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Wed 17 Feb 2010 04:00 AM

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Cloud collaboration

Network Middle East spoke to Frank Hauck Executive Vice President, EMC Storage Division and Global Marketing and Customer Quality EMC Corporation, about the recently announced Acadia joint venture with Cisco, VMware and Intel, which is focused on accelerating customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures.

Cloud collaboration

Network Middle East spoke to Frank Hauck Executive Vice President, EMC Storage Division and Global Marketing and Customer Quality EMC Corporation, about the recently announced Acadia joint venture with Cisco, VMware and Intel, which is focused on accelerating customer build-outs of private cloud infrastructures.

Can you explain the aims for the Acadia joint venture?

It is a little bit of a work in progress, it kicks off in the first quarter of this year, and the idea behind it is if somebody is going to buy the infrastructure and is looking for somebody to build it, operate it, and potentially transfer it back to them, then Acadia is a one-stop shopping solution.

It will have expertise from all three companies, it will be a co-ordinated effort in the form of a joint venture, and it will allow people to jump into cloud with a level of predictability, because the systems are developed and tested as a unit, they come with reference architectures, best practices and all the elements you would want as you jump into a new area of doing things.

Acadia comes with the expertise as well, people who are able to squeeze as much efficiency out of it, figure out how to utilize the tools that are out there. It is able to give our joint customers one less thing to worry about. The rationale behind cloud is that if we do this right, it should take the amount of time that CIOs and IT people spend on non-customer facing aspects of their job and cut it down to a much smaller percent.

I was our CIO for a while, and the amount of budget that gets spent on keeping the lights on, if you will, ranges between 60% and 80% so we are trying to shrink that down so CEOs can actually deliver more customer facing solutions to their internal customers. If we can do it right, we can take one big element of what people spend their time on, give it to the experts, drive down not only CAPEX but operating expenditures, and allow them to focus on areas where they can drive some value add.

Is the idea to build cloud data centres at customer sites, or offsite, what is the model?

It is actually either. We can host it for them, or we can do it on their location, and the underlying element of our joint cloud strategy is what we call virtual private cloud.

The thing that people love about data centres right now is that they work. They are reliable, they are trusted, people know how to operate them and execute. What they like about the theme around cloud computing is that is efficient, it is flexible, it is on demand, it is dynamic.

So the question is how do you get the best of both worlds? One of the things that data centres don't allow you to do is move quickly - if somebody has a need for some application, you would shop it to your IT group. you might get answer ‘it will take us two years and $30 million to get everybody up to speed', where the cloud environment is much more specialized, it is much more adaptive, so that you can actually turn these around much more rapidly.

What we are trying to do is give people an opportunity to turn their data centre into what we call an internal cloud, and then we will work with service providers like telecoms people, who will construct external clouds. Maybe it is a holiday season, and you are going to have a spike in activity - you don't want to go building infrastructure when you can actually buy it from somebody else. The ability to move data back and forth in a secure way, so you can actually get what you need as far as adding capacity, but you are paying for what you use for however long you need it.

The ability to make that happen, is really what we think of when we talk of the virtual private cloud, it is that federation of between external and internal cloud environments. We will provide the expertise if somebody wants us to do it at a site that they co-locate, or on their own premise, depending on the customer need.

Does that take business from traditional EMC partners who would be building data centres for their customers?

We are really focused on very large accounts, so we have built in the capability for system integrators and a lot of our partners who work with us, to be able to leverage that same expertise. Acadia is going to focus on specific customers. There are going to be a lot [of customers] that we will never touch, and we are counting on our partners to leverage the same capabilities, the same product set and to be able to offer a lot of the same services as well. If they want one-stop-shopping of EMC Cisco, VMware, that is the opportunity for them.

What potential do you see for Acadia in the Middle East?

It is not only early in the life cycle of the cloud, but if you look back at the announcement of products from Cisco, EMC and VMware, each one of us announced technology that enabled cloud infrastructures to be built. It is kind of early in the game, but most customers are looking to spend money [on a solution] that is forward compatible, with this degree of efficiency, because they understand the benefits that come along with it.

They are getting demands from their internal customers to react more quickly to their changing needs, and if they kept things the same as they were, they wouldn't have a chance as far as being able to respond like some specialized provider that has an infrastructure-on-demand.

So with respect to the Middle East, we will work with customers who want to look at transforming their data centres into internal clouds, we will work with the partner base that is here, and the beauty of it is that Cisco, VMware and EMC have a lot of joint partners.

Many of the transactions go through partners so they are actively involved in being a part of this ecosystem, and there will be service providers that will build out data centres that people can put equipment in, and buy on demand as well. We believe that this is an environment that will look like the US, and other parts of the world, that will embrace this, because what you gain with respect to time, speed, efficiency and the ability to drive down the money that you spend will allow them to derive significant benefits.

In terms of forward compatibility, what degree of forward compatibility have you got already, or should customers be putting their investments on hold until this is finished?

When people look at their data centres, at its simplest form, you've got server resources, network resources, and storage resources, typically revolving around some type of application.

The application drives a lot of the infrastructure, its not the most efficient model. Lets say you are running SAP for one piece of your business, Oracle for another, you might have under utilized capacity for either one of those areas, the goal of cloud is to basically pool all those resources, so that if somebody comes to you with a need, you can look around your capability and figure out where the idle capacity is, and allocate that toward the user. The idea behind allowing that to occur exists now, the tools that we have, VMware's infrastructure, we launched a product called V-Max earlier this year [2009] which allows information to federate between storage engines, Cisco's UCS is geared towards the ability to move data around, utilizing a much greater degree of efficiency with memory, so that the capability exists now, but it gets better too.

Each one of us has things on the drawing board- we have a vision, you can jump into it now, and derive some benefits, but each one of us are investing and we have shared our road map across the three companies, so what is coming out builds onto the opportunity to leverage each others capabilities in 2010 and 2011.

For customers in markets that are further ahead, where are you getting the most interest from at the moment?

The folks that are the most excited are probably the ones that have the capability to make some of these transformational efforts happen quickly. The technology in 2009 was one of the things that set the stage, the folks that were early adopters of that technology have it and they can see where it is capable of going.

The level of interest and enthusiasm has been from some of our largest accounts. I have been with EMC almost 20 years, and I've never had an opportunity where the system integrators have been so excited about working with EMC and our partners.

Folks like Cap Gemini and Accenture, they see what the possibilities are around this, and they understand where they can make a huge difference with their customers and give them value so they can actually run SAP or Oracle a lot more efficiently, leverage that, and take that money and bring in new applications that will allow them to grow as a business.

Do you have any ballpark figures on the savings companies can make by going with this model?

I don't think we have thrown anything out there, but what is interesting is that the technology itself is changing, for each one of the units. The storage part, one of the things that happened in 2008-2009 was the advent of flash technology, utilizing solid state disks, combined with slow, cheaper SATA drives, which gives better performance, less cost of buying it, and is greener. We think that will continue into 2010, aside from the work with Cisco and VMware, just the technology itself, we are seeing 30-35% savings on configuring systems a different way.

2009 was kind of a challenging year economic-wise, but the level of enthusiasm and excitement, not only from partners, but analysts, that something big is on the horizon, this is clearly one of those inflection points, and it is the beginning of something that we think will be very, very big.

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