Ed Note: EMC CIO Sanjay Merchandani took time out from VMworld 2010 recently to talk about virtualization at EMC with David Vellante, co-founder and CEO of online-consultancy Wikibon.org, on SiliconAngle.tv. The Q and A below was taken from the recording of the live webcast.
David Vellante: So you have been out marketing the private cloud. Are you eating your own dogfood? People want to know.
Sanjay Mirchandani: There is a private cloud. That is something that has evolved over the last couple of years. And there are a couple of things in that that we should pay attention to. It is a journey. And today we have a better definition around cloud. When we started this probably four or five years ago it was more a journey around virtualization and information management, and it evolved into the private cloud as the technology and industry got shaped the way it is today. We started this much as any customer of ours or any large company like ours would do. We were growing, we were global, we were acquiring companies, and keeping up with the pace was a challenge. It was the classic situation where our data centers were almost 100% allocated at any given point of time but not 100% utilized. So we’ve been down the path of being early adopters of VMware technology and of course using our own technology and putting them through their paces. We’re making sure that the product road maps are the road maps we use. It is a program that we can take to our customers. We call it “EMC IT Proven” in the sense that we test the products, we work with the products. We do that with VMware and all the products EMC produces.
David Vellante: So talk about your virtualization strategy. How far have you been able to push it and what are the barriers to pushing it further?
Sanjay Mirchandani: Well, whenyou have Joe Tucci and Paul Mertz doing your review, sort of speak, the goal is simple. We have to run a mission critical $16B enterprise on a 100% virtualized infrastructure. We’re about 70% of the way there on the server side. The goal being early next year to be 100% x86 virtualized.
David Vellante: What about the application portfolio?
Sanjay Mirchandani: Sure. So roughly 60% of our mission-critical applications in some significant matter are virtualized. You have to be relentless at driving that. The dashboard we look at looks at server virtualizaaation, storage virtualization, mission-critical application virtualization, overall application virtualization, desktop. So we track that monthly. The goal is 100% virtualization.
David Vellante: Oracle applications included?
Sanjay Mirchandani: A large piece of the Oracle -- the application side, the Web tier, the middleware tier -- yup.
David Vellante: And how about DVI? Are you looking at the desktop?
Sanjay Mirchandani: Yes we are. On the desktop, Windows 7 and upgrading the user experience -- we’re looking at VDI as a key way for delivering that. The goal is to have about 5,000 users in the next couple of months on virtual desktops. And a good mix. We looked at about eight use cases on VDI, and we are looking across those use cases to make sure this is something we want to roll out. And then we will actively go full course next year.
David Vellante: I appreciate you sharing with the audience some of your infrastructure. As a CIO though, you know it is not just about technology, it is so much more. I would like you to talk about that. I’d like you to touch upon the organization -- the people side of it -- and I also want you to talk about IT as a transformative tool. So maybe start with the people.
Sanjay Mirchandani: That is an absolutely great topic. At EMC world I had the opportunity to share with the audience what we are doing with cloud, where we are on the journey. I shared the stage with our VP of Infrastructure who is now our VP of the Private Cloud -- and it is not just by title, it’s by function. John and I share a lot of passion on this because as much as we work for a technology company, the bits move faster than our ability to digest them. We have to make sure our best and brightest are working with the technology in a way that really makes them productive and nobody is getting left behind, because it is moving at an incredible pace. In a different way it is an incredible opportunity for IT professionals. Having been in this industry for more than 20 years I would say this is one that not only lets us go deeper with our technology but wider as well. So if you are business-facing with IT, facing your customers, you now have to start thinking catalog, you have to start thinking capabilities, you have to start thinking different price models. If you are managing and provisioning storage you may do it for two stacks, three stacks, four stacks; tomorrow you’re going wide across the enterprize, you’re provisioning for the entire enterprise. So the opportunity for us to grow both wide and deep are incredible.
The classic way to triage a problem is to get everybody who touches it into a virtual room, to get a bridge going, and nobody leaves until it is fixed. The cloud changes that significantly. So if someone’s having an issue in Indonesia, you can’t get everybody on a call who touches that. You have to have a better way to manage it. I think that’s exciting.
David Vellante: So you’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. We’ve gone through a decade of serious cost cutting. At the same time we have seen companies like Google and other cloud players use IT to gain advantage, But they are IT companies. Google has proven that you can gain competitive advantage through IT. It seems like traditional IT, corporate IT is beginning to really see the possibilities and is competing in a way with the cloud providers and Web 2.0 companies. Do you think you are going to benchmark yourselves against them? Or should you be?
Sanjay Mirchandani: We definitely should. It’s a journey, so we do in some cases; in other cases we are building that out still. But we absolutely have to be best of class. Classic IT organizations have to stop thinking of themselves as sole providers. The question we ask internally of our people is, “If our internal customers had the choice, would they come back to us? And would they come back to us happily?” So not only is the total customer experience important, but the efficiency with which we deliver that is also very important. So we absolutely want the productiveness of what Ubercloud services provide. But we want that inside our shop. And for the evolution of a classic IT data center into a private cloud, we absolutely want the best practices for that. That is the high water mark, and we are striving to get that.
David Vellante: A lot of being a CIO is being a leader as well. Sort of a personal question is: What do you see as the qualities of leadership that you emphasize, and what are those that you balance with others that you don’t have?
Sanjay Mirchandani: That’s a good question. One of the things about coming into this role that was different was I didn’t come up through the IT ranks, I came from the business. But I had been around CIOs for a long time selling to them, being with them, bringing services.
I learned very quickly as a CIO that IT professionals don’t get paid to take risks. They get paid to make sure the business runs save, predictable, and that’s what we do. But being IT for an IT company, we have to be a showcase for our customers in what we do, how we build technology, and how we run the shop. So through our IT improvement program we have gone out and said that our value in the business is helping the company build better products by using them and getting feedback, and helping our external customers use our products better through our experiences. We have to do both of those things and and infuse some calculated risk into the environment to do that. So I don’t know if that is leadership or not, but it is something that we do.
Action Item: David Vellante: Well, it is. It’s a big challenge you have. I think you’re right. The last question from me, Sanjay, what advice would you give to your peers as they move along this journey. What do they need to be thinking about?
Sanjay Mirchandani: I’d say first it is a journey. So you have to pace yourself and set realistic goals. I think of private cloud as a state we want to achieve, not as a SKU I want to buy. But every SKU I buy should help me get to that state I want to achieve.
Also what you see is you hit 35%-40% virtualization and you think, “Hey, that’s pretty good. I’m done.” Actually, you’ve only just begun. So be relentless about being sure that you don’t bring physical back into journey into the private cloud. You have to stay virtual. So we are absolutely ruthless about any technology we put into the enterprise that doesn’t fit the bill for the private cloud.
The other thing we say all the time is that there are no U-turns. So we are going virtual all the way. So so far, so good. I would say that if you are not in an IT organization where advantages of the cloud is as obvious as the business we’re in, you really need to communicate about what you are trying to do. It is more efficient, it is more agile, but it isn’t always obvious. So as a CIO you have to make sure you have the top-down understanding on this as you move through this journey, because you will get pushback.