EMC mashes up big data, clouds, coders into SECRET crack team

Keeps schtum on mystery Pivotal Initiative


The rumor mill has been buzzing that EMC and its virtualization and cloud minion VMware and its much smaller big data and programming sidekick Greenplum would be mashed up into some kind of new company group. And it turns out the rumors were right.

In a blog post from Terry Anderson, vice-president of corporate communications at VMware, the companies finally admitted there was some credence to rumors that have been going around since last summer, when Paul Maritz stepped down as CEO at VMware to become chief strategy officer at parent company EMC while Pat Gelsinger moved over from running EMC's core storage business to replace Maritz as VMware CEO.

The new division of EMC does not yet have a formal name, but has been given the placeholder name Pivotal Initiative, which not only expresses that EMC needs to do something a little differently to get these parts of its software business humming but that it needs to get Cloud Foundry, its platform cloud, away from VMware.

The open-source nature of Cloud Foundry, which VMware took control of when it bought SpringSource for $362m in August 2009, is not a natural fit for the very proprietary VMware, for one thing. And for another, the virtualization and cloud layers of the data center are distinct from the platform layer.

What a platform cloud has to do with the big data is less clear, but you can make an argument that Pivotal Labs, the code-slinger-for-hire outfit, should be part of a platform cloud unit. EMC hired Pivotal Labs in early 2010 to help do some coding on the Greenplum Chorus management tool and that the parent company acquired in March 2012.

Greenplum ships a variant of the Hadoop big data muncher based on the Apache project and if it goes all the way and decides to open source its own parallelized and accelerated variant of the PostgreSQL database for its data warehouses, then you could argue that all of the open source bits of EMC/VMware would be gathered up inside of the Pivotal Initiative. And, given that EMC has to do something dramatic to take on rivals Oracle, IBM, and Teradata in the big data racket, it would not be surprising to see EMC actually open up the Greenplum database at some point.

EMC and VMware are not answering any questions about the Pivotal Initiative, which is led by Maritz. The plan calls for these and other elements of EMC software to be put together by the second quarter of next year. The specific operation structure for this division or spinoff has not been determined. It seems very unlikely that these businesses generate much in the way of revenues and profits, at least compared to EMC's storage biz and VMware's virty biz, so don't get yourself all worked up about a possible IPO.

But you have to figure that whatever EMC does, it wants to be able to pull the VMware IPO trick again and generate a lot of cash and market capitalization. So it could happen in a few years if these businesses can be shown to hang together and make dough.

According to the statement, most of the employees and resources affiliated with Greenplum and Pivotal Labs will move over to the Pivotal Initiative, and all of the people and products affiliated with vFabric (including those working on Spring and Gemfire products), Cloud Foundry, and Cetas Software (which providers big data analytics apps atop Hadoop and which VMware acquired in April) will move over as well. This will bring together about 800 employees from parent EMC and another 600 from VMware, for a total of approximately 1,400 people. EMC did not say how much revenue these products generate on an annual basis.

For its part, Gelsinger will be tasked with focusing VMware on building up the "software-defined data center" and for making sure that whatever code Pivotal Initiative cooks up runs well on the ESXi hypervisor and the vCloud Suite, which is a mix of tools that convert virtualized servers into a cloud.

"Both companies remain committed to customer and partner success, and there is not expected to be any impact to existing agreements or committed support," the statement reads, referring to EMC and VMware as if they were separate and peers. (Of course this is nonsense, with EMC having around 80 per cent of VMware shares.) "Customers and partners can continue to buy products and services as they normally would from both companies without interruption during this alignment."

EMC will provide an update on its plans for the Pivotal Initiative mashup in the first quarter of next year.

Bootnote from Chris Mellor at The Reg storage desk:

Oddly Pivotal Initiative's initials are PI, which was the name of a Paul Maritz-founded startup in 2008 dealing with personal identity matters. EMC bought it and joined it with Mozy cloud backup to form Decho in November 2008. What goes around. . . .

GigaOm expects Rob Mee, Pivotal Labs' CEO before EMC bought it, will have a significant role in the Pivotal Initiative.

ESG founder and senior analyst SteveDuplessie said; "EMC's Pivotal Initiative is a way to take complex software stuff and put it under [Paul] Maritz, leave core VMware to Pat [Gelsinger] and core EMC to [David] Goulden. Smart. . . . You need a big thinker like Maritz to get Greenplum and those other ethereal "concept" plays commercially geared. I like it."

The fact that the operational structure is not yet clear could indicate Maritz doesn't want to be the PI leader. ®


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