5 Technology Observations: 5 May 2015

Good morning, I.T. entrepreneurs. Here are five technology news insights, updates, perspectives and plenty more to start your day for Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Actually, today's update involves 10 items.

10. Memo to Chuck: And so it starts. Some media pundits are already labeling new Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins a carbon copy of his predecessor, John Chambers. When the CEO crown officially shifts from Chambers to Robbins in July 2015, Robbins will need to prove that he has his own vision for where Cisco should head next. No doubt, Chambers led Cisco through multiple market inflection points -- internetworking, cloud, mobile, data center convergence, etc. But Cisco hasn't exactly been a growth story -- at least not on Wall Street -- over the past decade or so. 

9. Cisco Spin: By the way, Cisco posted a blog describing how the company's board of directors chose Robbins as Chambers' successor. I'm sure it was an exhaustive process. But what do I really think? All roads led to Robbins or Rob Lloyd as Chambers' successor. Robbins got the position because he's a sales-driven guy who is far more charismatic and comfortable answering tough questions -- whether in front of media or the tech industry -- than Lloyd. After all, it was Robbins who ultimately declared war on HP's networking business. Don't get me wrong. Lloyd is super-sharp. But during Cisco events, he sometimes seemed overly scripted amid rapid-fire questions from the media. 

8. Corporate Venture Capital Evolves: How does an IT giant like EMC invest in tech startups? EMC Ventures leader Scott Darling answered that question and plenty more yesterday at EMC World. Among his observations: Darling thinks most (but not all) unicorns (startups with $1 billion-plus valuations) are fairly valued. Unlike the dot-com years, today's unicorns actually have big revenues, he noted. Still, the corporate VC landscape is changing, he conceded. Tech companies are investing earlier and making acquisitions earlier in the startup lifecycle, Darling said. 

7. Guess Who's Building Servers?: The answer is EMC. But don't expect to see those servers sold individually. Instead, the EMC "compute" hardware will be part of the VCE converged infrastructure portfolio, the company said during a media briefing yesterday. As you may recall, EMC and Cisco built VCE together. But now that EMC essentially controls VCE, the company is looking to move forward with its own server offerings. 

6. That's How It's Done: Roughly 14,000 people are attending EMC World. The main sessions are impressive, but the best discussions happen in a private hall for about 350 journalists and analysts (and one content czar). During those closed-door sessions, EMC executives and customers step onto the stage and take open Q&A for roughly an hour. No slides. No attempts to cut off controversial questions. In the age of highly filtered information, the open Q&A format is refreshing.

5. Hot for How Long?: Some chief data officers (CDOs) are making lots of career jumps while the market remains hot. A case in point: JT Kostman is joining Time Inc. as chief data officer. Kostman has decades of analytics and data experience. But check out his recent career stops: After nearly 11 years at Aptus Insights, he joined Samsung in Sept. 2013. Next, he jumped to Keurig as chief data scientist in December 2014. After less than six months at that post, he's now jumping to Time Inc. My reaction? I'm impressed by data-driven executives. But I wonder if the CDO trend -- and related job hopping -- will flame out if businesses don't see rapid ROI from CDOs and the data they're trying to monetize.

4. Sum of its Parts: EMC Federation -- the network of EMC companies spanning Pivotal, RSA, VCE and VMware -- should turn lots of heads today. Most of the anticipated moves involve so-called Business Data Lakes. But more moves are coming... ...

3. Open Source: Mum's the word for now. But I suspect we may hear more about open source from a certain large enterprise IT company later today.

2. Word of the Day: That would be "complexity." It seems to be the No. 1 challenge facing all the big IT vendors. At EMC World, many members of the media seem a bit confused about EMC's complex product lines and how one offering fits in a market compared to sister offerings. Meanwhile, pundits are telling new Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins that he needs to eliminate corporate silos and business complexity. And HP is breaking up into two companies to eliminate certain complexities. And IBM had a "customer driven reorganization" to help eliminate business complexity. The common denominator: Each giant faces upstart cloud rivals that offer infrastructure, platforms and applications that customers can activate within seconds...

1. Small Businesses Left Behind?: A few industry friends have asked me if my IT interests have shifted from small business to enterprise, especially since I'm hanging out at EMC World this week in Las Vegas. Let's just say After Nines Inc. is on a mission of discovery -- listening closely to multiple IT industry segments before deciding on a potential long-term course of action. Whatever direction we potentially choose, it's a safe bet we'll be inclusive across all business sizes...

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