Surprise! Surprise! (But not really.) EMC today announced that it is spinning off a new company, Pivotal Initiative.

Last December, while others in our industry suggested that VMWare was shedding its components that weren’t performing to help its bottom line and to keep the company focused on its highly successful virtualization business, we said that that was nonsense -- that there was something much bigger at play (especially because EMC’s precious assets Greenplum and Pivotal Labs were involved), that EMC would be spinning off a new company and that its business would be Big Data Apps.

This morning we were proven right.

Pivotal Initiative Launched (With a Lot of Support)

EMC Chairman Joe Tucci stood before an audience of EMC’s institutional investors earlier today and formally announced that his company would be spinning off a new company, Pivotal Initiative which he plans to eventually take public. (EMC did this with the now publicly traded VMWare in 2004.)

Pivotal Initiative takes three things from EMC, according to Tucci -- its Big Data gem Greenplum, Pivotal Labs and cash. (Pivotal Initiative already has 300 million in revenues, according to Tucci).

VMWare contributes Cloud Foundry, SpringSource, Gemstone and Cetas to the venture. And, of course, employees from each company will be moved to Pivotal Initiative, seeding it with 1200 professionals who know their specific technologies as well as anyone in the world.

Learning Opportunities

Focus on Fast Data and Big Data Apps 

Though we’ll learn more about Pivotal’s plans from its CEO, Paul Maritz (he is the former CEO of VMWare, a longtime top executive at Microsoft, and was until today, EMC’s Chief Strategy Officer) later today and over the next few weeks (they’ll soon be touring), we already know that the company will be all about Fast Data and Big Data Apps, that it will not tie its apps only to VMWare, that they will be able to run on Amazon, Azure and other and others as well.

Is Pivotal Initiative a risk to EMC?

Tucci says yes, but he wouldn’t be doing it unless he had the right team and the right “stuff” in place. Maritz, no doubt, is the right leader.

His big challenge now is to get his virtual team (it doesn’t seem that Pivotal will have a headquarters, how about that Marissa?) to play together from a distancewhile at the same time keeping each previously semi-independent business unit from losing focus on what it does best. Consider that Greenplum announced its Big Data disruptor Pivotal HD last month and that it has to sprint if it wants to take a bite out of Cloudera’s lead in the space.