EMC World 2014: What do the customers think of the 'Federation'?

By Peter Gothard
07 May 2014 View Comments
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The main message being fed to attendees at 2014's EMC World conference in Las Vegas has been the renewed (or "redefined") focus of what EMC calls its "Federation" - the product management structure of the company, one that's swallowed up so many big-name IT firms that many have feared those individual companies could lose their identity.

Over the past few days, the Federation has been described by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger as "strategically aligned but loosely coupled", and as having a "co-opertition model" by the CEO of Pivotal. EMC CEO Joe Tucci himself said that choosing between EMC's sub-brands and products is like being "at a fine restaurant" where "you can order à la carte or from a prix fixe menu."

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Of course, it's all well and good sticking four CEOs on a panel and having them present a complementary jigsaw puzzle. What matters is what the customers think, and Computing managed to ask a few.

Tom Stockwell, head of hosting product management for Vodafone cloud and hosting services, told us that, of all the announcements at EMC World this year - including an upgrade to EMC's software-defined storage product ViPR and the acquisition of flash storage start-up DSSD, the tightening of the EMC Federation's goal to represent a "third platform" for mobile, big data, cloud and social was his main take-home.

"One of the key things is the increased focus from EMC as a group," Stockwell told Computing.

"Everything is coming together into pre-packaged solutions. The EMC components and VMware components and virtual stuff allow us to get what we need to our customers more effectively."

Lotus F1 Team's IS and IT director, Michael Taylor, concurred, echoing his assertions from our case study conversation the other day as he praised EMC's "one-stop shop" ability to provide a wealth of products and the expertise in using them.

Friedrich Seifts, senior director of services systems at Major League Baseball, was also  enthusiastic, describing the Federation as being "a unified approach under one umbrella, that will allow us to effectively go to one source for solutions and for help".

"The operational expense [of different products and companies] can sometimes be to our detriment - it's just the nature of things. So for us, it's the unified approach that works."

But when asked what they felt EMC could be doing that it doesn't already do, all three customers again cited the Federation, suggesting there is still work to be done.

"We always want more," stated Stockwell. "I want to see more from the Federation, and how it can keep pulling all the groups together, with services and solutions."

While Taylor described the technology that EMC, VMware and Pivotal offer together as "fabulous", he admitted he's still "keen now to see it really connect, and how that can bring about new propositions".

"The key for me is the Federation really coming together," he added.

Seifts described the specific solutions that EMC offers as "phenomenal", but still registered concern that "as [the individual companies] pool together, it's important that they remain who they are".

"It's an EMC family," he asserted, "but it's great to see products from the original design teams and engineers."

Seifts believes that if EMC keeps allowing these original talents to shine the potential for cohesion is even greater than what is being displayed.

"As we grow infrastructure and platforms, I want to see much, much tighter integration and cohesiveness between the EMC products."

He also doesn't believe this principle should stop at EMC, expressing a wish for closer integration with close partners.

"Cisco for that matter - it would be great to see much tighter integration there," he added.

Are you an EMC customer? How successfully do you feel the company is leveraging the veteran tech companies that lie at its heart, and how are you, the customer, benefiting? Feel free to comment below.

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