If it's not clear from my posts already, I get the chance at EMC to work on a variety of cool technologies and products. There seems to be no end to the continual opportunities that exist to build innovative new software.
Having said that, I'd like to explain the title of my blog: Information Playground. Both words in the title have specific meaning to me. Let me dive into the "Playground" word first.
What playground structure has been most representative of life as a software developer in the storage industry?
The monkey bars.
The monkey bars are my personal favorite because it offers the opportunity to be suspended in mid-air between rungs. Some people don't like that feeling. I do. Letting go of the previous rung and swinging onto the next is a little risky for a kid but quite the thrill.
Before EMC's CLARiiON acquisition I had worked for Data General for 14 years. During this time storage technologies and products really began to take off. Although DG's image was that of a server company, I never worked on anything but storage. And my playground analogy starts when I jumped onto that first rung when I got out of college. DG was a straight ladder of continual technology rungs.
When I leapt off the platform I first grabbed the RAID-5 rung, then the RAID-1 rung, swung to the data integrity rung, and then onto the hot repair rung, the failover rung, and the write cache rung. It was a lot of variety and interesting software. After working on the write cache, I hung there by one arm. I had this feeling that I wanted to work on different technology. Other than CLARiiON, however, there was nothing at DG that was of interesting to me. Until CLARiiON formed a new unit dedicated to software that ran "outside" the box.
Hanging On the Same Rung
I'm hanging on the monkey bars asking myself: do I really want to let go of disk microcode software? Well on the monkey bars when you stop you need to build up a little momentum in order to get into your rhythm again. So I began to swing again to see what was on the next rung.
CLARiiON wanted to build a "from-scratch" storage management architecture, and they needed a lead architect. Sold. I let go of the old rung and swung onto the new: Navisphere. And for the next 6 years, I started to build up a cadence again: the object-oriented rung, fiber-channel storage mgmt rung, multi-box federation rung, SAN management rung, common information model (CIM) rung. I participated in the first ever common management demo. And then I stopped again, hanging from one bar. It was the end of the ladder.
I had actually seen this coming several rungs earlier, and had flown out to Palo Alto for an interview with the HP Labs storage research team. It turned out I didn't get an offer because of the existing business arrangement HP had OEM'ing the CLARiiON product. But at DG there was nothing more for me. So I swung off the monkey bars and was done. I needed to find something else to do, at a different company.
Along Came EMC
EMC bought CLARiiON in late 1999. I figured I would be transferring to Hopkinton to work for some group at EMC Headquarters, but there was a six-month moratorium on transfers. So I started walking around the playground, looking for the next cool thing to play on. And I found it. Instead of monkey bars, it was a jungle gym.
In 2000 I transferred to an advanced development team responsible for setting new directions and building new products. Instead of swinging from bar to bar on the monkey bars I could now swing and climb on a jungle gym. And my first rung was building a storage inventory API called Storage Scope. Then I moved on to PowerPath. And the cadence began again: async ordered replication, volume managers, data migration, SAN virtualization, capacity planning, web servers, etc., etc., etc. And then along came Centera. I transferred to that organization and kept going. CAS technology, object googling, Centera Seek, object regeneration , and XAM.
Jungle Gyms are Cool, but.....
I saw another toy on the playground. While I was hanging around on the jungle gym, EMC was making acquisitions. As a result of this the jungle gym has turned into a HUGE geodesic dome of software opportunities. Jump off the ground and grab one of the bars. Now there are a large number of possibilities to work on next. Avamer de-dup. Kashya replication. RSA security. VMWARE virtualization. N-Layers app discovery. Documentum content management. Mozy backup. And a lot, lot more.
I will literally never run out of cool things to do.
So What Is it That I Do?
This brings me to the word "Information". I have a background as a storage guy, I know how to build storage systems, manage storage, protect data, and route data. And until recently I thought I worked for a storage company. But look at the list of acquisitions. EMC is now an information company.
Competitors can look at these acquisitions and state: "look how many platforms they have". Customers can buy our products and state: "Where's my common experience"? I take a look at the acquisitions and say: "Let's get to work".
Playing in a geodesic dome can seem (to some people) to provide overwhelming choices. Like I said, not everybody likes to "let go" and start swinging. Where do you start?
Well, first you have to find a pattern. There's a certain set of software combinations that make sense for our customers. There's a certain set of software assets that are re-usable. And there's a world-wide team to work with to figure it out. On a regular basis I'm interfacing with Russia, India, Belgium, China, Ireland, and other locations throughout the U.S.
And the one thing we all agree is that there's a need for a component integration strategy.
And that's an opportunity for me. Or you.
If you want to play.....