Service Excellence

Apfelwein and EMC in the 1980s—What I Learned in Frankfurt

By Ben Chused May 3, 2013

The last time I was in Europe was 1998, so I was very excited to attend the 2-day EMC EMEA Customer Services Managers conference in Frankfurt. I kept a diary during my ’98 visit, so why not do it again this time around?

Monday April 15

Today I visited EMC’s Schwalbach office to present marketing updates to EMC Customer Services field managers from the eastern European and Mediterranean regions. I reviewed the marketing work my team is doing to promote capabilities such as EMC Secure Remote Support, EMC Online Support and our mobile app, the EMC Support Community, and our big plans for EMC World in May. There was great back-and-forth during these presentations, and the message I heard loud and clear was to never lose sight of our partners’ significant role in EMC’s ability to provide services in these regions.

Below are some pictures I took in Schwalbach. The first is a selfie in front of the office, the second is the sign out front displaying all of the different EMC offices in the building, and the third is the view of Frankfurt from a terrace outside one of the conference rooms:

Blog 7 row 1 larger

A group of us went out for dinner at a traditional Frankfurt restaurant where I learned all about Apfelwein, the state beverage of Hesse. Apfelwein is wine made from apples, and it is always served in a ribbed glass called a gerippte. Apparently the ridges stop the glass from slipping out of greasy hands when the drink is paired with fatty meat from the top of pig thigh. It wasn’t too badtasted like watery apple juice mixed with alcohol. However, I think I’ll stick with wine from grapes moving forward.


Shortly after dinner I found out about the Boston Marathon bombings. I’ve been proud to call the Boston area my home for more than a decade, so this news has left me speechless. It’s not going to be easy to get to sleep tonight.

Tuesday April 16

The day was filled with presentations delivered by many of EMC’s EMEA sales and services  leaders, and included a lot of talk about the dramatic evolution of EMC’s product and services portfolioincluding recent growth and the furious pace of innovation planned for the years ahead.

For you history buffs, EMC was founded in 1979 as a furniture company and didn’t make a name for itself as a data storage company until the 1990s. Now questions such as what the future holds for disk-based storage systems, how new consumption models will impact EMC’s portfolio, and how technologies such as virtualization and flash will shape the future are top of mind for EMC’s leadership.

EMC’s transformation really hit home during dinner when I sat next to 25-year EMC veteran, Rob Smith (real names were not changed to protect the innocent). With the dramatic evolution of the technology industry top of mind, I had to find out morewhat did EMC even do in 1988?

Rob explained that EMC operated as a storage broker in the late 1980s. During that time, the big names in hardware included many now-defunct companies such as Prime Computer, Wang Laboratories, and Digital Equipment Corporation. EMC would approach these companies’ customers and offer to double the memory in their Prime/Wang/Digital/HP/IBM systems from one megabyte to two megabytes for free by swapping in 2MB of no-name EMC memory and taking out 1MB of brand-name  memory. Once the large circuit board was swapped out and the customer saw that the extra memory worked fine, EMC would turn around and re-sell the memory from the well-known vendor.

The margins EMC made on the brand-name memory more than covered the cost of producing the EMC memory with 2x the additional storage capacity. This was EMC’s business model until the Symmetrix was launched and subsequently positioned EMC as a leader in data storage during the 1990s.

Below is an advertisement promoting the 2MB memory upgrade that reads “2 Megabytes of Memory for Prime 9750, 9950, and 9955 Computers,” followed by a picture of Rob and me during the tail-end of our dinner conversation:

Blog 7 row 3 finalLater, we all walked over to Tiger Palast for a cabaret-style variety show that included (among other things) something I didn’t realize was possible—one person doing a hands-free headstand on top of someone else’s head. I tried to take a good picture, but an iPhone in a cabaret type of atmosphere doesn’t produce the best pictures:


Wednesday April 17

Day two of the conference and it started early! Everyone looked a little sleepy after the late night, but we had a great series of presentations from some of my Hopkinton colleagues, including fellow InFocus blogger Mary Cay Kosten. Mary Cay devoted some time to covering a topic near and dear to my heartEMC’s proactive customer service initiatives. I predict that much of the work getting done now in this space will have a very positive impact on support delivery for EMC’s customers in the future. After a long day of sessions and some more great conversations with my EMEA colleagues, the conference concluded.  I was finally able to sneak out of the hotel and enjoy a beautiful late afternoon walk in Frankfurt before saying goodbye to the city. A couple pics of the city below:

Blog 7 last row finalStay tuned for my next blog, where I’ll re-cap my experience during EMC World 2013 in Las Vegas. Until then, Auf wiedersehen!

About Ben Chused

Ben is a Marketing Manager in the EMC Global Services organization. He is a marketing lead for EMC Customer Support programs with an emphasis on monitoring tools and proactive support capabilities.

Ben has an extensive sales and marketing background working at companies of all sizes across multiple industries, including financial services and market research. He is deeply interested in the constant evolution of the technology landscape and the history of technology change. Ben grew up in Washington, DC and also spent many years living in Las Vegas, NV. He currently resides just outside of Boston, MA with his wife and two children. Ben holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University and an MBA from Babson College.

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