I've been holding off doing the blog thing for a while thinking I wouldn't be able to devote the time I think it would take to do it justice.
What's changed? Call me a social media convert. Not so much as a vehicle for corporate propaganda (which sucks regardless of vehicle), but rather as one of the only ways to really communicate at the speed of the business and technology change - and to do it completely across corporate boundaries (I have friends and colleagues at partners and competitors). Oh, that and Chuck has been just hammering on me :-)
So who am I? What a strange question to contemplate when you get down to it. Seems so self-centered.
Ok - well, my name's Chad Sakac. I work for EMC, where I'm officially the Sr. Director of the VMware Strategic Alliance. Unofficially titles are way more important than anything official - and unofficially, I'm EMC's VMware Tzar. That sounds really arrogant - and isn't what I call it, but if that's what Joe Tucci calls it - than I guess that's what I am. What am I AM not by assignment, but by fantatical true-believer status is a VMware and IP storage super fan, and unabashed technophile.
Manifesto alert: what I will openly acknowledge (now and often) is that while I'm a proud EMC'er - I will do my best at all times to avoid this being a corporate blog. Nothing I post will be "approved" by anyone but me (although I'm sure it will be dis-approved by many :-).
OK - stop reading here if you want to get a feel for what most posts will attempt to be (length wise).... Continue if you want to know more about me.....
So, what's my history?... A weird one. I'm a Canadian Electrical Engineer/Comp sci double major (nerd, and damn proud of it! I was the AV guy in high school - as anyone who has seen me jump to fix a projector issue knows) and right after my wife and I got married, we decided we wanted to do the whole startup thing. I was focused on MPLS/IPSec at the time (it was 1999 - right around when IOS 12 and the first GSR12000 routers were released). I was the point guy at the first carrier to deploy GSRs throughout the core of the network, transitioning from an ATM core/IP edge to an IP-throughout topology. That was really, really fun, and really, really cool - but with all the trips to Cisco HQ on Zanker Rd. in San Jose started to open my eyes....
Silicon Valley was an irresistable magnet - I mean, have you SEEN the Fry's stores there??? (I tell my friends, they sell food, computer parts, telescopes, and literally breadboards - it's a one-stop shop for my life!!!)
So after we got hitched, my wife and I moved to San Jose, and joined a startup - Metricom. Metricom made something SO cool at the time - a wireless data broadband service called Ricochet. Long story short - great technology (only recently surpassed by the cellular 3G networks - 6 years later!), but technology alone sadly does not a business make, and when we needed to go to the capital markets for more funding as part of our planned business model (which made so much sense in 1999), it was 2001, and the markets were closed. I still have my Ricochet modems - and the experience seared into mind an axiom that has served me well since - technology alone isn't enough. As a technical guy - I was befuddled by how more people wanted blackberries (also emergent at the time) over a broadband modem - which delivered not only email, but the full internet at high speed - not 9.6K (blackberries at the time ran over the mobitex network). Answer when you think about the axiom is obvious - and gives you the corollary: for a technology to successful - it needs to be useable by an average human (think about the success RIM or Apple), and businesses need to be able to justify it financially in immediate terms.
What's funny when you put it in words - it's patently obvious - but I think I'm like a lot of technical people - I need constant reminders of that, it's not something I get naturally in my gut....
Ok, next, I decided that I wanted a change of industry - so the next startup I fell in love with was called Allocity - right on Castro in Mountain View (what a sweet, sweet location). The core idea was "Application-aware Storage" - i.e. that storage infrastructure should be completely invisible and totally subservient to the application or use case (something I believe to this day). It was COOL. We integrated into major apps (Exchange was the easiest example and our first - so back in the Exchange 2003 days - we extended the Exchange System Manager MMC), so you didn't provision LUNs, rather when you created databases, it automagically took care of all the storage stuff.
