The "techtonic shift" to a software-defined architecture: EMC

The federation of EMC, made up of EMC Information Infrastructure, VMware, and Pivotal, are on a mission to help businesses become more agile by moving them from a hardware to a software-defined architecture.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

The current technology dilemma that businesses are faced with is figuring out how to move their 25-year-old hardware architecture into — what the federation of EMC has claimed will be the future — a software-defined architecture.

The leaders of federation of EMC, which consists of EMC Information Infrastructure (EMC II), VMware, and Pivotal, have spoken at EMC World 2014 noting that the industry is currently experiencing a "tectonic shift".

"The industry is in a midst of a dramatic shift where every decision maker has the same fundamental challenge," said Pat Gelsinger, VMware CEO, who compared the situation much like the lyrics of the Eagle's Hotel California.

"The budget is flat and the way to save money is cutting costs on today's IT and investing in tomorrow's IT, as well as reducing costs on their client/server while simultaneously building into the cloud. So status quo won't work here and a new approach is required."

Similarly, Jeremy Burton, EMC president of products and marketing, said no matter the industry, all businesses will be affected by the change that is going on.

"As we move into this new world … you have to be at the table with the business to discuss where they want to take the company and the software and applications they want, then the infrastructure and new infrastructure is going to be dragged by those new application deployments," he said.

"It doesn't matter which industry you are in; what you're seeing is incumbent response to startups. In a lot of cases, you're seeing a lot of startup being disruptive by providing transparency in the service that the industry offers. There is a lot of incumbency and you need to find growth opportunities.

"At the same time, if you look at the expense budget, no one has incremental dollars, so they have to get really good at cutting operation costs more than ever before."

Pivotal CEO Paul Maritz noted the change occurring is not only forcing businesses to change their technology, but also the culture within their companies.

"Building on top of rapid development, this is not just a technology transformation it's a cultural transformation, too," he said.

"Enterprises need to discover that you'll be dealing directly with the end user, so you have to worry about how you're perceived. That's where you need to differentiate and that's where software development comes in. It's no longer about enabling hardware it's about being cross effective and the core competent capability of that is renewing the software culture."

Gelsinger acknowledges there are two ways forward from: Businesses have the choice to retain their hardware-defined architecture and allow IT to struggle to keep up, or alternatively, move into a software-defined architecture that will enable businesses to move at an agile speed.

Burton, much like Gelsinger, said the mission for the federation is to help deliver IT as a service, which is how new IT organisations will need to run in a software-defined environment.

"The new IT organisations need to get to the line of business to find out what new functionalities are required and go about building that functionality in an agile way," he said.

"The days of IT of going to the business and saying 'Hey, I want you to write down your requirements and I'll be back in 18 months to two years with the wrong thing', that is not going to fly anymore. So the IT departments need to take an agile approach to development, understand the business, and work with the business because the business doesn’t know their requirements."

The federation of EMC outlined there are five main goals that businesses should achieve when they redefine themselves into a software-define environment. This includes providing access to applications and data on mobile devices in a frictionless way; customer application development skills — which Burton said was a gene which has been lost in the past 15 years — needs to be re-established to ensure the applications that are built are the ones that business is after; the data warehouse needs to be reinvented into the concept of a data lake, a pool of information where everything can be dumped, mapped products, and then analysed in-line and in real-time; create a software-defined data centre to suit the hybrid cloud world; and creating a data-driven security strategy.

To persuade customers to take on its "third platform", while preserving the current second platform IT investments, EMC has announced a series of new solutions. The company will deliver a new software-as-a-service solution, EMC Supplier Exchange, which is built upon Pivotal CF, an enterprise platform-as-a-software powered by the Cloud Foundry.

EMC has also launched InfoArchive, an application agnostic archive product suite. It is based on open standards, enabling customers to address large volumes of structured data, unstructured content, print streams, and XML from a multitude of applications.

Aimee Chanthadavong travelled to EMC World 2014 in Las Vegas as a guest of EMC

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