EMC Invests in Invista

Ever since Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Windows blew past Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Mac OS in terms of market share in personal-computer operating systems, high-tech managers have been worried about having their software play nice with lots and lots of different hardware. They've probably even worried a little too much. After all, it has yet to be proved -- outside Microsoft, of course -- that interoperability is inherently profitable. It's just that not being interoperable has sometimes been extremely unprofitable.

So I have to wonder whether EMC's (NYSE: EMC  ) announcement yesterday is worth all that much. The company rolled out its new storage network virtualization platform, dubbed Invista, which is designed to operate with storage switches from Brocade (Nasdaq: BRCD  ) , Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , and, soon, McDATA (Nasdaq: MCDT  ) .

Storage virtualization -- the process of gathering multiple network storage devices into a single pool -- is about as sexy as a mud-covered pig sporting a new coat of lipstick. But it is important technology. That's because the amount of digital information out there is rising exponentially, most of which is being stored in databases and ever-expanding farms of networked disk drives. Managing this mess is complex enough. However, it gets even tougher when data moves. That's because there's usually a straight digital line between computers and the information they access. Move the data, and you've got to tell the computers on the network where it went. Otherwise, the system breaks. Storage virtualization solves this problem by gathering data together into a cohesive whole that any computer can access simply.

But the truth is that storage virtualization represents much more for EMC. It's the latest in a series of bets by the company to become the brains for managing corporate data. It's a Microsoftian strategy, but it could work. That's because storage management is increasingly software-driven, and acquisitions have made EMC one of the clear experts on the subject.

What's more, the approach makes a high degree of economic sense. EMC's sales have for years been driven by expensive disk arrays, but that's not as true anymore. Software has driven profits lately. EMC's latest salvo is nothing less than an attempt to expand its storage-software hegemony. And it's a smart one at that.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers wishes someone would get to work on virtualizing his schedule. Maybe that way he could finally be in two places at once. What's your take on EMC's strategy? Share your thoughts with other Fools at the EMC discussion board. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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