Taking the Long View

Bold vision helps EMC manage tough times—and prepare for the future.

by Tony Kontzer, November 2009

You have to give EMC Corporation credit. While many technology companies spent the dot-com bubble buying Super Bowl ads, EMC knew something was amiss.

Yes, business was humming along: customers were snatching up EMC’s powerful storage arrays to make room for the mushrooming quantity of data being created by the fast-growing internet business environment. On the surface, times were good. But EMC’s IT leadership was well aware that the company was operating with an IT environment characterized by multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, numerous disparate legacy applications, and a variety of data models and taxonomies that made it challenging to quickly establish a single version of the truth—about customers, products, and certain financial information.

“It was a major business problem,” says Tony Pagliarulo, vice president of application development at EMC. “It would take us a significant amount of time to close the books, to get a worldwide view of revenue, to manage our product lifecycle, and to manage the flow of materials through our shop floor.”

That environment was undoubtedly having financial impact for EMC in the form of potential lost revenue, added technology costs, and loss of employee productivity. So EMC set out to do something about it.

The contrast today is startling. Powered by an array of Oracle technologies, from the database to middleware to applications, EMC now enjoys the benefits of a single global ERP instance, real-time analysis of its order pipeline, and automated monitoring and support for its customers as well as its own IT environment. Additionally, by combining Oracle Database and Oracle Real Application Clusters with EMC’s own information protection technology, the company has established an infrastructure that’s highly reliable, available, and scalable.

All of this has enabled the company to accommodate growth, gain efficiencies in its operations, and deliver consistent customer and product information across the organization, while keeping costs down. But achieving such a bold IT transformation within a multibillion-dollar company doesn’t happen overnight, and EMC has taken a years-long, phased approach to get where it is. Management still has more work to do, with more upgrades and efforts to further reduce the application portfolio in the offing, but the company has come a long way.

New IT Horizons
EMC’s journey to an Oracle stack started nearly a decade ago, during the tail end of the dot-com boom. The company was on a fast-growth trajectory, with a goal of doubling its annual revenue to US$12 billion, if only its IT environment would allow it. That meant investing in a technology platform that could support an ambitious ERP implementation. “We wanted to really provide a foundation for scale for our business,” says Pagliarulo.

The company chose Oracle E-Business Suite 11i, running on Oracle8i Database, and began consolidating some 30 legacy systems onto the platform, using the data in those systems to populate Oracle E-Business Suite modules ranging from manufacturing and procurement to financials and order management. It dubbed this effort “Catalyst,” reflecting the program’s role in kick-starting EMC’s technology transformation. The benefits were immediate and far ranging. For example, manufacturing and shop floor management modules helped drive improved quality management and production traceability, and Oracle Financials enabled EMC’s finance people to more effectively comply with regulatory requirements related to financial reporting and taxes.

In the midst of its ERP consolidation process, however, the dot-com bubble burst and management had to adapt to a new market. Rather than focusing on its traditional market of the Fortune 200, EMC needed to increase its reach by branching out into small and midsize businesses. And that, of course, meant diversifying its product offerings. To deliver real value to smaller companies, EMC would have to become a solutions provider, expanding the software and services part of its portfolio.

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