EMC is walking on (Israeli) clouds

The multinational IT firm has opened a Center of Excellence in Herzliya and an R&D facility in Beersheva to capitalize on Israeli cloud computing ideas.

The multinational IT firm has opened a Center of Excellence in Herzliya and an R&D facility in Beersheva to capitalize on Israeli cloud computing ideas.

Photo by Sivan Farag
EMC Center of Excellence general manager Orna Berry.

Major US information technology company EMC has a new Center of Excellence in Herzliya, and a new R&D center in Beersheva. CEO Joe Tucci recently came to Israel to see the center, hosted by general manager Orna Berry.

EMC is one the companies that allowed American companies post-9/11 to recover their data, and it continues to make disaster-management solutions for major corporations. Thanks to EMC technologies pioneered in Israel or by Israelis, the company ensures that hundreds of thousands of financial transactions stay secure. It has had a sales and services operation in Petah Tikvah since 1996.

Today, Israeli EMC engineers are working on cloud computing. “I can say all our key products have shifted to become virtualized and are supporting virtualization,” says Berry, a corporate vice president. “This is the infrastructure required for cloud computing. All the key products made in Israel have gone through the transformation suitable for cloud computing.”

Berry says that EMC’s long history with Israel dates from the days EMC moved from being a memory extension company to a storage company. The buildup started with Moshe Yanai, an Israeli living in Massachusetts, whose involvement in the late 1980s through 1990s helped EMC create a new market segment. Yanai led development of the EMC Symmetrix, still considered the most successful computer storage system.

Access to the best engineers

When the Internet bubble burst around 2001, Berry says, EMC shifted to mergers and acquisitions, and several acquisitions were made in Israel in 2006. EMC wanted to scale up what Berry calls “worthy startups.” Some of these companies have grown sales tenfold in certain divisions, she reports.

Cyota and Kashya are two Israeli companies that “scaled out nicely,” she says. “The others exist but remained relatively small. They did not create strategic powerhouses but brought expertise which will for sure be absorbed at our Center of Excellence.”

There are about 1,000 EMC employees in Israel. Berry, a mother and grandmother, came aboard in January last year after working for nearly a decade as a consultant at Gemini Israel Funds.

“The next stage of EMC in Israel, and one of the reasons for creating the single Center of Excellence, is that it allows us to start two new businesses out of Israel, and to open a facility in Beersheva where the [Ben-Gurion] university is producing some of the best engineers in the country,” Berry tells ISRAEL21c.

What Israel has done for EMC and the world

With regard to information security innovations, it was recently announced that RSA, the security division of EMC, has shut down more than 500,000 cyber attacks across 185 countries. That translates to an estimated $7.5 billion in savings for financial institutions.

“As for the other aspects, in the wake of September 11th,” Berry points out, “companies with EMC backup and disaster recovery systems — part of which were designed and developed by Israeli engineers — were able to resume normal operations faster than anyone else. EMC’s Israeli R&D helped develop solutions such as Recovery Point, which enables companies to store copies of data for disaster recovery.”

“I think that down time is minimal for anyone who needs to run a business during a tsunami or other unexpected disasters. This is what Kashya is doing today.”

The woman behind the Center of Excellence

Born in 1949, Berry was an officer in the Israel Air Force, after which she completed a bachelor’s in math and a master’s in statistic operations research in Israel. She then earned a PhD at the University of Southern California, where she was one of the first women to study the new science of computing.

Berry could have studied computer science in Israel, “but I wasn’t keen on the way it was taught; they were still using punch cards. I was waiting until communication was via terminals and knew that the time would come. I wanted to join the forces when it was getting to be more fun,” she says.

She mingled with the some of the world’s computer pioneers in California in that time of “great energy.” These were people like Len Kleinrock, who developed the precursor to the Internet, or Jeremy Epstein, who built the first computer outside the United States.

“It was an amazing period,” she tells ISRAEL21c. She notes that computer science wasn’t just a man’s world, even in the early days. “There were other women with me and … some of these women went on to have senior managerial positions.”

After co-founding her own tech company, Ornet, and then advising many more, Berry achieved a climax in her career as Israel’s first female chief scientist. She then worked for Israel Gemini Funds and oversaw the development of technologies such as Xbox Kinect, sold later to Microsoft.

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About Karin Kloosterman

Karin Kloosterman lives in Jaffa, Israel. She is a journalist, writer and blogger who focuses on the environment and clean technology from Israel and the Middle East. Published in hundreds of newspapers around the world, Karin also writes for the Huffington Post and Green Prophet.