EMC Finally Ships XtremIO All-Flash Arrays

By Pedro Hernandez

A year and a half after EMC snapped up enterprise flash storage pure play XtremIO, EMC has finally begun to ship hardware based on the acquired all-flash array technology.

The move follows an early-access program, which according to Ehud Rokach, VP and General Manager of EMC's XtremIO Business Unit, "had more than 100 customers deploy this," he told InfoStor. "All our major use cases" were represented, he said, including virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), server virtualization and databases.

EMC reports "high demand" for XtremIO arrays, "with 10 Petabytes of effective deduplicated capacity already sold." Now, the data storage giant is paving the way for them to make their way into more data centers.

XtremIO was acquired by EMC in May 2012. The Israel-based startup was founded in 2009 by former IBM, NetApp and VMware staffers. Rokach, who served as CEO, worked at Corrigent, a telecom firm, and Orckit Communications. Co-founder and chairman Jehoshua Bruck hailed from IBM Research and file management specialist Rainfinity, which EMC also acquired.

ISI financial analysts viewed the deal as a good course of action. "We view EMC as the 'Baskin Robbins of Flash,' providing the greatest variety of flash solutions (e.g., PCIe server flash cards and networked flash). We believe XtremIO will prove valuable in improving EMC's position in high-end, high-performance all-flash solutions," said the firm.

Now EMC is set to finally deliver. "XtremIO was really designed from scratch for an all-flash environment," said Rokach. Each building block, called an X-Brick, was architected in "a way that guarantees that any IO that is being written or read on the array can leverage all of its resources." X-Bricks are comprised of two controllers, each of which is outfitted with 256 GB of memory, and 25 SSDs.

Infiniband interconnects ensure fast data movement and linear scalability. A byproduct of "something that's tailor-made for 100 percent flash," is that enterprise storage setups can achieve "the highest performance and performance consistency that's available," said Rokach. In addition, they can drive storage efficiency by leveraging space-saving deduplication technology that is "truly in-line and has no background processes or post-processing."

Rivals are already weighing in.

Scott Dietzen, CEO of Pure Storage, another provider of all-flash arrays, said in a blog post, "We are excited that EMC’s principal flash storage offering in XtremIO is finally entering the market, as we expect both Pure and XtremIO to benefit hugely as customers redirect their purchases from mechanical to all-flash storage." Yet, he warns of potential upheaval at EMC.

Dietzen described XtremIO as "a nascent product that will ultimately cannibalize EMC’s flagship VMAX and VNX product lines. This is a difficult minefield for EMC to navigate."

In remarks submitted to InfoStor, Craig Nunes, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing for HP Storage, stated, "At this point, the EMC XtremIO all-flash array seems nothing more than a late attempt to play in the rapidly evolving flash market." He asserted that the "announcement from EMC amplifies the benefits of the singular architectural approach offered by HP 3PAR StoreServ Storage", which "spans from low to high while offering a common set of mature data services and non-disruptive data mobility."

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at InfoStor. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on November 14, 2013