Joe Tucci (All photos by Asa Mathat)
Chairman and CEO, EMC Corporation
Founder and CEO, Techonomy
Joseph Tucci, Chairman and CEO of EMC, talks with Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick. Read excerpts from the conversation below, or download the full transcript.
Kirkpatrick: I guess the first question I would ask you, Joe, is how much is this data analytics thing going to change the world from the standpoint—from your view as leading one of the main companies that’s been enabling it? And is there any industry that will be exempt from the transformation?
Tucci: First I’d start, David, you know you used the word will, and I use the word is changing the world. Certainly you just heard about cancer, the decoding of the human genome. That was a big data problem, and that happened several years ago.
But to answer your question specifically, I absolutely believe, firmly believe, that every single industry will be totally revolutionized by big data.
Kirkpatrick: Okay. Now, do most of those industries realize that yet?
Tucci: I—I’d say a fair amount do.
Kirkpatrick: I mean, you spend a lot of time with the biggest CEOs. Do they get it?
Tucci: Most CEOs think in terms of what are my key lasting assets. First you have a brand, right? Brand is incredibly valuable and it lasts beyond any CEO’s term, in many cases for well over 100 years. Second, you have your people. Now, people is not an accounting asset, but people—any CEO knows people are their greatest asset. The way you get those people to work together is you have a whole set of processes that support your business. And those processes are kind of enabled by applications. So I would say your processes and your application is a lasting asset. And then your information is a lasting asset.
So any good CEO knows that they’ve got to make sure they protect all four of those assets and utilize them to the benefit of their business.
Kirkpatrick: When you were approaching the decision about whether to buy VMware, which is one of the most important things you did, and you later spun a lot of it out, what was in your mind? That was such a fundamental shift for your company. How did you go about that? Is there any lesson for CEOs, in general, or leaders that you’ve sort of taken away from having made some pretty big gambles that have paid off for EMC, especially with acquisitions?
Tucci: We were basically a leader in high-end storage, period. And that is not a good base—that’s not, you know, a strong enough foundation for a company. Because if you can attack that one thing that we did well, you could really hurt the company, so you want to broaden your base. And then it’s hard to—so basically we went from high-end storage to mid-tier storage to low-end storage. Basically if you’re storing information, you want to protect that information and make sure it’s always available. You want to make sure that information is secure, that brought us into security. And then, of course, you want to get intelligence from that information, and that brought us into predictive analytics.
And then we realized there’s going to be a whole new way of processing in the data centers. That’s what led us to virtualization.
Kirkpatrick: Any other players in the industry you would call out as doing a particularly great job of repositioning themselves or any that might be doing a particularly poor job?
Tucci: Well, I’m not going to go on the poor side, but obviously, you know, what Amazon does is rather remarkable. Oracle has broadened their platform. IBM has done a good job. I think we’ve done a good job. But we’re not alone.
Kirkpatrick: You’ve got a very tight relationship with Cisco in recent years.
Tucci: We do.
Kirkpatrick: There’s been some speculation recently that maybe it was shaky. How is that relationship going right now?
Tucci: Well, pointblank, Cisco is our closest and most strategic partner, and I believe we’re going to have a long and prosperous relationship.
The communications requirements of tomorrow will be dramatic. So Cisco has a great opportunity to continue to grow and expand, and it’s very complimentary to what we want to do.
Kirkpatrick: Let’s talk about the economy for a second. I know it’s something—at your scale you have no choice but to think about. Where do you see the U.S. economy right now and the global economy? It’s widely viewed as pretty precarious. Give us your big-picture view of what’s happening right now.
Tucci: I’ve never seen a time where the rest of the world was looking to the U.S. for leadership, so I think it’s all—
Kirkpatrick: Any more than right now. You think—
Tucci: Right now is the peak. They want the U.S. to be successful. They want leadership. I truly believe if we address what is commonly called the “fiscal cliff” problems adequately, we will have a decent 2013 globally.
We need a grand compromise. This is not a Democratic or a Republican solution. We need to raise revenues. To that, the Democrats are right. And we need to balance the budget over time.
I am spending personal time, personal commitment, and encouraging others, all of you. This is our country. We’ve got to make sure that it’s, “We the people, by the people, for the people.” We need to make sure we live these words every day.