Looking after number one

EMC is widely considered to be the market leader in the storage industry. Mohammed Amin reveals how the company intends to keep the top position and go forward

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By  Caroline Denslow Published  September 18, 2005

|~|emc04body.jpg|~|Mohammed Amin pinpoints EMC’s investment in R&D and expansion into ILM as two of the ways in which the storage company intends to improve its market share.|~|Mohammed Amin, general manager of EMC Middle East, is passionate about storage. That is evident in the way he talks about his work in the company. While he has every reason to brag about EMC — analysts’ reports have shown EMC leading the market — Amin says being the leader entails bigger responsibilities and more things to worry about. In an interview with IT Weekly, he talks about what he thinks EMC’s strengths are and how he feels about the competition. Amin also discloses what he thinks about Sun’s acquisition of StorageTek and confesses about the thing that keeps him awake at night. EMC has recently announced major security upgrades to its product range. Some say that this was driven partly by Symantec’s acquisition of Veritas. Is that the case? I don’t believe that we are doing it because of Symantec and Veritas. In my opinion, they have their own strategy and we have our own strategy. As EMC we do what’s best for the customers. Our products have always been secure, but we implemented more security levels on our products because of our customers’ needs, how we see the trends in the market trends, and the importance of data and information management. I do not think that it was influenced at all by the [purchase of] Veritas by Symantec. But does this mean that storage and security are consolidating the market? I wouldn’t call it storage and security consolidation, and I wouldn’t comment on Symantec and Veritas. In my opinion, we have to wait and see whether this acquisition will work out or not. However, I don’t believe it will work out because Veritas was looking at the world from one way and Symantec was looking at it from a completely different way. I think it’s more about the data, not because storage and security are merging. It’s about the data — how you want to manage the data and how you want to make the data more secure on the enterprise level while you’re implementing business continuity and disaster recovery. That is the motivation; it’s not like security and storage are getting together. With EMC it’s not about storage anymore. We are more into IT information management. If you look at our last quarterly results globally, only 47% of our revenue was hardware. That means 53% of our revenue came from software and services. That’s why we are looking at how to manage information and how we can provide our customers with a business continuity infrastructure. Does that mean that EMC is now more focused on software and services than hardware? Is this the kind of balance you want to maintain now in terms of your hardware and software lines? Definitely, that’s our focus — to have more software and more services. Definitely that’s an EMC focus. More importantly , if you look at EMC’s acquisitions in the last two years — we have made more than 24 acquisitions and they were all to do with software. So are you saying there are more opportunities to grow in software? It’s not that. Historically customers were looking for storage containers in the back of the servers, which you would put the data on it. The world is not like this anymore. It’s more about building an infrastructure, and that causes more challenges. And the reason why we are beating the competition is because of the way we help customers manage data. You need the software functionality in your infrastructure. It’s a market demand. The smart part of any infrastructure will be the software. If you look to our competition today, we are more focused on software than them and we own the software technology we offer. Most of our competitors cannot say the same. Are you referring to your acquisitions, then? How have you been benefiting from these acquisitions? We are not acquiring only to be focused on software. The challenges are information lifecycle management (ILM) and how to deliver to your customers that information lifecycle management. I always said to my customers, “If you go to our competition you might see a much better Powerpoint presentation for ILM, but the real question is, ‘Can they deliver on the story?’” ILM is about building blocks, and we have to fill gaps — those that we do not have yet. But I can claim that EMC today is the only company in the world that can deliver on its ILM story, unlike our competition. We have the actual deliverables for that because of our acquisitions. ILM means different things to different vendors. What do customers really need to understand about ILM? ILM, in a simple format, is how you manage your information versus how critical and how important this information is. Let me give you an example to make the subject much simpler. I am using my mobile phone today. By the end of the month, Etisalat will have my bill. For example, I have to pay AED 5000 this month. This piece of information is so important for Etisalat because it needs to collect the money. So this should be managed and stored in a highly reliable, mission-critical application information infrastructure. Two months later and after I pay the bill on time, this piece of information will not be important anymore for Etisalat. Why should they pay the high price of storing this information if this information is not important anymore? To make storage cost-efficient, that information has to go to a lower infrastructure. What if a year later, I found out that Etisalat was ripping me off, that the AED 5000 I paid a year before was not the exact amount and I decided to sue? All of a sudden, the same piece of information becomes highly critical for them and for me again. Their system should be smart to deliver this. That’s what we call ILM. From that, all of the current information and the historical or archived information can have 100% availability so that it can be accessible again — so that it can be critical and important again to both of us — Etisalat and myself. ||**|||~|emc01body.jpg|~|Mohammed Amin is confident that EMC will maintain its position as market leader in the Middle East. |~|Do you have any customers in the Middle East implementing your ILM-based products? We have a lot of references in the Middle East. Most of the telecom companies in the region are using EMC. I can’t say any names right