EMC’s Excellent Italian Adventure: It’s Good To Be The King!

MILAN, ITALY: A significant reworking of EMC’s midrange VNX hardware and software, along with a variety of other announcements, including the now imminent release of ViPR, and a new cloud storage offering for service providers and enterprises, were the major announcements at this week’s gala launch and around-the-world, 24-hour live broadcast. However, it really seemed like what wasn’t said, was more the focus of the event. The more EMC announced, the more it seemed that there was even more to come.

“They didn’t need to do as much as they did,” said Mark Peters, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. “When anybody does more than is needed, then there’s always a bigger story.”

He said the news was compelling, but they didn’t need to make as big splash as they did, bringing in more than 120 journalists and analysts from around the world for a two-day briefing on existing customers, the announcements, and a very informative session with four VNX2 beta users. “I think they’re trying to do more, to get aggressive.”

This event, following on the heels of its VMware subsidiary’s VMworld, where they seemed to declare war on practically everybody, seems to indicate a major new focus by EMC on EMC, said Peters. “It’s their convergence of their various provider elements (i.e. VMware and RSA) to become a player.”

Speed and Formula 1 racing were featured liberally throughout the event, with racing cars and pit crews sprinkled throughout the event venue. No surprise that the theme of the event was Speed2Lead. Even here, it was more about industry leadership, rather than the substantially juiced up VNX2, although racing stripes were optional.

As EMC pointed out, they are still the dominant storage vendor, even though Dell claimed bragging rights for shipping the most capacity in the first quarter of the year. In a recent blog, Dell storage executive Travis Vigil wrote that his company was the “[No.] 1 supplier of enterprise storage systems capacity (internal and external combined) in Q113,” based on IDC’s first-quarter 2013 Worldwide Quarterly Disk Storage Systems Tracker, as well as the largest shipper of enterprise direct-attach storage (DAS) technology for the quarter.

According to IDC, Q1 was not a good time for storage vendors, with external disk storage systems factory revenues suffering their first-ever year-over-year decline, down -0.9% to just under $6 billion. EMC held on to top spot (30.4% revenue share), followed by NetApp (14.9%) and IBM (10.9%); Hitachi (8.9%) and HP (8.5%) finished in a statistical tie for the number 4 position.

EMC said they had shipped about 75,000 VNXs so far, split fairly evenly between enterprise, including 28 of the 50 largest banks, and SMB, said Eric Herzog, SVP, Product Management and Product Marketing, Unified Storage Division. While an all-flash version is being introduced with VNX2, over 60% of the units shipped with some flash installed, he added.

According to a May storage report from Gartner’s John Monroe, the NAS/unified storage market grew 19.7% last year, with EMC ($3.9 billion) and NetApp ($2.4B) holding the lion’s share, almost 80% of the market, and separated by more than $2 billion from their next two largest competitors, IBM ($269 million) and HP ($185M). EMC upped its lead from 41.7% in 2011 to 47.9% last year, while NetApp dropped from 36% to 30.3%.

The raw capacity growth rate at 15.8% was the lowest in recent years, largely due to tight budget constraints and the necessity of deploying greater storage efficiencies throughout the infrastructure. However, the research company still expects that capacity growth will continue unabated in the 35%-to-45% range, and it may yet exceed 50% in future years.

According to Gartner, the storage hegemony of EMC and the seven dwarfs — Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi/Hitachi Data Systems, HP, IBM, NetApp and Oracle —’ is already being threatened on multiple fronts by creative technology disruptions provided by such emerging vendors as FusionIO, Nimble, Pure Storage, Tegile, Tintri, Violin Memory and a host of others.’ The exponential growth of data is making disk too expensive, so scale-out storage systems based on industry standard multicore Intel Architecture (IA) microprocessors and open-source software ‘are poised to present a real and present threat to all vendors in the NAS and object storage markets.’

Software vendors such as Red Hat, Nexenta and CloudByte are driving the growth of x86-class servers with direct-attached disks supporting petabytes of (in most cases) scale-out storage. The Microsoft Windows Server operating systems now deliver significant native parallel input/output (I/O) capability, along with other efficiency, clustering and availability features.

While mergers, acquisitions and consolidation tend to preserve the “Big Eight” server/storage hegemony, Gartner still believes that the general trend of “all giants, no dwarfs” will prevail. However, by 2016 the ‘multiple potential values provided by servers masquerading as storage arrays will be an obvious force to be reckoned with for all vendors in all storage markets.’

Another recent report notes that EMC is feeling pressure from Amazon, which is currently estimated to have $2 billion in storage sales with an expected 65% growth in storage revenue in each of the next 2-3 years, which will make them a top 3 player in the storage industry.

That makes Project Nile, EMC’s proposed Elastic Cloud Storage platform that is focused on delivering Private Cloud control, security and flexibility with the scale, economics and ease-of-use generally associated with the public cloud,even more interesting.

Selected Sound Bytes From EMC (& Friends) Execs

There are three disruptive technologies driving today’s storage market – CPUs, visualization and flash – and the ongoing growth, said EMC President and COO Dave Goulden. “To deal with this growth, you must take advantage of all three.”

“Everything in midrange has changed from this moment on,” said Rich Napolitano, President, Unified Storage Division, who called this set of announcements a ‘disruptive moment’. “This is not an incremental step forward but a huge leap forward.”

When you do a refresh, you tend to expect to see an 80-100% improvement, but today we’re seeing a 5X improvement. “That is a radical transformation. This is a special moment in time.”

One of EMC’s key competitive advantages is its understanding of how to get the most performance out of CPU cores. It has learned how to produce 34,000 IOPS per core, which is part of the magic and power of the announcement, he said. The company has 43 patents pending in this area, and calls these developments “fundamental computer science that will last for years,” said Napolitano. “No one else in the market can make these kinds of statements around scaling. We already know how to get another 50% (performance), but not in this software release.”

EMC can now offer flash at the unheard of price of under $2/GB, said Eric Herzog, SVP, Product Management and Product Marketing, Unified Storage Division. However… they can halve that to under $1/GB.

VNX2 really delivers, according to beta user Paul Stemmler, Managing Director, CITI Infrastructure Group. The financial services giant saw a 74-120% improvement in performance for its key VMware, Oracle and Exchange workloads. Using compounding, it saw a 194% improvement. EMC said there were over 40 beta sites involved in the ramp up to this set of announcements.

Talking about the different workloads and their storage implications, Goulden said those requiring advanced services levels would tend to move to private clouds, while those that didn’t would move to public clouds. He said they were somewhat surprised, that public cloud is expected to grow 12%, hosted private cloud 10%, and the lion’s share, 78%, going to private cloud.

ViPR, whose release data has been moved up two months to September 27, really changes the game in terms of automation, said EMC’s Jeremy Burton, Executive Vice President, of Product Operations and Marketing. The secret sauce under the separation of the control plane from the data plane is levels of automation, and this automation is night and day different, he said.

Project Nile, EMC’s elastic cloud storage for customers’ private cloud or online service, will put pressure on Amazon, said Burton. While storage costs per gigabyte are declining on average 22% per year, Amazon’s rate reductions tend to range between 9-19%, “and the more you buy, the less discount you get.”

He said people will pay a little more for public cloud (even though EMC has found that on-premise storage is 40-63% cheaper than cloud over a three-year period) because it’s easy to use. That became one of the key focal points for Nile. “How do we provide easy?”

 

 

Author: Steve Wexler

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