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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO of EMC (Part 6)

Posted on Wednesday, Dec 1st 2010

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

Sramana: In the context of the cloud, we were discussing some of the key issues that EMC is trying to address. Let me help you understand my question. Entrepreneurs build companies by solving problems; I think the best companies are built when its people are solving a problem and know how they can get to a customer. What I am trying to see here is whether you can help our entrepreneurs by providing them with specific insights and pointers on areas where there are problems so that they can look into solvingsuch issues in the domain of cloud computing.

Sanjay: Well, I think these areas would be automation and processes, those are the key areas. How they are tied into management, where you need to keep track of everything, is also important. I think that classic methodologies would depend on what you want the customers to use in your shop. If you use the classic methodologies, those will have to evolve. There is an opportunity in a highly virtualized cloud-like environment, whether it is public or private. How do you bring those pieces together? I am not worried about the tools and the bits, I think those will evolve naturally, and they have to. The cloud brings in a new dimension, a new proportion that entrepreneurs should start looking at. I would say things that are truly automated, things that truly manage the entire virtual ecosystem, [are what entrepreneurs should focus on].

Sramana: Can you give me a use case of what you would like to automate?

Sanjay: Most companies, when they try to automate virtual machines, tend to start with the same approaches that they use on a physical set of the machines. Given the converged infrastructure and how pieces work together in a cloud-like environment, our approach needs to evolve. There is opportunity for entrepreneurs to take the industry-leading technology and find smarter ways to bring the pieces together. Automate them better, and I think this is an evolution. If you are looking for technology AHA; I’m not sure I’m the right guy to give you one big technology thing. But you know, I have technologists who do that for me. Quite honestly, I focus on process and people, so my big thing is how do I take all this cool stuff and deploy it. But if you don’t have people and processes to support it, you are going to take a step backward. So I’m sorry if I am not answering your question directly, but I am more focused on processes and people and not so much on technology. I use, by way of design; we stay as close to the core VMWare and EMC platform technology as much as possible. Internal IT is designed to be a showcase around customers. So, we try to not use a lot of other things around it as much because I try to stay as native to the EMC core technologies as I can.

Sramana: So, in terms of the kind of things that you are looking for in the cloud, VMWare is going to take care of it or EMC will take care of it? It will not be an opportunity for entrepreneurs to play in?

Sanjay: I don’t think that is true. I believe that there is this huge ecosystem around us. There has been huge ecosystem evolving around a new technology that is hot. I’m not saying that at EMC we are going to do it all by ourselves; we are not! I am saying that as a CIO, I am staying as close to our platform as possible because our approach internally in IT is to stay close to the core platform we have. This is what we are trying to do, stay on the platform. So, don’t read into it any more than that. I’m not saying that we are going to do it all.

Sramana: Well, one way that I see a lot of entrepreneurs dig out the opportunities is to get close to the platform, do a lot of system integration work, and develop process and provide methodology through that process and then build blocks of technology or products and help them, as you said, automate some of that. This has been a tried and true way of extending a core technology or a major vendor’s capabilities. That obviously remains with VMWare and EMC as well, right?

Sanjay: This is exactly what I am saying. I’m not saying all the bits are already built, and I am not saying we are going to build it all. The individual bits are only as good as our belief to absorb them. I’m not speaking on behalf of the product; I am speaking as a CIO. I can bring all the bits in the world and put them to our specific use case. Today, the bits come out quickly, so we get rapid integration and innovation in technology. But the teams have to take them in, understand them, find their best practices, absorb them, put them into production, add them into management fabric, and support them. Absorbing technology pieces is no small task, but I think smart entrepreneurs, if they get close enough to that point of view, will find a ton of opportunity on how to better it or make that stuff happen. If somebody has processes and automation, methodology, and tools that make my life and my people’s lives easier, I would be very open to them. This has nothing to do with the individual bits, but the entire solution that you actually deploy.

Sramana: I think this applies not only to VMWare and EMC, it applies to the industry in general. You know wherever they are, major technologies, there are also lots of opportunities by extending those technologies and by bringing new functionality, new processes on to those technologies. That is why one of the things that I recommend to a lot of entrepreneurs is to start doing systems integration work inparticular technology and core competency. Just focus on what problems customers are facing, and then take it from there.

Sanjay: I think so.

This segment is part 6 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Sanjay Mirchandani, CIO of EMC
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