EMC Forms New Company, Decho, to Help Customers Take Control of Personal Data Online

EMC, the software and data-storage giant based in Hopkinton, MA, is announcing today it has formed a new company called Decho. The new organization is composed of two formerly separate EMC businesses—American Fork, UT-based Mozy and Seattle-based Pi. The merged operation will focus on cloud computing services having to do with managing people’s digital information, including the online backup and storage of personal data.

Xconomy is very familiar with EMC (NYSE: EMC) and Mozy. Back in October 2007, we wrote about the story behind EMC’s acquisition of Berkeley Data Systems, which developed Mozy, the online backup service. The Mozy desktop application automatically uploads copies of key files and folders to Mozy’s servers, and is best known for its popularity among consumers rather than companies.

As for Pi, the software startup was acquired by EMC last February, and has always been pretty stealthy about what it’s doing. (Its name stands for “personal information,” not the transcendental number we know from geometry class.) The firm was originally founded by ex-Microsoft exec Paul Maritz, who became CEO of VMware (also part of EMC) in July. Maritz will remain at VMware, and is on the board of Decho. The new company has more than 100 employees based in four cities: Seattle; American Fork, Utah; Montreal, Canada; and Bangalore, India.

Charles Fitzgerald, Decho’s vice president of product management (also an ex-Microsoftie), sat down with Xconomy last week to tell us more about the direction of the company. First of all, its name stands for “digital echo,” referring to the data bouncing around between a user’s devices—phone, laptop, desktop—and the Internet cloud. “If you look at the new Decho entity, we are a cloud-based service provider focused on personal information. We’re beyond the startup stage,” says Fitzgerald. “We have eight figures of revenue now and are growing nicely…The revenue is all coming from Mozy.”

Why focus on personal information management? Fitzgerald cited four catalysts: the sheer volume of data out there (70 percent is from individuals—things like photos and documents); redundant information scattered across many devices; the desire of customers to save data for decades; and the need to categorize and tag our information in an automated way. “Today’s world is very device-centric,” Fitzgerald says. “Instead of a device-centric world. we’d like to have an information-centric world where the core information is something I can act on and protect and manage and enrich very explicitly.”

To that end, Decho will be combining Mozy’s technology—cheap disk storage with advanced software algorithms—with Pi’s “metadata” platform. “Pi provides some very sophisticated metadata management—finding, tagging, and indexing stuff and having a more semantic understanding of the data in these clouds,” says Fitzgerald. “We have a bunch of data centers like other people, but the magic is at the software layer…Mozy will continue to be the brand for online backup going forward, but you will see us also provide some additional applications to take advantage of that back end.”

Fitzgerald isn’t saying much about what those applications will be just yet. “You can think of multiple propositions,” he says. “We certainly will go back to somebody who has done backup and say, ‘Hey, would you like to do more with your backup? You have a critical mass of data in the cloud, and there are other things you can do with it.'” Fitzgerald adds that the main challenges going forward are on the business side rather than technical, and they include “getting customers comfortable with the platform.”

So, will Decho be primarily a consumer brand, and how will EMC run it? Fitzgerald hinted that the new venture will be a fairly autonomous entity. “We are a cloud service provider who sells all the way up to GE—but part of the reason for making it a new company is that it is a very different space from the traditional EMC space,” he says. “Catering to consumers among other customers is very different from anything EMC has done traditionally. In recent years, they’ve been pretty good at making things more or less loosely coupled depending on what they need to do from a business perspective. VMware and RSA are more or less autonomous.”

We’ll have to wait and see what new products Decho has in store for its users, and what its impact will be on EMC’s business. But all signs point to it being a formidable competitor in the race to cash in on people’s need to organize their stockpiles of personal data online.

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2 responses to “EMC Forms New Company, Decho, to Help Customers Take Control of Personal Data Online”

  1. John says:

    This is interesting news. I currently use the MOZY software to back up my media computer to save digital pictures and videos that I wouldn’t want to lose in the event the original machine loses the data somehow. The advent of some intelligence around the data would sure help as the amount of data increases over time I could see this as being a great addition.