The Value of Incumbency

Earlier this month, I spoke at the Pacific Crest Global Technology Leadership Conference in Colorado, where Brent Bracelin, of Pacific Crest Securities, asked about EMC’s track record of acquiring unique technology assets and building them into fast growing businesses. By way of illustration: last quarter, our Emerging Storage Division grew revenues 49% year-over-year, due to customer interest in newer areas of our business such as our all flash arrays, Isilon scale-out NAS storage, our ViPR suite and software-defined storage, plus converged infrastructure. Brent then asked me the following question: “Does value of incumbency give you [EMC] an advantage in these newer markets or not?”

Great question. Here’s my answer: Storage startups certainly attract attention just for being new on the scene. But I believe the value of incumbency helps us and our customers in a couple of different ways.

First of all, we deeply understand the way our customers’ applications work and the service levels they need from those applications. We also understand that one-size-fits-all as a storage strategy doesn’t work for our customers and hasn’t worked for competitors in the storage industry. That’s been well proven. The reality is, you need a range of systems to support the range of applications that customers have.

Second, a number of storage startups today are focused solely on building a better mousetrap for existing applications. And, by the way, that’s true for some of our own technology, too. XtremIO, for example, is great technology. It is an all-flash storage array. It’s attached to a storage area network. It runs fairly traditional client-server applications. And it’s enjoying fantastic customer adoption, claiming a far greater share of the market for all flash arrays than any startup. But that’s not all we do. We’re just as focused upon emerging applications and how the needs of those workloads are different.

We’re very excited about some of the emerging growth areas in big data and fast data for next-generation, third platform, scale-out stateless applications. Here, we’ve got innovative new technologies like DSSD. We’ve got technologies like Isilon and our software-defined storage that can handle big, scale-out data and applications that ingest and reason over enormous data sets. We are actually further ahead in that emerging market segment than we are in some of the traditional storage market segments. Why is that? One reason is, there is not as much startup activity in that new area of the marketplace yet, because most startups are not actually focused there. They’re focused on trying to build better systems for existing apps. So we feel we are well positioned in the newer markets as well as traditional segments.

Being the incumbent never gives you anything by right, but it does give us a huge understanding of the way customers work with these application environments. And that delivers tremendous value to our business because it helps us deliver greater value to our customers.

I’ll share more of our conversation at this recent event in an upcoming post.

About the Author: David Goulden