Thursday, June 10, 2010

SDM helps EMC build bridge to innovation - SDM Pulse Summer 2010

By Burt Kaliski, Rob Masson, and Rahul Pradhan, SDM ’09

Editor’s note: In this article, two executives from EMC Corporation—Burt Kaliski and Rob Masson—team up with EMC software engineer and SDM student Rahul Pradhan to describe how the company works with and benefits from its association with SDM.

As a company founded in Massachusetts, EMC has long-standing partnerships with universities in the Boston area. One partnership we’ve particularly benefited from is with MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM). Over the years, nine employees from EMC have completed the program, bringing valuable skills in technology management into the company at the systems level. The knowledge gained at SDM not only serves to advance the individual employee’s career, but also helps the company as a major producer of hardware and software systems for managing information. The participants, in effect, build bridges between MIT SDM and their organizations to transfer new insights about systems thinking into the company.

Burt Kaliski, director,
EMC Innovation Network

Rob Masson, director,
EMC Research Cambridge

Rahul Pradhan, SDM '09
and software engineer, EMC
EMC’s philosophy is that a company needs a strong bridge to external knowledge communities, including university research, if it is going to be successful in deriving value from what those communities are learning about changes in the technology landscape. Bringing in top students is one of the ways a company can increase its connections—indeed, every hire of a recent grad represents an infusion of new knowledge and relationships into the company. Another way is to send employees into the university programs, such as SDM, as students or collaborators.

Last June, the company took another step forward in connecting with the Boston area’s knowledge communities when it launched the EMC Research Cambridge initiative. Anchored to a corporate sponsorship at the MIT Media Lab, the initiative brings together a "virtual research team" of business and technology leaders from the company’s Boston-area offices with local academics to expand the company’s knowledge of emerging technologies.

EMC Research Cambridge is part of the overall EMC Innovation Network and as such seeks ways to apply new knowledge to the company’s research and development program around the world. This follows the network’s key principle—"Expand knowledge locally: Transfer it globally." Indeed, one of the great things about applied research is that you don’t always know at the outset where it will prove useful. A network of connections creates more opportunities to find surprising applications.

With EMC Research Cambridge in place, we’ve been looking for such surprises from our SDM fellows and asking where these EMC participants’ new knowledge might benefit the company in new ways. Conversely, what areas of interest to other parts of the company might the students benefit from exploring? The answers to these questions will help make the bridges, now part of a larger network, even stronger. We’re still getting started making these connections, but the promise is already quite evident from looking at what the company’s talented cadre of SDM fellows is currently working on:

Eugene Gorelik, SDM ’09, is a senior application systems engineer at EMC. He previously held software engineering and information technology (IT) positions at such companies as Panraven, BEA Systems, and SunLife Financial. Gorelik’s primary areas of focus at SDM are technology strategy, entrepreneurship, and product marketing.

Rajesh Mishra, SDM ’08, is an embedded systems engineer within the Microcode Group of EMC’s Symmetrix Engineering Division, responsible for designing and developing firmware for remote data replication features. Mishra has more than 15 years of experience in embedded systems across a broad range of industries, including office automation, information systems, and health care, and in several technology areas, including digital signal processing, radio frequency identification, and data storage and analytics. His research centers on data visualization and predictive models of large data sets.

Rahul Pradhan, SDM ’09, is a principle software engineer with EMC’s Unified Storage Division, responsible for designing and developing software for EMC’s next-generation storage systems. Pradhan has a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in computer science and more than 10 years of experience leading product development teams in telecom and storage industries. As a researcher, he is interested in understanding the dynamics of competitive strategy and managing innovation in technology intensive enterprises.

Sooraj Prasannan, SDM ’08, is a senior systems performance engineer with EMC’s Unified Midrange Storage group. His responsibilities include designing storage solutions for potential customers and proposing performance analysis methodologies for products under development. Prasannan has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering and nine years of experience in system performance and product development. As a researcher he is interested in understanding the architecture of complex products and using it to guide product design, organizational layout, and business strategy decisions. For his SDM thesis, Prasannan proposed a macro-micro system architecture analysis framework and applied it to two industry-leading smart grid meter data management systems.

Ritesh Shukla, SDM ’09, is a senior software developer working on the next generation of cloud optimized storage platforms. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering (his research focused on wireless security). Part of the team responsible for releasing EMC’s storage virtualization platform, he led key projects for two Version 1 products while at EMC. He is interested in identifying product gaps in the cloud ecosystem. Shukla is studying adoption patterns for cloud computing and strategy planning in and around cloud computing.

Systems thinking is the only way to address the challenge of managing the huge volumes of information that organizations deal with every day. It is also a mechanism EMC can use to explore new areas of opportunity. Smart grid infrastructure is just one area of recent interest. Using the techniques and methodologies taught in the SDM program, Prasannan has been able to understand the various vendor offerings more quantitatively and thus provide insight into how EMC’s own software could better integrate with those offerings.

Whether storing, securing, or deriving intelligence from the information—or managing the underlying IT resources that support these operations—a systems view helps an organization see how all the IT parts (both the "information" and the "technology") add up to deliver business value. The projects these SDM fellows are exploring will help EMC and the industry as a whole understand the larger technology landscape, what changes may be coming, and how technology is managed for many years to come.

About the authors

Burt Kaliski, who received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from MIT in electrical engineering and computer science, directs the EMC Innovation Network, the global research program of EMC Corporation connecting its local research and advanced technology initiatives with external knowledge communities and also leads industry standards and technology community programs in the corporate CTO office.

Rob Masson is the director of EMC Research Cambridge, the company’s research initiative in the Boston area, and is also an architect in the corporate CTO office’s Advanced Technology Ventures Group.

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