Chronicling EMC IT’s Private Cloud Journey

We at EMC have been talking about private clouds from the perspective of an IT vendor for quite some time. But EMC is also an IT consumer. Our IT organization supports over 40,000 internal users in 61 countries (and 20 languages), and many hundreds of business applications on over 6,000 server instances spanning five data centers worldwide. Never mind the thousands of terabytes of storage, tens of thousands of devices, and hundreds of thousands of network ports used to conduct business every day.

It comes as no surprise, then, to be asked: “is EMC’s IT organization doing this?” when discussing private clouds with enterprise customers. My answer: “of course.” That’s not hubris. EMC IT began its journey a few years ago. The evolution in EMC IT’s thinking and plans—leveraging virtualization as a technology building block, then taking it to the next level—reflects the evolution in thinking and plans that led us to our vision of private clouds and the VCE coalition.

A few weeks ago, I discovered how far our IT organization has developed its thinking and fully funded plans. It’s dramatically farther than I would have expected. Actually, it’s farther than I would have dreamed. We’ve already virtualized our email archiving using EMC Source One. We use V-Max and Flash for virtualized data warehouse storage. We’ve been kicking the tires on vBlock “proof of concept” configurations for weeks. We’re “sweeping the floor” in our traditional datacenters and migrating physical servers to virtual—consolidating them by a ratio of approximately 40 to 1.

By mid- to late-year we will have virtualized 100 percent of our Intel/Linux based servers, and as close as we can get to that percentage of Windows based servers. By year-end 100 percent of our storage will be virtualized. Other plans for this year include virtualizing storage networks in our Hopkinton facilities (using FCoE, iSCSI, Rainfinity, etc.), and ramping up our VDI pilot from today’s small sampling to thousands of virtual desktops—with a goal of having 100 percent of our desktops virtualized within three years.

But this effort has been about much more than “eating our own dog food.” EMC IT’s guiding principles have been: (1) Operational Efficiency, (2) Business Transformation, and (3) Customer Focus. And that translates to 5 major initiatives now underway: Reducing operational costs, improving IT delivery agility, architecting for the future, driving workforce productivity, and implementing “EMC IT Proven” solutions. That, in turn, translates to material financial benefit. For example, by implementing many of the virtualization projects I’ve mentioned, EMC IT will save tens of millions of dollars in capital expenditures and operational costs over the next five years. Hard numbers like these go a long way toward getting projects funded and underway. (That fact that it further validates our strategy as a technology provider doesn’t hurt, either!)

It became clear to me that EMC’s IT organization has already walked down many of the roads our customers and partners must travel. And when it comes to cloud computing, customers are looking for guidance from people with real-world experience.

Last week I started having detailed discussions about this with senior EMC IT leaders. We all came away feeling strongly that we want to share as much of our experience as possible with as many people as possible. And we must much more than merely describe what technology things we used and how. Why did we make certain decisions? How did we arrive at them? What did we go through to gain approval—and funding—to get to various milestones along the way? What obstacles did we meet? How did we overcome or work around them?

So EMC IT has graciously invited me to join them as a sort of “embedded reporter,” chronicling as many aspects of our company’s own private cloud journey as possible. Think of this post as the first of a series I’ll be adding to this blog, along with the monthly video blog posts from EMC IT staffers already being featured here. I hope you’ll join us on this trek, and that you find this useful in your own journeys.

About the Author: David Freund