Mohammed Amin, senior vice president at EMC is known in industry for avoiding technology hyperbole. Amin, who has successfully architected, masterminded and led EMC through multiple disruptive technology shifts, is shooting for the stars again. But this time the stakes are higher, bigger and the competition tougher for the information infrastructure solutions giant.
The IT veteran knows that the big data business applications play is no small experiment as EMC is not only battling IT superpowers such as IBM and Oracle in a quest for big data business applications supremacy, but consumer technology behemoths such as Amazon and Google, which already have fashioned big data networks that have changed consumer shopping and information-gathering globally.
As the regional head of EMC in an expanded geography that covers three continents, Amin's job is to help channel partners lead the big data progression. To make that happen, Amin has laid out his vision that he believes should aid partners to embrace an open, data-centric, cloud-independent platform that should have all the building blocks they need to construct big data applications and services.
"It is not too pessimistic to say that unless channel partners develop these [big data business applications] capabilities of the future now, they will go out of business or will be rendered irrelevant in the market," said Amin. "At EMC, we think at the end of the day, big data is not just about analytics and data intelligence," he said. "It is about data-centric applications and driving some experience to an end-user customer and causing them to do things differently and in realtime."
Amin said having been in the Middle East IT sector for the last 15 years, he has witnessed how technology adoption has shifted in that period. "Five years ago, the region was always behind North America and Western Europe in terms of new technology adoption," he said. "In the last three years this has changed and it's not there anymore," he said.
He added that organisations in Middle East and Africa have become early adopters of new technology, innovation and solutions even before North America and Western Europe.
"This is a new thing and as EMC, we would like to take credit for this progression because we have been pitching this for a long time about how the region has the opportunity to embrace technology of the future now," he said.
Amin said EMC has for the last four to five years been selling this story to businesses and channel partners alike that they need to jump to the future otherwise they will lag behind.
"The company has ploughed in investments in educating businesses, channel partners and the market as a whole about the new technology trends. We have not shied away from taking the lead in helping businesses and partners in the region to be among early technology adopters," he said.
He pointed out that this effort has helped EMC to continue reaping rewards in the region and over the last few years the business has been growing 20% year-on-year in Middle East and according to analysts' reports, EMC is the leader with 55% market share. "What this means is that EMC sells more solutions in this market than all its competitors put together which is unique in itself and good for the company and partner ecosystem," he said.
EMC says the time is right to move the industry beyond the past 40 years of business IT, which primarily has been focused on automating what were paper processes on PCs, client/server networks and, finally, the Internet. This means leading the transformation in cloud, data intelligence and big data. "What is really different, I think now, is that unlike in the past when IT was the enabler of business, now it has become the business. Enterprises or businesses are realising that to be competitive in the future they have to be able to reach beyond just automating existing paper-based processes," he said.
Amin said as an example, if you look at a large service providers or telcos, all they want to do is provision services via IT solutions to sell more and make more profits.
He acknowledged that being a leader in any market is a tough position to be in because everyone will be asking you to prove it. "We have been very clear as far as our partners are concerned that we want from day one of engaging them to know that they are the extension force of EMC," he said. "That being the case, we look to our partners as the extension of EMC in the market and that's why the company is investing a lot of money, effort and resources in the channel."
He said the first thing that partners should do as they embrace data intelligence and the whole big data push is to invest. Amin added that certain business basics haven't changed over the years and partners ought to know that if they have to make money they need to invest. "To have, begin or lead any conversation around big data, distributors and resellers in the region must have qualified professionals in this field," he said.
That said, Amin explained that partners don't have to start from the big data side, but from the customer's business side. "This encompasses understanding the data environment, data generated, unstructured data not making any sense and structure data. From there, partners can start putting the effort and bringing their knowledge to bear by analysing the data and helping the client on how the new structured data will impact the business," he said.
He added that partners have to show customers how to connect the business to the big data problem because of the unstructured data and turn it into real business.
For Amin, "brand-new ways of doing things" also means not falling prey to the high-priced lock-in that defined many different eras of computing, from IBM's mainframe dominance to the onetime Microsoft operating system.
