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EMC Megalaunch – Speeding to Lead Balloon

EMC Megalaunch – Speeding to Lead Balloon

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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.
There were many other examples of misleading statements which simply don’t reflect the market today.

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.


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Copyright (c) 2013 – Brookend Ltd, first published on http://architecting.it, do not reproduce without permission.

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://blog.cowger.us Matt Cowger

    disclosure: EMC employee.

    “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.”

    You may not think so, but clearly customers do. If the revenue continues to increase, its a clear sign that customers see value in it (otherwise they would obviously flock elsewhere) that you are missing.

    • http://thestoragearchitect.com/ Chris M Evans

      Matt, I’m sure you’re aware of the concept of inertia and inertia to change within IT. Unless a new technology is so disruptive, people prefer the status quo, even if it is inferior. This was another concept discussed by Dan Ariely, who I mentioned in this post – http://architecting.it/2013/07/09/thoughts-on-backup-and-restore/

      Some people see the benefit of change immediately, but most people prefer not to do anything that requires effort. The early adopters are already seeing the benefit of newer advanced technologies, otherwise the startups wouldn’t be in business.

      However we know that there are infection points in IT (have a read of Andy Grove’s book, Only the Paranoid Survive). Although they are usually not recognised at the time, EMC’s strategy may prove to be an inflection point for the company.


      • http://blog.cowger.us Matt Cowger

        Chris – You are absolutely right that inertia can keep a dominant but non-innovative player in the system for long after they really deserve to be. But how long do you believe that effect really lasts? And does it impact *all* companies? Certainly not, as you note that some early adopters are seeing the benefits from some of the startups. As to how long the effect lasts….I would argue that it couldn’t last much longer than about 5 years (average refresh cycle for this industry) in the aggregate. If EMC really was lacking any significant value in serving the customer and delivering efficient solutions, given that the last major refresh to the CX/VNX product line came over 5 years ago, the product line should have become irrelevant compared to other startup players. It hasn’t – and that can’t be solely explained by your intertia argument.

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