Steering EMC into the cloud

Think you have it tough being the CIO? Try working for a technology company, where everyone thinks they’re an expert.


Think you have it tough being the CIO? Try working for a technology company, where everyone thinks they’re an expert.

“We have 50,000 employees – 49,999 of them think they’re the CIO,” says Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO of storage vendor EMC. “They understand technology and understand what they need to do.”

Although this makes it a “tad” easier for Mirchandani to do his work in leading the company’s internal IT strategy, at the same time, he is under pressure from employees who expect the company's developments in IT to be quicker simply because they all understand technology.

“The business expects IT to be more efficient and IT to drive efficiency,” he says.

EMC started its journey to the cloud back in 2004 by focusing investment in virtualisation, with an aim to move to providing IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) internally.

The company is currently 79 percent virtualised, and the goal is to increase this by one percent a month, and hit 85 percent by the end of the year.

However, EMC is unlikely to ever go completely virtualised, Mirchandani admits, due to the company’s acquisition activity, legacy systems and the time and cost of building and migrating to a new data centre.

“Every time we do an acquisition, I have got another footprint. The goal is to get over 90 percent virtualisation and drive as much standardisation as we can. It’s aspirational,” he explains.

EMC decides what function to move to the ITaaS model by testing a broad range  of functions and then drilling deeper to make services available based on the demand.

“IT-as-a-Service (having a catalogue, true show-back on cost, automation, self-service) is something we see shining very brightly,” Mirchandani says.

“One of the promises of cloud is the standardisation of technology. The simplification of technology and processes means we can deliver more as a service because I have a company that is happy to consume things as a service.”

The company so far offers a range of IT functions as a service, including storage, business intelligence, user interface, database (SQL and Oracle) and infrastructure (named ‘Cloud 9’).  

In terms of the cloud, the company decided to focus on developing a private cloud, though Mirchandani is not averse to using public cloud services if something useful exists already.

“For the public cloud, we have been reasonably opportunistic – we use, for example.”

Other circumstances in which EMC would use a public cloud include, making an application available closer to customers in locations where the company does not have a data centre, or for increasing search capacity for a certain season.

Hybrid cloud is where EMC wants to evolve. It is in the company’s roadmap, Mirchandani says.

Meanwhile, EMC’s recent IT projects include rolling out a new ERP system, and building a new data centre in Durham, North Carolina.

The company is using VMware SRM (Site Recovery Manager) to migrate over applications and data from its Westborough, Massachusetts data centre, which was running out of capacity.

According to EMC’s IT blog, which charts the company’s move to the cloud, the new data centre recently went live and is running production applications.

But the blog also reveals some of the challenges of EMC’s ambitious virtualisation targets, and the consequences of adopting a “virtualised-first policy” for application design.

“The bundling process (what applications must migrate together)...turned out to be more complicated than we had originally planned because of the high level of virtualisation and consolidation (Data Base Grids) within our data centre,” the company wrote.

This meant that applications were highly interconnected and interdependent, which made bundles to be migrated too large – though after going back to the drawing board, this has now largely been addressed.

The fact that EMC’s journey to the cloud may be somewhat turbulent shouldn’t worry Mirchandani too much. After all, he does have 49,999 so-called CIOs who can lend a hand.

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