EMC Far Ahead in Understanding Public, Private Cloud Services

When Colt Technology Services, a UK-based worldwide cloud service provider and on-premise systems supplier, talked to its EMC rep about what it really needed from its hardware provider, Colt was “fully expecting them [EMC] to look at us and think, ‘You’re really off on that one,’” says Colt CTO Matthew Yaeger. Instead within a week they were working with an internal EMC team that had been thinking along the same lines.

The result, after months of work and “a few 180s,” was the mid-May’s VMAX SP announcement. “I think the announcement was absolutely about a partner for the first time listening to its customers, its partners, and saying, ‘We get that,’” Yaeger told Wikibon Analyst Stu Miniman in an interview in the SiliconAngle Cube at EMCworld 2012 (see full video below). “’We need to open up the platform at an API level. We need to provide pricing, we need to properly provide analytics on your consumption, predictive analytics and so on. We need to give you a platform that allows you to start to think about what a private Amazon would look like.’”

His one criticism was that EMC underplayed the announcement. While VMAX SP is being marketed to public cloud service providers, that is only part of the potential market. And while Colt certainly plans to use VMAX SP in its own data centers worldwide to support the cloud services it delivers to business, it also sees a growing market for VMAX SP in the other side of its business – building infrastructure including whole data centers for enterprise customers.

“Our customers want to transform their internal IT infrastructure and IT department to behave much more like a service provider,” he says. But many are struggling with the first step, just to create and price an internal services catalog. Charge-back, defining and pricing different levels of service, has always been a huge challenge for IT because infrastructure is always shared. “When you start to look at individual products – VMX, Data Domain, Avamar – how do you take all these products and fit them into a service catalog? How do you fit them into pricing?” he says. “That becomes very complicated.”

EMC, he said, is the first major IT hardware supplier to understand that and the other major challenge of a service provider, external or internal, agility. “Agility has been around for a long time in the software industry,” Yaeger says. But hardware has always been a boat anchor. Virtualization solves some of that by allowing IT to automatically reallocate assets and capacities on the fly to meet changing demands. But IT still cannot easily set different service levels for different services.

One thing Colt told EMC was,”Open the APIs, allow my customers to consume the services in the stack on a profile – bronze, silver, gold, platinum or Tier 4, Tier 3, Tier 2, Tier 1, I don’t care.”

VMAX SP comes as a complete package that can be customized for customer needs, with the analysis of the entire stack to support pricing and the flexibility to support different service levels for customers in a multitenant environment.

Amazon and Google, of course, famously built their environments using low-cost commodity hardware. But to do that, Yaeger said, they had to invest heavily in developing their own grid architecture to make those “pizza boxes behave as a contiguous whole. But to properly commercialize that software, I can’t see Amazon or Google any time soon turning around and saying to the service provider community, ‘You know what, here you go. Here’s some open source software so you can create your own grid.’” Absent that, the amount of R&D needed is a daunting barrier, even for global service providers. Even service providers like Colt need partners who provide complete solutions that meet their infrastructure needs rather than just piece parts.

“So is VMAX SP perfect?,” he asks. “No. But I absolutely believe that EMC is by a country mile well ahead of its competition. I don’t see NetApp, I don’t see HDS, I don’t see IBM, I don’t see HP – no one is thinking this way at present. And it’s not for lack of us contacting them & having these conversations.”