Dan Dougherty Talks Big Data, the Cloud and the Red Sox

Dan Dougherty, EMC

Dan Dougherty, Vice President of EMC’s Federal Division talked with WashingtonExec about big data and cloud computing, commenting particularly on the potential for big data analytics in the federal government.  He also reveals a passion for Civil War history and the Red Sox.

WashingtonExec:  Please tell readers about your company and how you got started in the IT sector?

Dan Dougherty: After graduate school at Babson College, I worked for a small manufacturing firm in the Boston area.  I left that company to launch my own manufacturing company and in 1992, I had the good fortune to meet two great technology visionaries and leaders from EMC, Jeff Goldberg and Dick Egan (the “E” in EMC).  It was their passion for the industry that led me to EMC and that passion continues today through the company.


“Cloud helps to drive maximum business efficiency while Big Data actually creates value and relevance from massive volumes of data, which accelerates and improves the ability to react – in both national security missions and citizen services.”



WashingtonExec:  What do you feel is the most disruptive technology right now that will lead to lasting IT change?

Dan Dougherty: There are two major trends that are transforming the IT industry, cloud computing and Big Data analytics.  Cloud computing is revolutionizing the IT process by enabling organizations to deliver IT-as-a-Service to drive maximum efficiency.  Cloud computing provides organizations with a simple and elastic IT solution that drives self service.  Second, Big Data analytics is a paradigm shift that transforms how information is consumed for mission and agency use.  Big Data transforms IT –  improving efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing agility to deliver a product that better meets the needs of its users in less time.

Both of these are disruptive because of the dramatic benefits they deliver to the agencies and the missions that they support.  Cloud helps to drive maximum business efficiency while Big Data actually creates value and relevance from massive volumes of data, which accelerates and improves the ability to react – in both national security missions and citizen services.

WashingtonExec: What is one of the biggest shifts in IT that has affected EMC’s storage business?

Dan Dougherty: No doubt, the biggest shift in the IT industry is the move to virtualization as a foundational element to cloud.  Virtualization is a fundamental shift in industry dynamics that will have a far-reaching impact, just as the personal computer was a generation ago.  It’s no coincidence that EMC competes in such a fast growing market and delivers world class products and solutions to help customers on their journey to the cloud.  Traditional Enterprise IT is complex, expensive, inflexible and siloed.  Cloud computing has a broad appeal because of its simplicity, affordability and flexibility in a dynamic environment.

WashingtonExec: We’ve heard that new clouds models are emerging.  Can you tell the readers about this?

Dan Dougherty: As I talk to agency heads, CIO’s and our technology partners, three cloud models are prevalent:  private, public, and hybrid cloud.

Private cloud is the place where most IT organizations begin because it is owned and operated by your own IT organization yet it provides the same benefits of a public cloud, including simplicity and elasticity.

Public cloud enables IT organizations to easily consume a cloud model, but without the internal infrastructure required for a private cloud.  Service Providers are creating new options for IT organizations with this private cloud model.  Providers are beginning to deliver highly specialized services for industries, geographies or applications.

Finally, a hybrid cloud approach takes the best of both the private cloud model and the public cloud model, by  enabling IT organizations and service providers to do what they each respectively do best – all while keeping IT in control.

WashingtonExec: When did “a lot of data” become Big Data?

Dan Dougherty: It is nearly impossible to pinpoint exactly when “a lot of data” became Big Data.  We’ve been hearing for years about “exponentially growing” data stores, but somewhere along the growth curve a line was crossed.  Big Data loosely describes any data store that has grown large enough to force changes in the way an organization manages, uses, and disposes of it.  Gartner pegs that size at 20 terabytes and beyond.  Big Data can be measured in exabytes and billions of files.

From my perspective, Big Data represents one of the greatest opportunities — and challenges — today’s Federal agencies will face.  To quote IDC, “The Federal government is the largest single producer, collector, consumer, and disseminator of information in the United States.”* Many agencies have trouble simply storing their Big Data, with limited or no ability for analysis.  Others manage terabytes or even petabytes of data, but struggle to derive the meaningful insights that improve decision making.  This is where Big Data and Big Data analytics intersect, as well as where EMC is delivering new storage architectures and unified analytics engines to market, to help our customers manage the storage of the explosive data environments, and glean insight from that data whether it be structure or unstructured.

WashingtonExec: What do you see as the potential for Big Data analytics in Federal?

Dan Dougherty: The range of potential applications for Big Data analytics in the Federal government is extremely exciting.  Analytics can deliver enormous value to Federal agencies in the intelligence community, the DoD and Homeland Security, the Justice Department, the U.S. Treasury and financial sector agencies and social services.

I can think of just a few simple examples where Big Data analytics can help the Federal government:

  • Improve counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, cyber-security, and intelligence analysis
  • Support criminal investigations, such as organized crime and drug enforcement actions
  • Assist with immigration control, border security, and maritime domain awareness
  • Secure, monitor, and track weapons of mass destruction
  • Verify identity, and perform real-time risk analysis
  • Enable healthcare exchanges to offer demand-driven, reasonably priced insurance options
  • Deliver IRS and financial services compliance applications
  • Support DoE, NASA, NoAA and other scientific analysis

WashingtonExec: We’ve seen EMC acquiring many companies over the past years.  Can you give us some insight into your strategy and what your investments look like?

Dan Dougherty: EMC’s vision for the future and its ability to continue to grow has stemmed from both organic growth and strategic acquisitions.  In 2011 alone, EMC spent 11% of its annual consolidated revenue on research and development – an important strategy to maintain our triple play: to gain share, invest for the future and achieve financial leverage.  EMC will continue to be opportunistic in acquisitions given the enormous opportunities in the areas that EMC addresses.

WashingtonExec: What do you like to do in your free time?

Dan Dougherty: When my daughter was in school I was the biggest fan of her volleyball, lacrosse and track teams and was always cheering from the sideline.  Civil War history is fascinating and on weekends you may see me at any one of the local battlefields.  I am a long-time member and contributor to the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT).  Being from Boston and having lived in Ohio naturally I’m a big fan of the Boston Red Sox, New England Patriots, and Ohio State Buckeyes.


Reference: According to IDC, “the Federal government is the largest single producer, collector, consumer, and disseminator of information in the United States.”  SOURCE: O’Brien, Adelaide; McCarthy, S; Clarke, R; Rubel, T. “U.S Government 2012 Top 10 Predictions.” IDC Government Insights (2011): 12. 29 Mar 2012.




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