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Globe 100

Playing hardball

Thanks to solid growth and smart investments, data-storage firm is performing at its peak

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Hiawatha Bray
Globe Staff / May 20, 2008

EMC Corp. chief executive Joe Tucci hasn't played baseball in years. "There's not a lot of leagues for 50-year-olds," he says. Still, when Tucci accompanied the Boston Red Sox on their season-opening visit to Tokyo, he managed to fling a fastball that got past Sox pitcher Hideki Okajima and ripped a hole in a video-projection screen.

"I put a little extra zip on it," Tucci says.

He's been doing a lot of that lately, to judge by the performance of EMC, the leading producer of high-end data storage products, which drove the company to fifth place in this year's Globe 100 rankings, a big step up from last year's number 46.

"They are executing on all cylinders right now," says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford. "They're solid across the board."

EMC's traditional data storage hardware business grew 10 percent last year. Meanwhile, the company's data management and archiving business grew 12.7 percent, while revenue at its RSA information security unit rose more than 24 percent.

And then there's VMware, maker of virtualization software that lets companies do more work with fewer computers. Acquired by EMC for $625 million in 2004, VMware generated more than $1.3 billion in revenue last year, up 86 percent from 2006. EMC cashed in again with an initial public offering of 11 percent of VMware's stock, with additional equity sales to Intel Capital Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. The transactions brought in a total of $1.4 billion, while letting EMC retain firm control of VMware.

Based on recently released first-quarter data, there's no sign of a recession at EMC. Quarterly revenue of $3.5 billion was up 17 percent from the year before, with double-digit growth in hardware, software, and services. "We got a little bit of help from the dollar," Tucci notes. The falling value of the dollar makes EMC's products cheaper to customers in Europe and Asia, where the company derived nearly half its revenue last year.

Can EMC continue to thrive during a major economic slump? "I do think the economy is tough," Tucci says. "I don't expect it to get easier anytime soon." But even in bad times, businesses accumulate immense quantities of vital data. Companies have to invest in the hardware and software needed to manage it.

"There's never a case where spending gets shut off," he says. "It just gets inspected more thoroughly and dollars get parted with more sparingly."

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

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