At the same time, as startups are wont to do - we looked at the array business and decided: "geez, this stuff is complex and expensive - we could make it better". So, we made an distributed volume manager and clustered storage model and iSCSI target off FreeBSD. Very, very cool. Architecturally very similar in many ways to LeftHand networks for a current parallel - and many former Allocity friends and colleagues are there now. We shipped our first product Live!Ex v1.0 in 2003. We had MANY large enterprises all over this - but when we shipped, we ran in to two major problems (neither of them technical)
- iSCSI wasn't ready for prime time. Again - not technically (the key IETF RFC were pretty baked even by then - http://tools.ietf.org/wg/ips/) but the ecosystem wasn't there. There was no Microsoft iSCSI initiator (though the beta was starting), and Cisco was getting started. So what we did is re-write our storage control layer so we could use our back end, or EMC CLARiiON, HP EVA, or NetApp FAS as the back-end.
- Customers started to freak about trusting their data and their business to a startup - a great quote from Dell (one of our largest beta customers): "we can't risk our $1B/year relationship with EMC for an iSCSI startup!" - LOL!!! Again, just ahead of our time :-)
What did I learn from that experience?
- First - my love and passion for storage using IP and ethernet as the transport - simple, cheap, ubiquitous, good enough. Plus, I could run it on gear from Fry's - how cool is that?
- Second - storage platforms is a VERY hard startup business - you are going after something very close to the IT crown jewels. I think that's why there's only room for one succesful startup with each new technology wave (think of the orgins of EMC in the first FC SAN wave, NetApp in the NAS wave, and EqualLogic in the iSCSI SAN wave). The startup needs to hit a critical mass super fast.
- Third, and perhaps most importantly - Allocity was RIGHT on both counts - customer do want infrastructure (this translates beyond storage to other parts of infrastructure like servers and networks) that is as transparent as possible, and subservient to the application,and business use case, and they want iSCSI (we were just early).
So what happened to Allocity - In Oct 2005, we were acquired by EMC. I wasn't sure that I wanted to work for the big monolith, particularly with what my startup brethren were telling me about EMC's culture, but what EMC did with me was interesting.
Faced with the senior execs at EMC (at the "welcome to EMC" one on one - we were SMALL), I shared my doubts and skeptiscm openly (I'm totally missing the nerve ganglia bundle of political sensitivity - which sometimes kills me, but one the balance is a good thing). Also called them on the carpet about my doubts about their seriousness about the supremacy of the app, not infrastructure, and their focus on the IP storage market. Their answer: "We agree". I was a bit surprised.
What did I learn from that? EMC is a very interesting place. Unless you're here on the inside, you have to take my word for it, but it's suprisingly adaptable for a large enterprise (far and away the largest in their space). They have the healthy paranoia that you need to have as the company that is attacked on all sides (like Cisco or Intel). They get angry, but in a positive way, when we lose - it focuses effort and energy. They are willing and able to reinvent themselves periodically. Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of deep-seated negative attributes too. It ain't all rosy. But like people, companies have good and bad intrinsic in their personas. But, these core characteristics are the ones that can make good companies stay good, and go from good to great.
They asked me to stay, not just on the Allocity side of the business but to help do my part to help their transformation (which was well underway). It's been a crazy few years - building Exchange/SQL Server/Oracle/VMware expertise into the org, on the iSCSI/NAS evangelism front.
So then, coming full circle - how is it that I'm "Mr. VMware" at EMC these days? 2 years ago, it was clear to me that VMware was transforming datacenters that this was going to be huge. It was also a practical example of how the use case could start to own the infrastructure (just look at The startup guy in me also had been playing with ESX and Workstation for a long time, and drank the kool-aid. I started to yell, and find soapboxes to stand on (for those of you that don't know me, I'm short - like "napoleon complex" short - so I find myself on soapboxes often).
Joe Tucci reached deep down into the org and put me near the top. He gave me responsibility to execute on this, the accountability to get it done, and the his support, along with the support of the executive staff, and we created a new VMware Affinity business unit - one focused exclusively on one thing: ensuring that across all the parts of the Information Infrastructure landscape, EMC is the VMware partner of choice - for customers, partners, and VMware themselves. Let there be no doubt - we know we need to do that on our own merits. And, I still do the occassional install and deal with a customer support call (hey, you've got to keep your chops fresh!)
It's something I relish doing, and I love waking up every day to the challenge!
I look forward to sharing with you what I'm seeing, what I see others doing, best practices, links to good technical info I find useful. I hope you find it interesting, and one way or another, comment and contribute!