EMC made their big announcement for 2011 yesterday. The company has a track record of elaborate, showy announcements that are designed to make a big impression on the audience. This time, the effort ran amok, turning into an awkward variety infomercial.
Weeks before the announcement, EMC tired to make sure storage industry followers were aware that the theme for the announcement was "record breaking". They even went so far as to send analysts and bloggers packages of broken audio records. From what I could tell, most people who received them were slightly bemused by the gesture, but not necessarily impressed.
Unable to resist the urge to flog the theme, CEO Joe Tucci started his presentation explaining unconvincingly why the announcement was record breaking. He then went into the EMC cloud computing story, this time including concepts ripped straight out of 3PAR's message book, including using the word "autonomic" a couple times. I hope my good buddy Barry Burke (EMC's Storage Anarchist blogger) heard that so he can start learning how to pronounce it. Mark my word, before the end of the year, he's going to be saying it as if he had invented it, even though it tickles his gag reflex right now.
Tucci also copped the 3PAR messages of selling technology that is less complex and doesn't require support from 3rd party service provider companies. However, he stopped short of mentioning EMC's own professional services. Hmmm.... I guess this means he wants to sell even more expensive EMC services to their customers.
Pat Gelsinger came next and presided over an series of interesting, but pointless motoring stunts and videos. IMHO, he should seriously consider using the nickname, "Chips", seeing as how he repeatedly mentioned his background from Intel.
After a few compulsory cloud comments, Gelsinger asked the crowd what words came to mind when they thought of EMC. I give him credit for having the guts to ask that one - and I was surprised to hear him say "expensive". Just when it seemed that a reality show was going to break out, he then went on to make the claim that their new "baby VNXe" system will be cheaper than similar-class products from other vendors. Yeah sure.
It was kind of funny when Gelsinger announced the VNXe, it was accompanied by a fast and cheesy synthesizer sound and a smattering of applause. For those in the audience, it must have seemed slightly strange considering the VNXe is very small in stature (it looked like it was 4u high) - much smaller than the miniature Stonehenge model in Spinal Tap.
Somebody at EMC must really like Audi automobiles as they were featured prominently in several video segments. It was the perfect opportunity for EMC to have made some excellent steering wheel cam videos, but that was not in the offing.
One of the stranger things they did was cram 26 lithe dancers into a Mini Cooper to set a record for the Guiness Book of Records. I'm not really sure why they felt compelled to do this - maybe because they realized there wasn't any legitimacy to their record breaking claims, but it was a bizarre and slightly entertaining part of the show. I thought it was interesting that they turned to a professional services provider of sorts, the Pilobolus Dance Theatre to get the contortionist-like flexibility they needed to accomplish the act. As far as I know, no EMC employees actively participated in breaking the record, yet EMC wanted to share in the accomplishment. That's like publicising that they sold to some famous customer when they actually didn't.
Gelsinger suggested that EMC storage was similarly efficient in the use of storage space as Pilobolus had been in filling the mini. Strange, I don't ever recall telling admins to get their fingers and toes out of the way so I could shut the door on a storage system. In general, there was a lot of lip service given to EMC's storage efficiency in the presentations, but nothing to back it up besides a modern dance company. Perfect!
Gelsinger liked to use the word "unquestionable" when discussing efficiency and performance. Since the theme of the event involved records, I'll go on the record saying that we will very gladly compare our capacity and energy efficiency with EMC's. And speaking of records, with EMC's history of not going on the record by participating in standard industry benchmarks, like the SPC, next time Gelsinger might want to use the word "unproven" instead of unquestionable.
A lot of competitive claims were made that clearly didn't consider all their competitors, but that's normal for these types of things. But it was hardly a string of industry-leading achievements, the way it was portrayed. While EMC claimed they made 41 new product announcements, some of them were just repackaged software and licensing and some of the items had actually been available previously - but it's fairly common to delay announcing products in order to align with an event such as this.
The rest of the show was a smattering of platitudes and spin along with bits of information about what was actually announced and the occasional car/motorcycle stunt. In what had to be one of the strangest marketing ideas of all time, for the Grand Finale of the event, EMC hired a professional motorcycle named Bubba Blackwell to jump across a good sized number of Symmetrix cabinets. They never really tied this one into any product features, but it was sort of fun watching Bubba do his thing. Still I couldn't help but wonder what the difference would have been had he jumped over 3PAR systems - he probably would have only had to jump half the distance, given our efficiency advantages.