EMC betting on flash array’s stability

LAS VEGAS – You might say EMC Corp. is in a gambling mood.

At its annual EMC World conference here the storage vendor said it will pay US$1 million for the first customer of an XtremeIO all-flash array that can prove the system’s inline data services have switched off or been throttled back to a default state.

The promotion, which runs until Sept. 30, is to showcase EMC as a major flash player for inline availability with the XtremeIO all-flash array. Another reason is to expose what it sees as the shortcomings of competing solutions.

“There is a lot of hype around flash right now,” said David Goulden, CEO of EMC’s information infrastructure division. “Companies are making false claims on what they can and cannot do. We are different and we thought the best way to demonstrate it, especially since we are in Vegas, was to offer the $1 million guarantee. So we did.”

The company also announced it is buying a startup that makes rack-scale flash storage solutions (see below).

Goulden did not name competitors the $1 million challenge is aimed at, but the speculation here is the company is calling out Pure Storage of Mountain View, Calif.

Pure Storage recently raised $225 million, with CEO Scott Dietzen saying this capital financing positions his company for long term independence.

Other activity in the sold state array sector includes Cisco Systems acquisition of Whiptail and Dell’s purchase of Compellent. Other flash array manufacturers include Hitachi Data Systems, IBM, NetApp, Nubus Data and Fusio-IO, slong with startups Coraid, SolidFire, and Violin Memory are others in the all flash box market.

Pure Storage is doing its own bit of guerrilla marketing this week, hosting a smaller conference on the Las Vegas strip.

Goulden isn’t really worried about paying out on the promotion. “I just wanted to highlight the difference and how we compare to all these other flash boxes. Some of these boxes have leftovers from disk storage,” he said.

The $1 million guarantee wasn’t the only promotion launched at the show. EMC also unveiled a trade-in program called the All-Flash Array Rescue Program. The program offers customers who have purchased a competing all-flash array to trade it in to EMC for a new XtremeIO systems. Details of this program were not released.

Also on Monday EMC confirmed it has bought Silicon Valley start-up DSSD Inc., a new rack-scale flash storage solution.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based DSSD has architecture that complements EMC’s flash storage product line. The timing of the announcement might be a better indicator as to why EMC [NYSE: EMC]  acquired the little-known vendor. Jeremy Burton, the president of products and marketing for the company’s information infrastructure division, said it’s moving to a third platform of storage that can enhance the performance of applications such as SAP Hana and Hadoop.

Burton cited an IDC study that found 2.8 per cent of data centres will be have flash arrays by 2017. “Most will be hard drives, while flash is growing. Flash is important and the economics are also important. Supporting commodity hard drives will be important and it may lead to a church and state type of situation.”

Burton added that there have been no discussions or decisions on new products based on DSSD technology. There was also no news on if DSSD would be part of EMC’s federation company strategy with VMware, RSA and Pivotal. EMC was an initial investor in DSSD when the company launched back in 2010.

DSSD was founded by serial entrepreneur Andy Bechtolsheim of Sun Microsystems fame and Bill Moore. The acquisition is expected to close in the second quarter of this year and both Bechtolsheim and Moore will be staying on. Bechtolsheim will be a strategic advisor. He is also currently at Arista Networks. Moore will be tapped to lead the DSSD business within EMC.

“The chip has capacity and performance,” said Moore. “We designed the system so that it can extract the latency and deliver it up to the application. The other part of it is we take the level of performance where an app can actually consume it natively,” Moore said.

DSSD is also somewhat of a mysterious company in Silicon Valley. Burton called them a “stealth company.” The DSSD Web site (www.dssd.com) has a white background with the logo and a generic email address.

Moore agreed with Burton’s assumption that DSSD ran in stealth mode. “Any time some came by to find out more information on us (they were) immediately hired by us,” Moore joked.

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Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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