EMC Closer to Utility Computing With Grid Buy

EMC’s $30 million purchase
of Acxiom’s grid software operating system might seem like small potatoes
compared to some of the company’s blockbuster purchases.

Take a closer look, and you’ll see that the company is gradually adding pieces to its
information lifecycle management (ILM) strategy that will enable it to
better compete with IBM, HP and Sun Microsystems in the utility computing

In utility and on-demand environments, customers pay for computing as they
need it, an increasingly popular model for enterprises that crave
more flexibility in choosing how and when they tap into resources.

Experts have said IBM, HP and Sun all have an advantage over EMC because
they sell storage as well as server systems.

But EMC might not need to sell servers like the systems vendors in order to power
customers’ enterprise systems: Acxiom’s grid software allows users to provision, schedule and see a distributed group of resources
and share them across distance.

With Acxiom’s grid software, Summit Strategies analyst Joe Clabby said, EMC
is poised to move up the ladder into larger virtualized environments to
better corral customers’ information.

Want more evidence?

Acxiom’s grid operating system could also provide a foundation for a
service-oriented architecture (SOA) if EMC wants to take it that far.
Distributed computing models like grids and SOAs are cornerstones of utility
computing models.

“If they need to move
up the food chain into SOA and business process flow, Acxiom is a good
partner to choose,” said Clabby.

So is EMC thinking SOA?

Ian Baird, CTO of grid and utility computing at EMC, won’t cop to EMC’s
future plans with Acxiom’s software beyond the obvious tie to ILM.

But Baird, who cut his teeth on grid software at Platform Computing before
quietly joining EMC a year ago, said he and EMC CTO Jeff Nick picked over a
number of grid vendors large and small before settling on Acxiom because it
is a “fully integrated solution.”

“If you’re going to manage the information, you need to be able to work with
and manage the infrastructure that that information needs to pull
information from, or deliver information to,” Baird said.

Acxiom’s grid technology should allow EMC to escape the stigma of being a
point solution provider for distributed computing technology, specifically
virtualization, said Clabby.

“EMC has had pieces of virtualization,” Clabby said, noting that EMC has
added virtualization in its arrays, tacked on server virtualization from the
VMware purchase and built its InVista switch to virtualize the network.

“What Acxiom does is make them an infrastructure player,” Clabby continued.
“This is something they needed to do for a year and a half. Otherwise, they
would get marginalized because they compete with IBM, HP and Sun, all of
which sell storage as well as systems. They were backed into a corner.”

Pund-IT analyst Charles King agreed, although he wasn’t surprised about the
Acxiom deal. He believes EMC has been poised to make a move in grid since
April 2004, when it formed the Enterprise Grid Alliance, along with HP, Sun
and Oracle.

“If you look back a couple of years, the VMware acquisition was the first
point where EMC’s storage competitors, who were also systems vendors,
finally got an inkling that the company was not willing to continue being
just a storage vendor,” King said.

For example, EMC went on to acquire
Smarts Technology to add software that automatically pinpoints potentially
damaging incidents on a network without intervention from administrators.

Such software is a crucial element for utility computing systems.

“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” Clabby said. “It’s
exactly what they should be doing.”

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