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EMC's Pat Gelsinger: One-On-One At VMworld

EMC is headed for 100% virtualization of its own data center, Gelsinger says. In this Q&A, he talks about VMware and what's coming next for data centers and IT teams .

Pat Gelsinger, President and COO, EMC Information Infrastructure Products
Pat Gelsinger, President and COO, EMC Information Infrastructure Products

Pat Gelsinger is the president and chief operating officer of EMC's Information Infrastructure Products unit, its core storage products group. He spoke with InformationWeek Editor at Large Charles Babock before his Tuesday morning keynote to VMworld, and quipped that between Hurricane Irene and InformationWeek, he wasn't getting much rehearsing done. With all flights out of Philadelphia cancelled just as Gelsinger was due to set off for VMworld, Gelsinger says he "borrowed Dad's jet" and flew west in EMC's corporate plane, usually reserved for Chairman, CEO, and President Joe Tucci. Gelsinger is the former head of Intel Labs and Intel's Digital Enteprise Group, which, among other things, produced the Nehalem chip architecture.

EMC just demonstrated a million I/O operations a second on VMAX storage array (an eight CPU storage processing engine with 960 disk drives) working with VMware's vSphere 5. What's so great about that?

Gelsinger: Who needs a million I/O operations a second? No one is pushing one million IOPS yet for virtualized systems. But as companies put more workloads on the virtualized portion of the data center, they're driving up the value of consolidated storage. Customers are now getting into hundreds of thousands of IOPS a second…

EMC also just announced 10 GBs per second of data can be moved into vSphere5 using a VNX storage system.

Gelsinger: The VNX system is for mid-range customers. It's not a big box system. Bandwidth testing of a VNX system with vSphere 5 achieved ten gigabytes a second--three and half times more workload than the previous vSphere limit, which required three Clariion CX4 arrays. Ten GBps would be very beneficial in a setting where it's supporting a virtual desktop infrastructure. There is a predictable boot storm as everyone logs in between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning.

VMware CEO Paul Maritz mentioned in his keynote that there are 800,000 virtual machine administrators. The storage administrator is still a different fiefdom from the virtual environment.

Gelsinger: We have to build a bridge between those two worlds... We have to allow array intelligence to be exercised in the virtual server environment. We've never had virtual server commands to communicate to the storage array. We've been working on how to get virtual machine intelligence from an array and array awareness from a virtual machine environment.

EMC's Virtual Storage Integrator announced Monday will be the Rosetta stone between VMware administrator and the storage administrator. It will plug into the vCenter console and provide storage administrator information. The virtual machine administrator can configure storage for a virtual machine or set replication or backup policies. He doesn't have to learn a new language (the storage administrator's console conventions.) He gets to view storage in the language he lives and works in all day long.

How else is storage and virtual machine administration coming together?

Gelsinger: We are taking data loss prevention and plugging it into VMware's vShield (API-based access to the VMware security environment). Imagine someone at a financial institution is about to do something with Social Security numbers in an unsecured way. DLP will stop the process and alert…. You will be able to assign DLP protection with vShield-type of security products.

What does EMC think of its VMware unit?

Gelsinger: VMware revenues are growing at a rate of 38%. It's a crazy market they're in and growing. It's hard to be unhappy with them. Both companies are performing well. Collectively, we see ourselves as the transformative force in the IT industry.

Is EMC virtualizing its own data center?

Gelsinger: EMC has virtualized 70% of its data center. We're now virtualizing our Oracle systems. This moves us into the big applications. Now we're getting into the hard stuff, Oracle applications, SAP applications. We're proving we can virtualize the biggest of the big. We truly believe we're going to get to 100% virtualized.

How does more and more virtualization of the data center change IT?

Gelsinger: We get into very detailed, mission critical conversations with customers over how IT changes. We used to have application and infrastructure specialties all over the data center. We had database administrators, SAP administrators, ERP administrators… Then we bred this new class of specialist, the virtual machine administrator. When we tipped over 60% virtualized, we re-organized IT into just applications and infrastructure. The dividing line was virtualized infrastructure. The apps guys no longer look out for their components of the infrastructure. The infrastructure guys ignored the apps. Their job is to deliver quality of service from the infrastructure.

How else do you and VMware now buttress each other's strategies?

Gelsinger: We both see value in hybrid clouds…the ability to move between private and public environments. That's what our joint strategy is for the cloud... We will give you the ability to federate clouds and enable the best of computing in both worlds.

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