EMC demystified

While no one was looking, this little storage company went big-time

Reporters just love EMC. After all, there’s always something new to write about, given that the company has spent the past three years on a punch-drunk buying spree, acquiring shiny new companies at a rate of roughly one every other month.

InfoWorld’s editors are similarly enamored, mostly because so many of EMC’s acquisition targets boast rock-solid technologies. Legato, Documentum, VMware, Network Intelligence, RSA Security, and more: The list is studded with leaders in their respective niches. And now many of these companies find themselves dumped, willy-nilly, into EMC’s rapidly expanding product portfolio.

The paradox is that, even as technologists gaze on admiringly, Wall Street looks askance. Despite 22 major acquisitions since late 2003, EMC’s stock has been flat, punctuated only by the occasional plunge. The bean counters and analysts, it seems, can’t make sense of EMC’s overarching strategy. Is it a storage company? An information lifecycle company? A data security company? Or just a bunch of geeks with a no-limit credit card and a bad case of the midlife-crisis blues?

Tech journalist Leon Erlanger examines these questions — well, maybe not the last one — in “EMC’s Secret Plan for World Domination”, offering a critical look at the logic behind EMC’s frenetic activities. As Erlanger makes clear, the buying binge has propelled the company into a new weight class, transforming it from a nerdy engineering-driven storage vendor into a marketing-savvy software purveyor to be reckoned with. Where once it went primarily against the likes of HP and IBM in storage, now it also faces down software juggernauts such as Microsoft, Oracle, and Symantec.

Now, that’s upward mobility. But like the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.