It’s difficult to know where to start with EMC’s “Megalaunch”, broadcast for 24 hours yesterday, but let’s split it into two; the hyperbole and the actual product announcements.
With reference to Happy Days, EMC have certainly jumped the shark. Some may say they jumped the shark some time ago when they decided to ride a motorbike over a row of storage arrays, or crammed 26 people into a mini. With this announcement the connection to F1 was tenuous at best and cringeworthy in most places, especially the track racing. Then there’s the competition bashing. We all know who “Brand-N” and the others are. Did the lawyers say you couldn’t use their actual names in case you were sued? That’s probably because these performances have no basis in reality or truth.
So who are these presentations aimed at? Do CxOs really watch and think, “Wow a Lotus branded VNX, just what my data centre needs”. I can’t imagine so. They are focused on delivering service to their own customers, on reliability, on availability, reducing risk, improving competitive advantage, not what colour the bezel on the front of the array happens to be.
I’m not alone in my condemnation of EMC’s approach. The Twitter stream was awash with negative comments (other than from EMC employees) as was my DM back channel. I’ve linked to some related posts at the end of this article that highlights the negative feeling.
We certainly had plenty of that yesterday. Check out the definition if you’re not sure what it means. Here’s a couple of specific quotes from the presentations:
- Rich Napolitano talking about the evolution of flash in VNX said – “We inserted flash into arrays designed for HDD and that’s what’s prevalent in the market today”. WRONG. Hitachi & HP have already evolved their architectures to cater for flash, including custom hardware design. Hitachi have released flash blades and increased their VSP/HUS-VM performance significantly. HP have re-written 3PAR code with new ASICs and delivered significant performance improvements. We also have a range of bespoke SSD array vendors who have been delivering products for at least the last 2-3 years, some of them in their 3rd generation of release, including Whiptail, Kaminario, Pure Storage, SolidFire and Nimbus Data. There are also hybrid startups like Tegile and Nimble Storage who have been using hybrid solutions. Even “Brand-N” have a wider flash strategy than EMC as they have already brought dedicated flash arrays to the market.
- David Goulden in his off-air interview with Dave Vellante said – “You can’t address the wide range of performance and capacity requirements with a single architecture” – Well, others would choose to argue different. HP have amended their 3PAR architecture to scale from the entry level 7200 at under $25k to the 2.2PB 10800 with specific 7450 flash model in between. NetApp have based their entire architecture on a range of hardware and a single operating system, Data ONTAP, which in actual fact we know is two; 7-mode and cluster-mode but can still be deployed across their entire FAS portfolio.
The Real News
So what was actually announced? Probably most significant was a major re-write of the VNX operating system. As Mark Twomey (aka StorageZilla) pointed out, it’s about using multi-core processors and current hardware architectures more effectively. Steve Todd also had a good post too, providing additional background. The re-writes give VNX a significant performance boost and more ability to handle flash drives. As Rich Napolitano admitted, the first flash implementations simply added flash to a standard array with little optimisation, so you were paying for flash without the ability to effectively use it. The new VNX models scale up to 1500 drives and a maximum capacity of 4.5PB, which overlaps them with the options for VMAX. Apparently there’s also a VNX-F, all flash model as referenced in the press release, but there doesn’t appear to be any specification sheets on the EMC website covering this. These changes simply bring VNX in line with the competition, who upgraded their storage some time ago (see links below to HUS VM and 3PAR).
Other announcements included GA for ViPR, EMC’s Software Defined Storage (control path only) solution, new VSPEX reference architectures and a curious new offering entitled “Project Nile”. From the details given, this appears to be a packaged delivery of storage offering block, file and object protocols, still running in the customer’s data centre. At this stage it’s difficult to see what this offering actually is, other than a meshing together of existing products.
The Architect’s View
It’s difficult to get past the hype and see the real value here. The VNX upgrade was well overdue but doesn’t leapfrog the competition and now we have some seriously mixed up sales messages. VMAX and VNX overlap in their capacity and performance capabilities. The new VNX-F would seem to be a competitor to XtremIO (which was conspicuously missing from the announcements). Project Nile will add yet another storage platform to EMC’s portfolio, which now includes VMAX, VNX, XtremIO, Atmos, Isilon, VPLEX, Project Nile and ScaleIO, none of which have any similarities or interoperability. Now you can see why ViPR is so important. I said recently that EMC are becoming nothing more than a portfolio holder of disparate storage solutions. The latest announcements reinforce that view. As a business strategy this approach is clearly working because EMC continue to increase revenue with each quarter. But does it actually serve the customer and help to deliver efficient solutions? I don’t think so.
- HUS VM – Hitachi’s New Midrange Baby
- Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform: Optimised Architecture
- HP 3pAR 7450 All Flash Array
- MCx, Its for reals (Storagezilla Blog)
- MCx: Affine Way to Core Affinity (Information Playground Blog)
- Don’t Shoot The Messenger’s Friends (Storagebod blog)
- Speed2Pb is Heavy Going (Storagebod blog)
Comments are always welcome; please indicate if you work for a vendor as it’s only fair. If you have any related links of interest, please feel free to add them as a comment for consideration.
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