What do we do in the data storage industry?
We Make the Future

Answering the question of, “what do you do for a living” from folks outside the industry is often a challenge.  To them, data storage sounds like IT departments, technical jargon, computer geeks and blinking lights on servers.  These days, data storage makes up so much of our everyday lives, but how do we explain that?


Photo courtesy of Chris Adiletta

  When thinking about how to better explain to friends and family about what data storage is, I started thinking about my excitement when I ordered a new phone.  I watched the announcement of the new phone, and heard about it from my friends.  Everyone talks about the new features, the components, the materials, and the size. I go out and pre-order my phone at the earliest possibility and then I wait agonizingly long for the shipment notification.  I get a tracking link and I refresh the tracking web page often as I stalk my phone on the world tour it takes on its way to my home.  The truck arrives and I greet the delivery person before they even have to knock on my door and finally have my hands on the new gadget.  I do a little dance in my kitchen and then carefully open up the packaging, maybe snapping a few photos for social media sake (see example photo here).


So if this isn’t you, then this is certainly someone you know.  We get excited for our new gadgets, almost perhaps giddy.  This is the future, and with this little gadget, I can do just about anything without having to leave my couch.  In fact it’s so good at that, there are now programs that encourage me to please get up and leave my couch!


Image courtesy of Wolf Gang on flickr

  As I marvel at my new gadget I realize that behind the gadget, what makes that gadget cool is what EMC, and in fact a great many companies do for us, without us ever knowing it.  If I talk about Big Data, most people roll their eyes or conjure up images of Dilbert and PowerPoint training about synergies.  But give me a moment and let me explain.


I power on my phone and walk through the steps to move my phone number from my old phone to the new shiny phone.  My contacts, applications, ringtones, music, all appear instantly, and I never had to leave my couch.  That was the cloud!  I want to show off the phone, so I check out an animated movie title and start watching. That movie was rendered by a cluster of computers, then stored in the cloud and made available to me on my couch the moment I wanted it.  That’s a powerful cloud!  I snap a photo, and play with the new video features, then share it on my favorite social media locations, all of which store and make available my images to all my friends and followers.


Image courtesy of Nonenmac on Wikipedia

  I’m sure that you can continue to fill in with similar details of your own experiences, but I’d like to take a step back and go even further to illustrate all the numerous ways data storage impacts our lives.  The cellular carriers monitor usage patterns and use data analytics to invest in stronger coverage where needed to continue to support their user base.  When these phones came out, the distributors took a look at pre-order information and came up with a plan for the most efficient way to get these deliveries done (remember that strange route your phone took on its way to you?)  The trucks getting to your door use GPS services to get them around their routes efficiently and predictably.  In fact the fossil fuels those trucks operate on started out well within the earth, and massive survey data was analyzed to get to that oil and bring it to you for less than the cost of a gallon of milk.


Of course, we’re also using those same data systems to build more efficient vehicles, model new engine technologies, create electric vehicles that might provide energy back into our electric grid, which badly needs to be updated with smarter technology. Oh and bus routes, new train developments, and other public transportation options are all struggling through complex data analytics to serve as many people as possible on the fewest resources.


Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske on Wikipedia

  Right, so let’s go back to the fun of my little gadget!  It’s so thin and light, yet powerful and well connected!  You know that the chips inside, the design of materials – that’s all coming from heavy modeling on big computer systems figuring out how to stuff all that awesomeness in there!  I’d certainly hate to lose it or see it stolen!  But I can rest assured because my home security and the video surveillance at the stores I go to can help me recover my phone if anything should happen.  Alright, stop already this is beginning to give me a headache thinking about all this Big Data.  Like a migraine headache.  Perhaps you need to go to the hospital?


Image courtesy of National Institute of Mental Health on Wikipedia

  Well if you do, you might need a CT scan, CAT scan or an MRI.  Perhaps one day you need surgery or even need genomic sequencing on a problematic tumor. Well all of that is data stored and analyzed in order to provide you with the best medicine so you live a very long time and pay a lot of taxes.  And yes, you guessed it, that medicine isn’t even possible without an incredible amount of data storage, papers published in scientific journals,  and extensively tested before allowed to the general public (along with awkward commercials with the required extensive list of disturbing possible side effects!) This is still the cloud, this is all Big Data and this is what we do!


Photo courtesy of tom-margie on flickr.com

  In the future when we watch as the first structures of a moon habitat are completed, and humans take their first steps on Mars; when we send our driverless robot cars out to pick up our latest prescriptions of drugs built against our unique genetics to prevent any illness; while we lounge on our couches and watch creative artworks in three dimensional worlds that touch our hearts, or greet our friends and family from around the world in face-to-face virtual realities; I take great pleasure in knowing that all of it, every part and more come from data storage and analytics at some place.


This is what it must be like working behind the curtain in the great city of Oz.  It might be a bit eye-rolling as you look behind the magic and find Big Data and synergies and plenty of PowerPoint.  But this is the magic, and we at EMC… well we make the future.