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EMC charts course on cloud

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Rationalisation and consolidation of IT has had an impact of $100 million on the firm.

has become a buzzword in the corporate world and global storage information technology (IT) firm was among the few to sense the importance of this model early.

EMC's adoption of the cloud started in late 2004. This was also when the company recorded rapid growth, both organically and through the inorganic route. EMC IT supports 49,000 users across 400 corporate offices in 80 countries, spanning five (DCs). “This rapid growth was exerting pressure on the internal IT. We also saw our DCs at the infrastructural level were always occupied. However, at the same time, we were not utilising IT to its full capacity. That is when we started dabbling with new technologies like virtualisation and VMware,” says Sanjay Mirchandani, chief information officer, EMC.
 

EMC’S JOURNEY TO THE CLOUD
Phase I:
* Started with virtualisation
* Relooked at its IT asset — sourcing, power and cooling cost
Result: The phase ended in 2008, with 30-35% of its IT environment virtualised. Servers were reduced from 1,250 to a few hundreds.
Phase II:
* Use of applications like VMware and Vsphere
* Taking opinion of employees from sales, marketing and services department. Focus on reducing application stacks
* Moving on to the cloud
Result: Mission critical applications deployed using virtualisation. By the end of this phase, 70-75% virtualisation of IT environment was achieved
Currently:
* By the end of 2011, EMC’s IT environment will be 80-85% virtualised
Goal: To have its IT environment virtualised up to 95%




























The company's cloud journey started with virtualisation. This means creating a virtual version of the server, applications and storage devices. This allows users to make optimal use of a hardware or software by dividing techniques like pooling and multiplexing. By the end of this year, EMC IT systems would be 80-85 per cent virtualised. The aim is to raise virualisation to 95 per cent.

The impact of the consolidation and rationalisation of IT has been immense. Mirchandani says since the cloud was adopted, it has had an impact of $100 million on EMC. "This is in terms of operating expense savings, power and cooling savings, £90 million of carbon emissions reduced and more efficiencies," he said. "Back in 2004, we had a petabyte of data to manage and today, I have 10 petabytes of data. We have not added any new DC. But we have acquired 50 companies over the last few years. This is a significant achievement, since when we acquire a company, we get a whole new footprint of applications, which we do not need. We have kept a tight water mark on the applications we want to have. In 2004-05, we had over 400 applications. Today, we have 85," he says.

With the standardisation of IT through virtualisation, the company has taken steps to adopt cloud computing. EMC has also adopted the IT-as-a-services model, allowing the IT to decide what the internal users require. Some services on demand available in EMC include storage, business intelligence, user interface, database (and Oracle) and infrastructure. This has helped it acquire financial transparency.

According to the company blog that tracks the journey to cloud computing: "As EMC IT makes the transition from working with a lump sum budget to charging back or showing back costs to individual business units for the IT services they consume each month, users can be confident their usage is being carefully tracked and priced. After reviewing and re-mediating data gaps, we estimate we are at 92 per cent accuracy and climbing."

Mirchandani says with the firm's journey, another phenomenon has kicked in: Big Data. It can leverage on EMC's cloud move. "Things we were compressing, archiving and storing are suddenly becoming very important. It is estimated that 90 per cent of information across enterprises is unstructured data and the growth of information in this segment is phenomenal," he adds.

Big Data refers to large data sets being amassed by organisations. Big Data is unstructured or semi-structured data — i.e. data not formatted or the text or word portion of partially formatted documents. Examples include logs, contract documents and social media such as blogs and Twitter feeds.

EMC has seen the Big Data explosion with the ever-increasing use of the firm's social media platform, mobile gadgets, etc. "People are using social media platforms for posting comments, pictures, following tweets, etc. Employees are also discussing and solving problems for customers through emails and chat rooms. That's knowledge. How do I, as a company, tap into this is a concern," he says. While EMC is looking at concepts like Hadoop to harness this knowledge, it is also planning to create a role for Data Scientist.

"The Data Scientist will be looking at all this data and segregating it, based on which department needs what information," he added.

According to the company's blog, much like cloud computing, maximising Big Data is a journey. EMC took the first step in 2009, when it consolidated disjointed data maintained for separate business units such as sales, finance, customer support and marketing into a master data base stored in Global Data Warehouse. The last of the disjointed data sets will be linked by July 2012, as part of the firm's ongoing PROPEL project to re-engineer its enterprise resource planning system using SAP technology.

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