"EMC is leading the IT transformation in the world today and this is a legacy the company wants to have and maintain," he said. "That's why we have kept VMware open for everyone including those companies we compete with. Of course we want to win business and be one of the leaders in the market, but we are also trying to guide the industry to see where IT is headed because we foresee a problem for EMC and everyone involved if we keep data unstructured. There is a huge risk with that as the whole industry could collapse in the next 7 to 10 years."
Amin explained that it is estimated that by 2020, there will be 44 Zetabytes of data and that's a lot of data to store. That's is why channel partners need to do things different as they embark on the big data journey with their customers. "I must point out that nobody in the industry can declare victory and as EMC, we want to be one of the leaders in this by playing an active part in guiding and helping our channel ecosystem to take their clients to the next wave of computing," he said.
To its credit EMC's big data technology assets include its own Greenplum next-generation database/analytics platform, VMware's VFabric cloud platform (including Spring and Gemfire), Cetas analytics software and of course, Pivotal Tracker used by 240,000 developers worldwide.
"When we talk to partners in the market, they are telling us that their end-user clients are inquiring about cloud computing, big data and third platform technologies and not information infrastructure anymore. That to us is a major shift in the mind set of clients in the Middle East and that's why we are urging our partners to lead any dialogue around big data in the market," he said.
The challenge for solution providers in the Middle East is going to be investing in the big data opportunity even as they are still making the cloud computing shift. Those still heavily focused on infrastructure plays with traditional IT vendors will have a hard time, say pundits.
Amin agreed and said he shares the same views with analysts' reports that suggest EMC is unstoppable. "If I said 10-years ago that Google will be the largest company in the world, the market would not believe me. If I again said that Apple some 15-years back will become the biggest market capitalised company, no one would have believed me either. The same is true about cloud computing and the companies we see playing a leading role in it," he said.
Amin pointed out that the market should expect consolidation in the cloud computing sector in the next three years and some of the big brands will not be available in the market either because they will go bankrupt, file for Chapter 11 or be acquired. "I will go further by predicting that only four of the top companies in this segment will survive and make it to the next wave of computing and EMC will be one of them. He said in that sense, EMC is unstoppable because the company has been innovating and has future technology today and is able to read what's coming ahead.
As a partner-driven company, EMC is aware that to have any meaningful impact with big data in the market, it needs to have a well-trained and equipped partner base. To make certain that "transformational impact" is brought to a much bigger business audience, EMC is investing in channel partner resources.
Amin said the most important part about the new Business Partner Programme is that it is empowering and telling partners that they will get as much as they work. He said the programme has been designed to give partners the opportunity to map out their own destiny. "The partner status with EMC under the new scheme is based on what the reseller, SI, solution provider or VAR wants. We have left it for them to decide how they want to engage and grow their business and relationship with us," he said.
He added that without being cynical, it's important to point out that under the new guidelines of partner engagement, the company is predicting that 50% of the current partners will not make it going forward. "I feel sorry for those that won't make it but the other 50% are going to make it really big and that's what EMC is primarily focusing on because some of the reseller partners are not willing to embrace change," he said.
He emphasised that EMC is also open to new prospective partners that fit its criteria and those will be hired and brought on board because the company is convinced they fit its future ambitions.
For distributors, Amin said they need to understand and take cognisance of the fact that the industry as a whole is consolidating and there are a lot of reseller partners in this region that need their services. "From our perspective, what differentiates one distributor from the other is two things: investment with the company in future technology and the willingness to add value to tier two channel partners," he said.
Amin reiterated that EMC is not in the game of box shifting and prefers to work with distributors that add value and have a strong solutions focus. "With value comes higher margins. I expect that partners investing, developing and tailoring their business to be more value-oriented will enjoy good margins for many years to come.
Going forward, partners will have to continue investing as they grow their business with us because delivering solutions requires partners to have skilled staff and solid investments in training. This is what EMC is doing and will continue to do going forward," he said.