EMC creates new unified storage family

NEW YORK — EMC Corp. has created a new family of unified storage systems aimed at small and mid-sized organizations that industry analysts believe will put competitors deeply on the defensive.

The raft of product announcements made Tuesday, dubbed “the greated leap in storage industry history,” by company president Pat Gelsinger, was accompanied by gimmicks such as paying a motorcycle stunt man to jump over 40 Symmetrix servers and cramming 28 gymnasts into a BMC Mini car.

Aside from the stunts, the focus was on the VNX family, which essentially merges EMC’s Clariion storage area network (SAN) and Celerra network attached storage (NAS) lines into one box.
In doing so, EMC hopes to convince companies buying SAN and NAS from different manufacturers to switch to the new system.
Eric Herzog, vice-president of product management and marketing for the unified storage division, explained in an interview that a lot of customers run a combination of block-based storage (storage area network or direct attached storage) and run separate network attached storage, or want to add NAS to their architectures. The VNX system allows administrators to run both or either in one system.
“They don’t have to buy separate boxes from separate vendors,” he said, “and it’s got the same management interface,” called Unisphere. Last fall EMC unified its Clariion and Celerra management software under Unisphere. VNX unifies the hardware.
A VNX system, which runs on six-core Intel Xeon CPUs, can hold up to 1,000 hard drives, or 2 petabytes of data.
The VNXe series are smaller models targeting small businesses, a first for EMC, which also announced it is aggressively courting channel partners to push the models. Herzog said the system is cost-effective (prices start at US$9,499), highly scalable (up to 120 disk drives, or 240 TB of data) and easy to install and manage through wizards.
The VNXe could also be used by enterprises for departmental demands or in remote offices, Herzog said.
“This is a very large announcement for the company,” he said. “Consolidating block and file into one system gives customers lots of flexibility, whether you are a global enterprise or in the SMB space.”
Industry analysts agree. In an interview, Mark Peters, a storage analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, argued that in creating the VNX line, EMC will force storage competitors like Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., Dell and others to talk about unified storage in raw data storage in response to VNX. “Already I’ve seen debates in the blogosphere like ‘Is this really unified?’ Instantly, the debate has moved to talk about unified,” he said. “It’s a big shift in the market.”
Competitors will respond intially by dismissing VNX, Peters predicted, which means for the time being EMC will have framed the unified storage debate, at least until the others repsond with products similar to VMX.
Others have unified storage products, he added, the best known being NetApp. However, NetApp hasn’t got the market share EMC has, Peters said.
Mike Karp, vice-president and principal analyst at Ptak Noel and Associates in Boston, said the VNXe will appeal to a “huge” number of small businesses with big data needs but small IT staff. “It opens a whole new market for these guys. EMC has never had a history of dealing with the low end. If they have come up with an easy to provision, easy to manage and near bullet-proof storage, that’s a huge advantage for users.”
Competitors can’t offer anything close in pricing or ease of use, he added.
The VNX and VNXe series will be available at the end of February.
EMC claims the VNX series is three times more efficent and three times faster than its current midrange storage systems. For example, the company says a VNXe system can boot 500 virtual desktops in eight minutes.
Software suites available for the VNX include the optional FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) Suite and the ability to create virtual pools.
The company also announced a refresh of the software for its Symmetrix VMAX enterprise storage software system, adding 55 new features.
In an interview, Barry Burke, chief strategy officer for the Symmetrix line, highlighted three of them:
— the Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) capability, which had worked on moving full data volumns has been enhanced to work on blocks of data that the software identifies as contributing most to data degredation. Those get moved to flash memory. Data that isn’t being touched get shifted to lower-cost SATA hard drives;
— federated live migration allows customers to plug a new VMAX array in a SAN and redirect data to it in real time;
— data at rest encryption (DARE), hardware-based encryption for any drive.
Finally, EMC found room for new backup and archiving solutions. The refreshed Data Domain GDA deduplication storage appliance has two controllers and effectively doubles the capacity and performance of the previous version. It now supports the EMC Data Domain Virtual Tape Library software option, which further expands the number of supported backup applications including IBM Tivoli Storage Manager.
Two new models, the single-controller DD890 and DD860 replace older models.
There’s also the Data Domain Archiver, which backs up like any DD system but hooks up to a so-called disk-based “archieve tier” for companies who don’t want, or need, to archive to tape.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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