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May 30, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:22pm

Q+A: James Petter, UK MD EMC

Petter answers questions on EMC’s reputation, business culture, competitive landscape as well as tech roadmaps, slow Flash take up, markets and why the public sector is getting it wrong

By Vinod

James Petter has been UK MD at EMC since May 2011

Q: Describe the culture of EMC today?

JP: I would describe EMC as a $24bn start up. It is a culture of innovation and we are not your normal corporate. We want to challenge the norm. We pride ourselves on employing people who want to challenge our customers. Our customers don’t really want to hear ‘this is how you’ve done it and you should keep doing that’ they want to hear ‘this is the future.’

Q: Tell me about the legacy business of enterprise storage and roadmap of your technology?

JP: I wouldn’t use the word legacy. We’ve refreshed our entire portfolio over the last three years. And because we spend 11% on R&D each year, each platform has moved on a million miles.
We have simplified the platform. We have built it on a number of criteria. Performance and capacity, a low SLA and a high SLA in terms of response rates and we’ve structured our platform around those metrics. A high end VMAX and a mid tier VNX are more performance based, then Isilon and Atmos for lower performance and higher capacity and many back up products. We also have a significant software range. The software is about how we do Software Define Storage and extract the intelligence out of those platforms and enable us to run our storage as an open environment and use those assets most effectively.

Q: Flash is a big buzzword – how is it developing and what type of take up is it gaining in the market?
JP: I speak for the UK. We’ve had flash for a number of years. We have two technologies [acquisitions] in XtremeIO and DSSD. We see the silicon data centre will be the future of where customers will be going. We’re seeing a reasonable uptake. We had some successes but is it as fast as we want? No. But I think the reason for that is down to use case and customer adoption. Because customers have a lot of legacy equipment they are still spending on that. The future around flash is finding use cases like VDI and OLTP to truly see the benefits it can deliver.

Q: Flash is hugely competitive market with all flash arrays coming to market. ? How do you view the start up, innovative companies that want to move into your space?

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JP: We’ve seen many niche players come into the market many times and it is possible to deliver a feature and a function and someone may have a great technology. But what do you do when you want to integrate that into your back up environment or your archive environment. So we’re about integrating new flash technology into what you’ve got in the data centre.
While we’re cognizant of other players we’re not terrified of individual firms because we’re confident we can develop the best technology.

Q: At the other end of the scale, IBM Hitachi have targets based on taking market share. How do you address the enterprise competitive landscape?

JP: Take IBM, it is interesting that they’ve left the X86 market. That is a sign of what they are doing. Their hardware roadmap is not what it was. Look at the IDC and Gartner numbers, in Q4 (2013) EMC UK took four points of share which is an enormous number on share. We have 34% share of the entire market. In Europe we took market share as well, all at the expense of our competitors. The message that sends to me is that we have great technology.

Q: EMC owns a lot of brands in diverse markets. How does it integrate and create a coherent message to the market?

JP: I’ve been at Cisco, and Cisco and EMC acquire and integrate companies very differently. Cisco tends to take the technology and integrate and use it very quickly. We {EMC} keep the companies and run them parallel and keep the people and integrate them more slowly to keep the culture of that organisation moving forward. I don’t see that changing. We’ve had significant success with acquisitions such as Data Domain and Isilon as a result of that strategy. The difficulty of integrating the message exists but we use the sales force of the acquired company to lead it while we educate our existing sales force.

Q; The UK market is an interesting use case – how do you characterise the public sector market?

JP: They’ve broken down the monolithic contracts and allowed other players to come in through the G-Cloud framework. That has gained a lot of momentum with significant savings. Digital first and virtualisation has been critical to the public sector. But I would maintain that the public sector still isn’t moving fast enough. There is a significant amount of savings to be had in the public sector by embarking on the journey to the cloud and consolidating, standardising and virtualising.

Q: But there are draconian budget cuts and savings being demanded of equipment makers by the big government departments. How do you engage with that?

JP: We’ll compete on price. But I think the price discussion is not where the government needs to be. You can drive the price per Gigabyte down as much as you want but unless you innovate in your environment, you are still going to have a price per gig discussion.
So the go to market model in the public sector needs to change and that will be around the adoption of cloud, the adoption of big data and analytics and without doing that we’re have the same deficit in government that has traditionally existed.

Q: How do you break down the private sector verticals?

JP: Our heritage is the finance sector and the telco, media and entertainment sectors. They still drive and move forward very fast. To summarise the whole market, there is some confusion. We’re in a period where we’re jumping the chasm. A lot of organisations are still questioning what they need to do and how to do it. We have an opportunity to advise.

Q: Where are the Financial Services firms investing?

JP: They are saying they need to have products and services to be compliant and to manage data growth. You can manage data growth by putting data in other places as long as the legislation allows for that. They are asking what should I be doing to prepare for two years hence? And the best example we use is ourselves. We went from 900 terabytes to 12 petabytes and our number of data centres didn’t change and we saved $300m.

Q: In terms of your go to market strategy – has greater choice in the market for the enterprise CIO led to a change in your approach?

JP: We advocate choice. Joe Tucci (EMC CEO) talks about it. You can see that in our software. You can manage a large number of different manufacturer’s assets, not just our own. We’ve done that through VCE, through Vplex and we acknowledge that in the market you don’t need to use Cisco or you may use a different hypervisor to VMware. It is all around choice because we’re aware customers may not want just us but may want others. It is a key go to market approach.

Q: In the UK, how do you engage with the customer?

JP: I stood up in front of our partner community in 2012 and said we would have 100 accounts that we will sell direct to and everything else will go through the channel. It is probably the best decision I ever made because we have seen enormous growth and more profit. Seventy five per cent of our business goes through partners. And because of that we’re seeing them want to engage with us.

Q: What’s on your six month roadmap?

JP: Do our numbers. Achieve our forecasts. That’s the primary objective. Develop our people.

Q: Culturally EMC has a reputation for being an aggressive sales organisation – so how does it develop?

JP: We want to make sure we make the jump from what we have been as a company to this new world where things will become as a service, where people will run things differently. My driver is how do I develop my people for us to make that leap. That is one of the most fundamental things I must do in EMC UK and that’s a challenge we have globally.

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