Welcome, EMC. Again.

This week at EMCWorld, EMC announced a Copy Data Management solution. If you think you’ve heard this before, it’s not déjà vu. EMC has announced the imminent arrival of their copy data solution not once, but twice before.

Let me recap. In 2014, EMC announced a new version of snapshot management tool called AppSync, packaging it as a Copy Data solution. In 2015, they re-branded this tool as iCDM, to manage snapshots for eXtremio flash storage. This week they did it again, re-branding the re-brand as eCDM, while adding support for managing snapshots of more of the EMC’s storage portfolio.

Once again, I welcome EMC in addressing a critical problem that is not only draining businesses of over $50B a year on excess infrastructure spend, but also slowing down user’s ability to innovate or even survive the dramatic changes necessary to transform a 20th century analog business into a 21st century digital one.

I’ve always had tremendous respect for EMC’s willingness to respond to customer needs, even at the expense of their own products. They’ve clearly heard the call to address the Copy Data problem loud and clear from users, and appear to have invested thousands of person-hours over several years developing their growing catalog offerings for the use case. It’s a hard problem to solve. We’d know.

A Rooster in the Henhouse?

But even this “announcement” is for a product that’s coming… “soon,” perhaps sometime in Q3, after the merger is closed. Why the wait, for a product they’ve already announced three times? What is going on here?

Well… It’s important to understand that, of all the companies in the world, EMC is perhaps the single largest beneficiary of the copy data problem. The uncontrolled proliferation of secondary copies is something they might call the copy data opportunity; a gift of data growth and storage consumption that just keeps on giving, year-in and year-out.

EMC has to reconcile the need to address this critical customer problem with the need to protect its core business. It’s a dilemma that forced some trade-offs in the architecture of their offering, trade-offs which highlight the important differences between their approach and our own.

EMC is changing, because the world is changing. But – at the core, in every fiber of their culture and business model – EMC believes in the power of the box. Specifically, the storage box, and ideally, their storage box.

The bottom line for customers is this: It’s clear now that the hens need protecting. What’s less clear is whether the rooster is a good choice to do so.

A Question of Architecture

It’s important for customers to understand that EMC AppSync was designed as a proprietary tool to manage snapshots for EMC’s storage systems. Users who have – or one-day hope to have – somebody else’s storage system would need to use another vendors proprietary snapshot manager tool, in addition to EMC’s. The result is another point tool added to the proprietary storage tool silo, already cram-packed with vendor-specific point solutions. All of which need to be deployed, integrated, mastered, and operated separately. Even a solution spanning multiple vendors is a Manager, requiring users to continue to buy proprietary snapshot and replication licenses for each of their storage systems.

To us, this doesn’t make sense. The Oracle or Exchange data on an EMC storage system is exactly same as that on an equivalent HPE, IBM, Netapp or even AWS storage system. Why would an enterprise user want to spend time and resources managing the same data differently across different storage systems? What happens if that same user wants to leverage one or more cloud platforms, now or in the future?

While EMC and Actifio are similar in their maniacal focus on delighting their users, at the core we believe in different things.

EMC believes in the power of the Box. Actifio believes in the power of Freedom.

Specifically, we believe in giving enterprises the freedom to pursue faster innovation and change their business for the better… to break the bonds of proprietary infrastructure, vendor lock-in, and even physical location.

We don’t build a box, even the box we ship the bundled version of our appliance on. EMC seems to be taking great pains to paint this as a bug in our system, where we see it as a feature for the convenience of our users. In lieu of boxes, we deliver solutions that automate the management of Applications and Data across a Hybrid Cloud. Our software can run – today – on VMware and HyperV; in AWS, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, Microsoft Azure, IBM Softlayer. It can run inside a storage system, made by EMC or anyone else. Our customers typically run Actifio on multiple of these platforms simultaneously, because they’re free to focus on business applications and data, not on the particular brand of their underlying infrastructure.

The First & Only Enterprise-Class Copy Data Virtualization Platform. Since 2009.

After pioneering the copy data virtualization category, and 7 years of tackling the challenge of delivering it at enterprise scale in the real world, I’m proud to say that over 1,200 users in 37 countries use Actifio not just to virtualize their data, but to build higher quality applications faster, improve business resiliency and availability, and leverage the economics of a Hybrid Cloud. Every one of those users is focused on going faster, while cutting costs and simplifying operations. They don’t spend time thinking about infrastructure, particularly which brand of storage system they have or are going to buy next.

So we thank EMC for again highlighting the magnitude of the Copy Data problem. Perhaps the third time is the charm here. Regardless, Actifio will continue right along helping users manage, access, and protect their applications and their data, even as they slash both the number of point tools they need to deal with, and the leverage storage vendors have locking them into very attractive but very expensive boxes.

While a rooster may not be a good choice for protecting the hens, it can be a very effective way to provide the wake-up call every enterprise customer now needs.