The evolution of data center storage architecture
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IT pros had a lot to talk about when Dell announced a planned EMC acquisition, to roll out in 2016 designed to broaden the IT vendor's offering and raise a lot of questions about direction.
Traditional IT hardware, software and services companies face challenges from enterprise IT customers virtualizing more and buying less hardware, moving some workloads onto cloud servers, and considering software-defined and converged alternatives that often introduce a new vendor into the data center. The storage sector was particularly influenced by these trends, making EMC a likely merger or acquisition target, despite its huge size and scope. Dell bit, with a plan that is worth a record $67 billion and affects countless data centers from server closets to Web-scale operations.
EMC comprises a mix of legacy, leading-edge and acquired intellectual property in the storage sector. The company grew in storage intelligence, cloud, backup and recovery and other areas by acquiring RSA, Virtustream, Isilon, Cloudscaling, Pivotal Labs, XtremIO and others, some as recently as early 2015. It also owns the majority stake in virtualization and cloud company VMware, an IT giant in its own right.
Dell is primarily considered a hardware OEM for data center servers and end-user desktop and laptop computers, but the company's reach extends into storage in several areas. Dell's data center storage offerings include all-flash arrays and software-defined storage management products, as well as conventional storage arrays. Some, like the SC/PS Series, were derived from acquisition. The company will need to evaluate where EMC's product lines fit -- or compete -- with its existing ones.
With the announcement of Dell's planned EMC acquisition coming just days before DellWorld 2015, IT pros had an immediate chance to see Dell's roadmap in person and discuss the future of the company. Here's what a few Twitter users had to say:
Michael Davis, UITS senior virtualization engineer at the University of Arkansas, showed cautious optimism about the EMC acquisition and what it will mean for data center teams using these vendors.
Scott Sinclair, storage industry analyst at ESG, touched on the anxiety of many Dell and EMC customers: Where storage technologies collide, what can current customers expect on the roadmap?
I strongly believe that preserving the EMC / VMware brands is smart because EMC customers trust the brand(s) #dellemc— Dave Vellante (@dvellante) October 15, 2015
Dave Vellante from The Wikibon Project and other industry analysis and media ventures mused on the magnitude of the deal. With $67 billion at stake, this isn't your typical IT giant acquiring a small start-up for its IP, and Dell will have to carefully navigate the transition for many important, and perhaps skeptical, EMC and VMware users.
Dell and EMC weren't the only major IT vendors to make headlines. As Nyssen notes, storage media makers Western Digital and SanDisk have plans to merge. In addition, HP finalized its split into consumer brand HP Inc. and business focused Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. As for Nyssen's other prediction, we can't begin to imagine the "Don't Text and Drive" campaign that that merger would necessitate.
Paul Teich, principal analyst at TIRIAS Research, brings up the cloud question for these established IT vendors. Dell made its cloud broker foray in 2014, around the time Michael Dell took the company private, and opinions have been mixed about Dell's overall cloud strategy.
#dellemc What world does Dell/EMC want to create? What might be possible?— Michael Keen (@michael_keen) October 22, 2015
Only time will tell how the EMC acquisition shakes out, as IT consultant Michael Keen and University of Washington student Abhimanyu Singh point out. Michael Dell seems to have won the support of at least one IT pro, Brian Vienneau of Winslow Technology Group, with the bold move.