By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
How are IT organizations in large companies approaching clouds? We covered some bits of it in the post Large Enterprises: To Be or Not To Be In The Clouds. Private clouds came up as the preferred choice given the legacy, security, and continuity theme in a large enterprise. In the latest interview of our series Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing, Sramana talks to Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO of EMC. She uncovers additional aspects related to people and process evolution in large enterprises such as EMC, as they journey into the cloud. Sanjay shares his thoughts on how EMC is using their own core technologies to tier, consolidate, and virtualize to attain the business agility that the cloud promises.
Sanjay Mirchandani is senior vice president and chief information officer of EMC Corporation. He is responsible for extending EMC’s operational excellence and driving technological innovation, and he leads EMC’s network of global delivery centers in India, China, Russia, and Israel. Prior to joining EMC, Mirchandani was Microsoft’s regional vice president for enterprise services and Asia. Mirchandani earned a master’s in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor’s degree from Drew University.
EMC provides information infrastructure technology and solutions such as unified storage, content management, security, virtualization, backup and recovery, private clouds, virtual desktop infrastructure, efficiency, automation, and archiving. The company’s revenues for FY 2009 were $14 billion. EMC is headquartered in Hopkinton, MA, and has a global presence across the world with approximately 43,000 employees.
Sramana: Sanjay, let’s begin with an overview of your organization; where are you with cloud computing in terms of stage of adoption? Have you gone beyond pilots? What are your thoughts, and what is EMC’s cloud strategy?
Sanjay: Well, that is a big question! Let me break it down a bit. We have been on a journey in virtualization since late 2004 and early 2005. Our journey in virtualization eventually evolved into a journey in the clouds. I will share with you what are my thoughts about this. This journey began in a more classic sense where during periods of growth, most companies find their data centers being 100% or close to 100% allocated. However, if you look at utilization levels, it is not always the same ratio but much lower depending on the application. It could be 30%, 40%, or 50% utilized. In an endeavor to bring up these data center utilization levels, we embarked on a journey to virtualize and get more useful life out of our existing assets. We took that journey into virtualization sometime in late 2007. In that time we were 35%–40% virtualized. Later, we made core decisions about the x86 architecture and deployed VMWare and VSphere as our core cloud operating system or virtualization operating system. We refer to that phase as IT production, where we took stuff IT owned and managed in the data center test and development environments, IT applications, the low-hanging fruits, and then we virtualized them one by one. We got significant benefits as a result of that effort in terms of the costs and the overall improvements.
Once we reached that point, we became more ambitious in our IT goals and started taking on some of the business-critical and administration-critical applications and began virtualizing those with more shared infrastructure and more consolidation. We sort of did all the smart things with our time back in 2008 going into where we are now, which is almost the end of 2010. In that journey we will probably close this year at 75% virtualized. For fairly large installed bases of service, we have brought in 86,000 servers in our enterprise and taken on a good percentage; over 60% of our mission-critical applications are significantly virtualized now.
Sramana: Does your definition of cloud computing start with virtualizing your infrastructure?
Sanjay: Yes. I was going to talk about where we are headed and what we seeing. As we get closer to becoming 100% virtualized or on a 100% virtual infrastructure, we are getting what we call benefits of the “private cloud” or the tenants of the private cloud, things such as self-provisioning or granularity of cost transparency, service levels, service catalogues, and so on. We are moving rapidly toward the end where we would love to see everything as a service. The current stage is our journey to IT as a service. We are in probably the toughest of phases because we are getting to the point where we have to take single application and look at that and how we take it in the cloud. We are moving toward reaping the benefits of the cloud. I think having a very large percentage of your infrastructure virtualized and standardized is the only way you are going to ultimately get the scale of benefits that everyone agrees is the cloud infrastructure today.
Now we have been squarely focused internally on taking our classic physical data center into a highly virtualized, private, cloud-like infrastructure. But we have also, quite opportunistically, looked at applications and other things of the service that are available outside of the private cloud such as sales force automation, human resource applications, and many other things and used them in the “as a service” model. We brought public cloud services into play and coupled them back into our private cloud virtualization. So it is a little of both, but mostly we have been focused, in the past couple of years, on taking our physical infrastructure into a private cloud-like infrastructure as fast as we can.