Enterprise SSDs, Tiered Storage, Hyperconverged Infrastructure among Top Takeaways from EMC World

Posted on May 11, 2016 By Drew Robb


In what is destined to be the very last EMC World (held in early May 2016 in Las Vegas), the storage giant focused on innovation related to enterprise SSDs, tiered storage, hyperconverged infrastructure and more. While the future direction of the new entity is covered in more detail in Dell-EMC Merger Means Hyperconverged Data Centers and More Enterprise SSDs, this article sticks closely to the EMC side of the house. Here are some of the top takeaways from the event.

Back to Data Storage System Basics

The last few years have witnessed what appeared to be EMC veering further and further away from its roots. It began more than a decade ago with more emphasis on software. Then the software side began to dominate. The company then involved itself in many diverse acquisitions.

As its catalog of acquisitions mounted, EMC World began to give almost equal visibility to some of its junior entities such as VMware, RSA, Pivotal and VCE. It was quite common for the head of EMC to be joined on stage during his keynote by the heads of Pivotal, VMware and RSA.

But that all changed this year. There was no more room on stage for anyone else other than mainline EMC storage execs and, of course, the new boss Michael Dell. Gone were the lengthy keynotes on the intricacies of VMware, insightful briefings about the potential of Pivotal or sessions concerning the trials and tribulations of enterprise security and how RSA could solve them. This year, it was all about enterprise solid state drives (SSDs), flash, tiered storage and cloud infrastructure.

EMC Not Slowing Down

Acquisitions typically halt any and all innovation within the acquired company. Due to uncertainty about the future, the general practice is to adopt a wait-and-see attitude, spin the wheels and begin sending out resumes just in case. This doesn’t seem to be what is been happening at EMC, at least on the technology front.

Jeremy Burton, president, products and marketing, EMC, unveiled a snowstorm of new product releases ranging from enterprise SSDs to disaster recovery (DR), backup and content management.

‘We have not slowed down our rate of innovation during the merger,” he said.

Unity Line of Enterprise SSDs

There is no question that EMC is continuing to push ahead on the development of new enterprise SSD products. For example, it released the new Unity line of midrange flash at EMC World.

"This is an all-flash array in a 2U form factor with a starting price of $18,000 dollars,” said Burton. “It can deal with file or block storage, and supports VMware VVols.”

He said that Unity is a cousin to VNXe (it was built by the same team), but it’s a new product and a new code base. Unity can scale to 1000 drives. In terms of pricing, Burton said Unity is for the small and midsized market. Whereas other EMC flash lines such as Xtreme IO would be priced starting from $100,000 to millions, and VMax would deal with workload consolidation of even larger sites, Unity slots in in the lower-price range.

“Others advocate one size fits all for enterprise SSD, but we say you have to have the right horse for the right course,” said Burton “XtremeIO doesn’t go down much below $100,000 and that’s where Unity fits in.”

He expects the Dell distribution channels to do well with this new line of flash.

Jeff Boudreau, senior vice president for mid-range business at EMC, expanded on this theme. He said Unity has a compact, dual-controller design, utilizes the SuSE Linux operating system, and has a new file system. He said it offers three times the performance of EMC VNX products, taking up one third the space and at half the cost.

“Unity can be used in a virtual, flash, hybrid or converged deployment,” said Boudreau.

Tiered Storage in the Cloud

Virtusteam was one of those EMC acquisitions that sent plenty of heads scratching. Why buy a company that is a pure play public cloud hosting environment for mission-critical applications such as SAP and Oracle? But the roll out of Virtustream Storage Cloud answered many of those questions.

EMC began its cloud journey a few years back when it released EMC Atmos. This software-based object store was replaced by EMC Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS). What EMC did was take ECS to Virtustream and asked the newly acquired company to build a hyperscale cloud. The resulting product integrates with various EMC products such as VMax and Data Domain in order to take cold data and automatically migrate it to the cloud. This, in effect, provides a hybrid cloud where users can set policy on what and when data is sent to the cloud, what is retained internally and which backup copies should be made as well as migrated to Virtustream.

“Virtustream is not intended to compete with Amazon as low-cost cloud storage,” said Burton. It is a value-add to our backup and DR products. It is a hyperscale object storage system that makes our storage and backup better, and allows you to tier your storage and your backups."

Kevin Herrin, vice president of cloud services at Virtustream, explained that customers are only billed for what they use and when they use it. This new way of tiering storage makes it possible to seamlessly link private and public cloud storage into one big hybrid cloud. It can also be used for long-term offsite retention of backups, doing away with the need to send tapes or other data offsite.

“Cautious CTOs may be resistive to moving into the cloud,” said Herrin. “We offer them an easy transition, with the right security certifications. We are about mission critical cloud versus deep and cheap.”

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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