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Enterprise Computing: Is There Any Point Buying From EMC?

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Yesterday, EMC announced Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST), their much hyped and much anticipated storage feature enabling the automated moving of data between tiers of storage on a policy basis.  However the most notable missing feature in the EMC announcement was the lack of support for legacy DMX-3 and DMX-4 platforms.  This to me sends a message loud and clear that despite continuing to sell it, the DMX3/4 legacy monolithic hardware is dead.  If that’s the case, why bother buying from EMC any more?

Discounting EMC in the storage array market may seem like a naive and perhaps foolish comment to make.  After all, recent IDC numbers show EMC top of the pile at nearly a quarter of all external storage arrays sold, depending on which figure you choose to use.  However, take a moment to look at the EMC briefing pages on FAST (you can find them here).  There you will see Intel co-branded with EMC, highlighting many previous messages that monolithic architectures are dead and commodity modular boxes are the way of the future.  We’ve seen that this year already with the release of Atmos.

To my knowledge, FAST is the first “innovation” of the new V-Max product line, but it isn’t unique.  In fact, I don’t think any features of V-Max are unique; the architecture is found in many other products.  There’s a whole raft of mid-range storage arrays from IBM (XIV), 3Par, Compellent, Pillar, Dell/Equallogic and HP (Lefthand) with the last two being acquisitions of successful companies.  I expect in the next 12 months we’ll see enterprise modular releases from Hitachi/HP and a revamped EVA.  Most of the products mentioned here have been designed from scratch to remove the legacy encumberances of the past that products such as V-Max still retain.

So what’s my point?  Well, simply this; EMC have legitimised the enterprise modular architecture characterised by V-Max.  This accepts that the future is commodity-based hardware with differentiation in software.  However, EMC are no longer the leaders in this field and are having to play catch up.

 There’s never been a better time to look wider than the Big 4 (EMC/Hitachi/HP/IBM) and see if the features you need can be found elsewhere.

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
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  • http://blogs.rupturedmonkey.com Snig

    Define “enterprise modular” for me…

  • http://chucksblog.emc.com Chuck Hollis

    Hi Chris

    I was with you with the first part of your comment, i.e. “EMC has legitimised the enterprise modular array” (we’d call it a scale-out architecture, but whatever) and that the future is “commodity-based hardware with differentiation in software” (partially true, but not entirely so).

    And then you took this big flying leap off into space.

    First, if you study the details, you’d probably agree that — currently — there is no storage array in the market today with an architecture as advanced as the V-Max. Sure, you’ll find lots of examples of co-operating nodes, but that’s just a simplistic aspect, right? Go check your earlier posts, you were pretty damned impressed at the time.

    If you remember, the V-Max is also bigger, faster and less costly than DMX it replaced. Don’t know if you call that a “feature” or not, but some might think it important — not to mention feature compatible.

    Since 99% of all storage features these days are *software features*, doesn’t that become a differentiator amongst all those vendors you mentioned? Or is it all about the tin? Do you need proprietary hardware in your array to be special? Hard to argue that point anymore.

    I do agree on your final point, though.

    There’s never been a better time to look wider and see if the features (and the scale, and the robustness, and the services, and the integration, etc.) can be found elsewhere. Why?

    The differentiation between V-Max and other alternatives is probably at an all-time high. Should make for a striking comparison!

    — Chuck

  • http://thestorageanarchist.com the storage anarchist

    While it may be true that no single feature of Symmetrix or CLARiiON are by themselves unique, I challenge you to find another storage array that supports as broad a range of these “features.”

    As I often cajole the bloggers over at HDS – it matters not who is first, it matters who ends up with the most market share. Each vendor will of course persue “features” in a different order based on their perception of priorities, and if a feature has true customer value, it will be inevitably be adopted by the competitors. Maybe not overnight, or at the pace you might think appropriate, but then, you can’t necessarily see the priorities or strategies of all the vendors, either.

    EMC clearly took the lead on flash drives, and it took the compeition more than a year to select the same drive EMC chose at the beginning of 2008. EMC has now defined the roadmap for FAST, and its intended value propositions. Whether first or unique matters not one iota – the question should be what will the others who have been attempting to differentiate with similar automation technologies do once their differentiation is eliminated?

    [engage: flame_retarted_outerwear]

  • http://thestorageanarchist.com the storage anarchist

    er…flame_RETARDENT_outerwear

  • Rob

    “Here’s a thought that’s been on my mind for a while. Hitachi Hu has been talking a lot recently about how monolithic architectures (like DMX & USP) are better. I’m not convinced on that. What I’m more interested though is how Hitachi/Hu will position themselves once/if Hitachi follow the market and bring out an “enterprise modular” array of their own….”

    As mentioned, scale. Reliability. Hard to RAID5 memory in the modular units (not enough memory to begin with). Manageability. One big box or 10 smaller ones to manage? I see customer with 20 or more of the modular units , the vendor adds another as growth requires. Of course their day-to-day involves a bunch of baby sitting as the modular ones occasionally break.. circling back to reliability! In fairness, from my example, could that solution been a monolothic? Probably would have blown out the CapEx initially.. so you can see how these modular units grow like weeds.

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