Taking aim with ILM

Storage giant EMC is set to expand its operations in the region, upping its workforce and, claims Leo Miklas, pushing its integrated information lifecycle management system (ILM)

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By  Chris Whyatt Published  February 19, 2006

|~||~||~|Early January and the loudest noise being made about storage giant EMC was its intention to ‘slash’ 1,000 jobs worldwide. Not the greatest way to kick off the new year, but reports of its ‘workforce balance management’ exercise were greatly exaggerated, according to its regional manager for the Middle East, Leo Miklas. Having recently boosted its Velocity partner programme, EMC is claiming it is now easier for the growing number of partners selling its solutions in the market to work alongside the company. And EMC, poised to add more jobs regionally and continue with its global acquisition spree, is bound to grow from strength to strength as companies realise the tangible business benefits of an integrated information lifecycle management (ILM)system, Miklas explains to us below. Firstly, EMC recently said that up to 1,000 jobs are to be cut worldwide. Will this affect the Middle East? There are two things to say. Firstly, it was during this pre-announcement on January 6 and at that time we announced that we will re-shift, it was called workforce balance management, a very new term. I am surprised, because we have always done that: changed the people portfolio, as we need it. If we are subject to this, it is likely we will add people, being in an emerging market. I think in order to do this in a better way, they will reduce some of the functions in the back office. I would have called this business as usual, so I am a little surprised that they did an announcement on this. And I don’t know why. If you look at the last four or five years, we have always changed the people portfolio. Perhaps, and I am speculating, that they are focused on a certain group of people in a certain area. So will you be adding any jobs within your Middle East operations? We will add jobs, definitely. I cannot tell you exactly how many yet — that still has to be finalised — but it will be substantial. There are roughly about 50 people at present and we will add at least 10%. These new jobs will be in areas responsible for generating new business, marketing and sales, customer-facing roles. This means that we will definitely become stronger in the Middle East. It is our plan to grow in this region substantially. We are certainly after our competitors, that’s very clear, and I think we did very well in the last two years – growing about 80% in the region over that timeframe. The IBMs, the HPs, the Suns, the NetApps of this world are our competitors here. You see them everywhere. Strengths do differ in the Middle East dependent upon country to country, and a vendor’s history there — but not much. Can you tell us about the history of EMC in the Middle East? It’s a long and short history. It’s a long one in terms of how we have been presented to the region, through partnerships, and it’s a short one in terms of direct presence. We have only been here since 2000. Close to half of our business is undertaken in Saudi Arabia, over 40%. We are doing very well there. Dubai is our biggest office, closely followed by that in Riyadh with around 20 people there. We also have offices in Cairo and Bahrain. In a previous interview with IT Weekly, EMC talked about information lifecycle management (ILM) and said it was the heart of the company’s strategy. What is ILM and how important is it to [potential] customers? I think it’s the world. It’s not a strategy; it’s real life. And it’s not EMC’s ILM, it’s the customers ILM. In many companies, you have ‘stove-piped’ information: they have an accounting system, they have an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, they have a marketing system. But do they talk to each other? Not necessarily. It starts with data classification — some customers have no idea what data they have and how important it is to them. As they cannot do a data classification, in turn, they cannot do data grouping, data movements. They cannot turn that data into useful information and they can- not evaluate how important that data is and how it moves through the organisation in, say, seven-year cycles. That’s how it all starts. Not having this structure impedes their ability for mobility, which is the next stage [of ILM]. The third one is: information is exploding. It costs a lot. Here it becomes very important that you use the appropriate means for the appropriate information. The problem that companies have today, particularly telcos, is that they have everything on mission critical and it just gets bigger and bigger — and more expensive. If they have a true ILM, they take the information, evaluate the importance of it over time, the total information, not just billing, and when they have done this, set the systems accordingly. Have the right price tag at the right time, right performance, right security, everything properly organised. We have done this for a large Middle East telco. The work took six or seven months, we had about 20 people involved. The document was about two inches thick, the presentation to the customer took about three days, and the implementation is now going on for about two years and it’s almost complete. That customer can say that 80% of the information is living in a lifecycle managed environment. It can truly say it is not spending extra dollars for storing information at a level that it doesn’t need. And on the other hand, that it is sure it has the mission critical information in a very high-performance secure stage any time it needs it. It costs more then to store information at a mission-critical level? Today, what is the world so far? You have two worlds. You have the online world and you have the offline world. Now what we do is divide the online world into six or seven, depending on the customer, levels and manage it, establish it and design it. Every customer has a different ILM and the challenge for us is to evaluate, design and consult in the right way. This is the difference between us and other companies. There are two different angles of thinking. One is application-centric and the other focused on information. By