucci last week in New York to discuss these challenges and more.

eWEEK: EMC was the company of the 90s in terms of growth. Is it possible, mathematically or technologically, to grow that fast in the next decade?

Tucci: No. Because of our size, starting at $6 billion, wed probably be the biggest company in the world in 10 years at that rate. However, we expect to have substantial double-digit growth.

eWEEK: Your efforts to create an open software platform through AutoIS have had mixed results. Are some other vendors, such as Hitachi [Ltd.] and IBM, tending to gang up on EMC?

Tucci: Clearly, weve got a considerable lead, which is what you try to have. Theyre trying to throw in a little [fear, uncertainty and doubt]. We are driving standards through industry standard bodies, but we are adding value on top of that. IBM should talk. There was the Fibre Channel initiative, and then IBM comes out with [Serial Storage Architecture]. What are they talking about? Theyre full of crap. The facts are, we are embracing standards, and we are solving problems that customers tell us they have every single day.

eWEEK: There is reportedly a Symmetrix killer coming out from Hitachi [this week] at NetWorld+Interop. Whats your reaction?

Tucci: If everything is what they say it is, theyll have a hardware advantage. Then well come back and trump them. The area now, though, is functionality because hardware is outstripping customer needs. With [either] AutoIS or IBM Storage Tank, it matters not if you have one large box or three smaller boxes. It doesnt matter because the storage layer is abstracted. If they [Hitachi] do everything they say, they may get bragging rights at the high end. But, I assure you, those bragging rights will be short-lived. Were also coming out with lower-end products, both Symmetrix and Clariion, and software to tie it all together with AutoIS. It will look like one liquid pool of storage.

eWEEK: Regarding another competitor, it looks like the [Hewlett-Packard Co.-Compaq Computer Corp.] merger will happen.

Tucci: Good.

eWEEK: How so?

Tucci: There will be one, big company trying to do a lot of things. Cultures are tough to merge. When you put things together, it takes time, it takes effort and it takes focus. Youre focusing inwardly rather than on the customer.

They are trying to out-IBM IBM. I think the focused players, such as Dell [Computer Corp.] and ourselves, will grow faster. Were working closely with Dell and getting many of the benefits that HP and Compaq are looking for without the disruption.

eWEEK: There have been reports that you and [EMC Chairman] Mike Ruettgers have not been getting along.

Tucci: Not true.

eWEEK: Does he offer you the kind of support you need as president and CEO?

Tucci: Yes, he does.

eWEEK: He doesnt try to micromanage?

Tucci: You cant micromanage me. Mike doesnt do that. Hes there. Hes active. He tries to focus on visiting customers, on running the board and on our acquisition strategy. It gives me a really experienced executive to bounce ideas off of. But on the day-to-day activity, he lets me run the company. Theres just one CEO, and thats me. We get along good personally, too. We play golf.

eWEEK: Who wins?

Tucci: Were both equally bad. But hes probably a little better than I am.

eWEEK: What can we look for with regard to acquisitions?

Tucci: Were looking at companies the size of FilePool [NV, which created the Centera technology and was acquired last year] and at ones that are bigger. Well continue to be fairly highly acquisitive.

eWEEK: That sounds like, say, four or five companies per year.

Tucci: Thats what weve been doing, and I dont see our pace falling off.

eWEEK: Primarily software companies?

Tucci: My highest interest is in software companies. Priorities 1, 2 and 3 are software.

eWEEK: Theres a virtualization product reported to be in the EMC pipeline. Where is it now?

Tucci: Virtualization is a buzzword, but what were working on has to do with multiple applications, multiple servers and multiple platforms from different vendors. We hinted it would be out this year. It was on our road map. I think the industry expects that product this year, and we have a history of not disappointing the industry.

eWEEK: Hitachi, according to your patent infringement suit, is copying. Are you content that youll be able to thwart them from copying?

Tucci: Hitachi has been caught at copying more than any technology company in the world. Now they are partnering with IBM, but before that, IBM sued them many times. We tried for four years to negotiate something. They led us on with absolutely no progress. So we said, "Youve infringed our patents and stolen our intellectual property, so well let a court decide." Were not into filing frivolous lawsuits.

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