now, but I would say that about 80% of the major telecom organisations in the whole Middle East are using EMC. Is ILM the main focus of EMC’s overall strategy? ILM is the heart of EMC’s strategy. All our actions, all our acquisitions, how we serve our customers, they all revolve around EMC’s ILM strategy because that’s where we specialise in — how we manage information. We live up to what our slogan — “Where information lives” — means. In an interview, Joe Tucci, EMC’s chief executive, said the company is expanding from ILM to infrastructure management. Is that correct? He’s quite right. What he said is correct, because to implement ILM you have to have good management for your infrastructure. Both are related. But if you’re saying that your main focus is on ILM, then what does infrastructure management mean for EMC? ILM is the concept or the strategy; it’s not the product. ILM is not a product. ILM is a strategy. Infrastructure management is about how any customer — enterprise customer — builds his infrastructure and manages it based on the ILM strategy. ILM strategy is the ultimate goal for any customer, and it has four or five levels. So some customers can be in the first level or second or third. What we are doing is to help the customers by managing their infrastructure in order to build the ILM concept. You basically have everything — hardware, software and services. Is there anything else you need to add to your EMC strategy? To deliver a good ILM concept and strategy with high performance infrastructure we need different elements, and yes we do have it all. I believe that we are the only vendor to have a complete infrastructure today and complete product portfolio as opposed to our competition, which usually only have one or two products maximum. We have a complete portfolio, but definitely the sky is the limit. There are a lot of other things we will have to add to enhance our strategy. I’m not the CEO but I’m sure you will hear more from EMC about acquisitions this year, definitely. Let’s talk about your position in the market. In many analyst quarterly reports, EMC is leading a lot of segments in the storage industry. Is it difficult to maintain market leadership given that you are playing in a very competitive space? Of course, being the leader, you find that everyone’s coming after you. Everyone’s trying to say that you’re bad, especially in the Middle East because we have grown 80% every year for the last three years, and our competition is trying to go after our market share. So yes, it’s very difficult. It’s hard work. Honestly, I’m telling you, that from a business point of view — not because we are having this interview — that keeping EMC on top is the only thing that keeps me awake at night. It’s very easy to achieve success and to be the leader once, but you see you have to do that every quarter — not every year. We’ve been asked to maintain or improve on our market share every quarter. What about in terms of innovation? How do you keep yourself ahead in the technology game? Definitely it’s because of research and development(R&D). EMC is an engineering company. We are not a marketing company at all. We’re not like Microsoft or Cisco. Only very few people outside the IT industry know us all the way even though we are the market leader. No one knows EMC. I remember when I first joined EMC. Some of my friends told me, “Great. Is that Emirates Motor Company?” But because of our nature, that we are an engineering company, we dedicate over US$1billion annually for our R&D. We are a pure engineering company. As a matter of fact, if you look at our US$1billion R&D investment versus our revenue and our market share, we hold the highest percentage worldwide among all IT companies when it comes to the R&D spending point of view. So definitely it’s our own development and we own the technology 100%. Let’s talk about Sun and StorageTek. What’s your take on the purchase now that it’s been approved? I’d like to understand why Sun acquired StorageTek because it does not make sense. I am not talking as EMC or as a competitor because we do not see Sun [competing strongly in the storage sector] in the Middle East actually. I do not believe that Sun is focused on storage or that it is a serious competitor as far as storage. It’s not that it is driven in storage [like EMC]; It has a lot of other areas that it is focusing on as well. I am one of the people supporting Sun. The whole world knew that Sun had a few financial problems worldwide, but I’m one of the people who would feel very upset if Sun disappears because the world will look very grim if we have HP and IBM only on the server side. The users will suffer. Analysts are saying, however, that now that Sun has StorageTek, it will be a significant player in the ILM space? You mean are they ready to compete with EMC? I tell you what. StorageTek was always there. Sun was always there, and Sun had an OEM [agreement] before it acquired StorageTek, so they had access to StorageTek products already. The results in the last three years show that they could not do much. So personally, I’m struggling to understand after the acquisition how this will change their product offering because they always had access to StorageTek [in the past]. They always had an OEM agreement with StorageTek. I’m sure they are doing great in the Middle East, but worldwide, StorageTek did not grow in the last four years, and Sun had a little financial problem and they were losing money. But then again, I’m not talking about the Middle East. I’m talking about their worldwide performance [and] it’s all over the internet. It’s not just me saying this. So, a company losing money, and a company not growing for four years getting together… Talking about trends in the storage industry, what other technologies do you think will consolidate with storage? I would get away from asking what would consolidate with storage but instead ask what would the customers need more in order to protect their data? Every other day customers understand how valuable their data is. So in my opinion any technology that will help customers manage and make their data more secure would be consolidated within the storage platform. And what about EMC’s future? I can see in 2005 that we are going to maintain our leadership in the Middle East. The businesses that we have won in the last couple of months will show this. As a matter of fact, I am challenging all my competitors that by the end of 2005 the leadership gap between EMC and them in the Middle East will be much wider. ||**||

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