Why EMC IT Is Going “All In” On Private Clouds

Few people are surprised when they hear our IT organization at EMC has embraced Private Clouds. After all, it’s easy to embrace a vision. It’s another to actually pursue it. But when folks learn how aggressively EMC IT is transforming our current datacenters into a private cloud, I often get reactions along the lines of, “Wow. Eating the food you’re selling to the rest of us. Great move.”

After this sinks in a bit more, I’m often asked: “Wait a minute. How did you manage to make that happen?” One assumption underlying this question is that we’re willing to bet more than merely EMC’s IT-vendor business on Private Cloud. We’re willing to bet our business operations on it.

That’s true enough. We are.

Another frequent assumption is that EMC is haughtily taking operational risks to meet a technology or marketing goal. That one badly misses the mark.

A Familiar Beginning

Running IT for an IT company may have advantages, but they don’t include getting IT products for free. Not even EMC’s products. Our IT organization has similar challenges faced by IT groups in other global companies, such as balancing business value and cost of ownership. And IT has to pay for the products it uses—including EMC storage.

EMC IT’s journey began about 18 months ago when a new CIO—a businessperson, not a technologist—took hold of the reins. He started by asking simple questions: What does company need from us? What does IT need to do? How do we keep our focus and efforts on what’s needed?

The result was a set of three guiding principles for EMC IT: operational efficiency, business transformation, and customer focus. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “that sounds like what any business would want from IT.”

Fair enough. So let’s expand this a bit further into specific EMC IT priorities:

Reduce operational costs. Of course, this means helping the business lower its operational costs. But it also means lowering IT operational costs on two fronts: business-unit demand, and IT shared services.

Improve agility of IT delivery. This is about taking the cost-reduction goal as an opportunity to find new ways of delivering IT to the business. Yes, that sounds suspiciously like “do more with less.” But the idea here is to do better than merely try to work harder with fewer resources. Can we find smart ways to be “faster to market” with EMC IT services? Can we make them more flexible so we can make needed changes more rapidly? Can we exploit them to make the overall business faster to market?

Equally important, can we ensure we don’t get bogged down striving for architectural purity or Cadillac-class capability? We need to be able to experiment, and make use of “good enough” when it truly is.

Drive workforce productivity. At the same time we’re asking our employees to spend less and travel less, we’re also telling them “you need to build better products and get closer to our customers.” How do we take more cost out of the business and increase productivity at the same time?

We’ve been putting a lot of effort into this one. We invested in Telepresence systems to enable face-to-face meetings—without needing to travel—across our global offices, and with customers and partners. We rolled out new CRM solution that’s now in use by every salesperson worldwide. And we did it in months—not years.

Architect for the future. It’s vital that we build organizational muscle at the same time we’re trying to reduce “fat.” For IT, that means making sure everything we do, every dollar we spend is on building for the future. To do this, we need a blueprint that’s simple—and agreed upon—that describes where we want to go. And we need to ensure near-term steps we take head in that direction.

Become EMC’s “First and Best” customer. Being “first” means EMC IT sees products before our customers see them. Being “best” means capturing everything we do in EMC IT, and sharing it with our customers. If we do things right, that’s great. If we make mistakes, let’s capture and share them, too, so others can avoid them. Put together, EMC IT can help our company ship better products, and can develop best practices that can be shared with our services teams and our customers.

Except for that last item, this probably still sounds fairly familiar to most of you. How does this translate into things IT does every day? Well, as EMC IT grappled with that question, one answer presented itself right away.

Virtualization’s raison d’être is making resource use more dynamic and efficient. Server virtualization has become mainstream in today’s datacenters because it enables IT cost savings and increased flexibility. Oh, and EMC just happens to be a majority owner of the leading virtualization company.

A VMware infrastructure was, therefore, a natural choice. It would help advance several of EMC IT’s goals. In fact, if you’d asked our IT staff a couple years ago what kind of journey they were on, they would have answered something like, “we’re transforming our datacenters into fully-virtualized infrastructures.” However, a few things happened since then that caused our senior IT leaders to expand their vision—and to accelerate its execution.

I’ll describe them in my next post!

About the Author: David Freund