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EMC's Tucci On Acquisitions, Infrastructure And Clouds

EMC Chairman, President and CEO Joe Tucci took questions from the press Monday morning at EMC World in Boston after his keynote address on "The Journey To The Private Cloud." Here's a quick recap of some of what Mr. Tucci had to say on a variety of subjects, including acquisitions, infrastructure and the cloud.

Acquisitions: The CEO says EMC will continue to be acquisitive in the coming year. Tucci says the company's strategy is to buy up technology companies that are significantly smaller than EMC to make them easier to digest. He doesn't rule out the possibility of a very large acquisition if it benefits shareholders, but his long-term goal is multiple, small buys.

Infrastructure: In his keynote, Tucci says EMC is an infrastructure company and proud to be one. However, blogger Stephen Foskett noted that recent acquisitions are about applications or platforms for application development (Zimbra and SpringSource respectively). Technically, these are VMware acquisitions, but Foskett wanted to know if EMC is going to transform into something other than an infrastructure company.

Tucci acknowledged that these recent acquisitions are more about apps than infrastructure, but also noted that the revenues from those acquisitions are minimal. He says the company's primary focus is to stay down at the infrastructure level rather than move up the stack, but he also acknowledged that the definition of infrastructure will broaden. You can read Foskett's take on EMC and a post-infrastructure future here.

The Cloud: Tucci says that when it comes to the public cloud, he believes that rather than four or five large providers dominating the market, there will be hundreds of providers, and tens of thousands of private clouds. As for security and whether potential customers can trust the public cloud, he says that EMC and VMware, among others, are fundamentally building a new OS. This gives them the opportunity to build-in security rather than bolt it on after the fact. Says Tucci, "Fundamentally we think you can build an environment with more control and more trust."

I agree with him that we'll see a robust market for cloud services, particularly because the definition of cloud is so vague that you can expand it to include traditional hosting and collocation providers. Additionally, I think the market will support a variety of cloud services, from apps and compute that run outside a customer's premises to online storage.

As for the second point, I don't buy it. What does it mean that "security" is built in to the infrastructure? Does that mean a VMware API that lets third-party security software hook into the hypervisor? Does it mean robust software development practices to protect the hypervisor from code exploits? What about the apps that run in a virtual machine? And what about plain old operational practices in a public or private cloud? The most tightly guarded virtualization stack can be compromised by a default password that an admin forgot to change when the VM was spun up.

In Tucci's defense, he wasn't providing a deep dive into EMC's virtualization security strategy; this was a 20-minute Q&A with a roomful of reporters and no time for in-depth follow-ups. That said, it would behoove all cloud vendors to be very careful about the promises they make around the cloud and security.