default, we are on the information side. The big organisations like IBM and HP are obviously on the applications side: their main aim is selling servers. Their world revolves around selling the server and application. For them, storage and information is something that sits behind the server. Hence, the ‘stove-piping’. Oracle, for example, cares for their application, they don’t care for the human resource (HR) systems if it’s from a different vendor. Our point of view is entirely from that of the customer’s information. We say that your most important asset as an enterprise is your information. And we take care of the total information, independent of whi ch database, which application. We prioritise the information. How quickly are businesses adopting ILM systems in the Middle East? It depends on which organisations are primarily dependent on information.That’s the telcos, because of the rapidly growing and changing information and their competitive situation. And, of course, the banking sector because they deal in information. In the Middle East, you’ve got oil and gas, and the airlines are growing. On a global base, we are 40% telco, 30% finance. It’s not much different here, although perhaps we service slightly more telcos. And oil and gas, which we don’t have in Europe. Are more companies coming round to the idea of ILM? Let me make a bold statement: everybody is talking about ILM but very few are understanding it. But I guarantee in five years, the world is ILM. Is it primarily an enterprise solution or can small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) use it to enhance their business? Absolutely. ILM can be a PC-based solution and a small environment has the same rules. We have an implementation for the SMB that makes sure it’s simple. It’s suitable, because it standardises the one-off approach. With the enterprise you go in and evaluate, with the SMB you make some assumptions and based on these we have standardised solutions. Is ILM as important for SMBs as it is for enterprises? For us it’s even more important. How many large enterprises do you have and how are they growing? The SMB market grows the fastest, especially in the Middle East. If you can help them, you can help them even more than the bigger businesses, because they have their own IT departments. They can help themselves to a certain extent. The SMB is lost and cannot help himself. This is the reason we work very intensively with partners, we educate them very strongly on ILM so they understand what it is so they can help the SMB in a much tighter consultancy work, more localised. They can afford it, that’s why it’s packaged and shrink-wrapped, if you will: consultancy, support and implementation. One closing word on ILM, it is not something that we have invented. Our experience shows us that if a company does this very well, they can reduce their IT storage spend – their total information spend, including software for management. It comes to about 60% — these are major savings if you do it well. ILM is not a nice toy. For the enterprise companies it is a must, and for SMBs, because of the savings, it is a must. With ILM there is no vendor-wide consensus on standards. Do you think this will hold it back? There cannot be a standard because it is the customer’s ILM. On the enterprise we are very flexible and do what the customer wants and needs. In the SMB market we try to — I hate the word standardise — but we try to simplify things and make this package. But wholesaling is still very flexible because it is the customer’s ILM. All we provide is packaged solutions that need to be tailored. And if you tailor this locally, with the local partner, it’s also affordable. IDS, NCR, Emirates Computers are our main partners in the region. Can you give a bit more detail on your plans for this year? It’s a growth plan. We are expanding in both revenue and people terms, and are very much focused on the SMB – which we call commercial – market. We have to go along with our partners and work in tune with their strengths. We do a lot of work with Dell, for instance, which go right into the very small business market: there, I call it intelligence storage, or managed storage. That’s for customers with under 500 employees. They usually buy a package from a partner that has a server, storage, some management software and that’s it. EMC’s solution is largely software-based. We are the sixth largest software company in the world — very few people know that. But we are doing more than 50% with software and services. Do you think EMC will continue with its acquisition spree? I am almost sure it will. The EMC board has in its plans to continue expanding, and that comes out of ILM. When we first talked about we created a nice theoretical picture of what it could be. A lot of big customers jumped on it because they immediately saw the benefits and said ‘do it’. But we had white spots that needed filling and that’s what we have done. I think buying other companies will go on. As we make the shift from this theoretical ILM to the customer’s ILM, they come back with lots of feedback, wanting to do things that we don’t have the capacity for. So we acquire new companies on that basis, to close the holes. What are customers asking for now, that EMC hasn’t quite mastered? The major area is consultancy. Customers are pretty happy with their hardware and software and standard packages that we deliver but they would like to have a lot more consultancy, implementation and operational support from us: much more than we can currently provide. If I was to speculate, sooner or later we will buy a consultancy company. We already have over 5000 consultants but we cannot do this fast enough, so in the future we will have to do something in this arena. What emerging trends do you notice in the storage arena? Understanding the information and content – not just moving it around – and doing the right things with it. Information grows faster than revenue, so companies have to cope with this by reducing expenses. They need from us tools and means that allow them to do this, and that cost less than they did, say, two years ago. You will see a lot more tools that enable companies to reduce operational expenses. EMC will be at the forefront of this. ||**||

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