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EMC World 2016 Industry Snapshot

Published on May 9th, 2016. A concise Industry Snapshot on the the announcements from EMC World 2016. Includes information on EMC Unity, future product releases and our impressions of the event. Download the free report now!

EMC World 2016

EMC World Overview

The theme of EMC world 2016 was “Modernize”, with four underlying technology pillars: Flash Storage, Cloud Enabled, Scale-Out and Software Defined.  Also introduced was the name for the new company post Dell acquisition, which will be “Dell Technologies.”  There will be two sub-brands, which include Dell for consumer products and “Dell EMC” for enterprise products.

The announcements include the following:

  1. EMC Unity – New Midrange Primary Storage System
  2. EMC enterprise Copy Data Management – New copy data management product
  3. VxRail all-flash hyper-converged system
  4. Virtustream Storage Cloud
  5. Tiering from DataDomain to S3 object storage
  6. ViPR Controller 3.0
  7. EMC MyService360
  8. EMC VxRack with Neutrino Nodes
  9. Native Hybrid Cloud (NHC) – Engineered system for native cloud applications

Unity

The most significant product introduction is the Unity product, which is a new midrange product based upon EMC’s VNXe product. As with VNX/VNXe systems, Unity is a scale-up design, using controller upgrades to provide additional performance with disk shelves adding capacity.  Unity is physically integrated using a 2U enclosure housing dual, active-active controllers and devices. Starting price is under $10K for HDD based systems and under $18K for all-flash configurations.  It is being offered as a traditional storage system, and also as a software-defined application, known as Unity VSA.

The Unity storage system provides file, block and VVOL support natively utilizing the same underlying capacity pools.  In essences, Unity utilizes the VNXe components in a new more modular architecture and integrated into a 2U enclosure.  There are benefits to utilizing components of VNXe, including the ability to deliver proven features such as snapshots and replication along with active-active HA and failover.  Typically new products require several years before they are able to provide reliability and data services features.  By re-using components and architectural elements from VNXe, Unity offers a cost effective system with proven reliability.

There are some limitations with Unity, both in comparison to all-flash designs, and compared to dedicated VNX systems.  The scalability of Unity is not as great as VNX systems, since it is not able to scale-up some data services and interfaces. Features missing include compression, scheduled for later in 2016.  Overall, Unity should prove popular with existing EMC VNX/VNXe customers.

VCE Systems – VxRail & VxRack

EMC recently introduced several new hyper-converged appliances in conjunction with VMware, as an updated version of VMware’s previous EVO RAIL systems.  The VxRail systems were announced in February with the all-flash versions of the VxRail systems introduced at EMC World.  The VxRail systems leverage VMware software, including VSAN 6.1 currently, with VSAN 6.2 shipping on new flash systems.

VxRack systems have a new option known as “Neutrino” nodes.  Neutrino nodes are building blocks for cloud native applications that execute in a container with ScaleIO storage software on bare metal machines.  Customers or integrators can layer on OpenStack, VMware Photon, Hadoop, or other custom environment software that utilize VxRack hardware together with a pre-packaged OpenStack environment, for OpenStack flexibility with EMC support.    Each VxRack Neutrino system can have a maximum of 4 racks comprised of 108 nodes.  EMC VxRack Neutrino is positioned as an IaaS option for EMC’s Native Hybrid Cloud (NHC) platform, also announced at EMC World.

Both VxRack NHC and Neutrino nodes will be available in Q3 2016, and have planned support for VMware’s Photon and Apache Hadoop.

Software Defined

One of EMC’s continuing areas of focus is around software-defined components, which has grown to include Data Domain.  Their lineup of software-defined offerings includes: Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS), ViPR Controller, ScaleIO primary storage, Data Domain SDS backup target, and a version of Unity as a limited SDS offering.  The new software defined version of Data Domain is also available in cloud-hosted environments, enabling a remote target for data protection.

EMC is aligning the licensing terms for all of their software defined products, which enables download and trial of software products without pre-qualification.  Use is permitted for non-production deployments, such as proof-of-concepts, test and other scenarios.  Support is provided only via community forums, with production deployment and support requiring the purchase of a license.

This policy enables trials and proof-of-concept testing to occur outside of the sales cycle, thereby reducing the sales cycle and overhead typically associated with trials.  Although some small companies may decide to use EMC software in production, EMC believes these were unlikely customers and hence do not reduce revenue.

Virtustream Storage Cloud & Data Protection

Virtustream Storage Cloud is an offering to complement the Virtustream cloud service offering that is employed for critical, performance-demanding applications.  Virtustream Storage Cloud offers large capacity  object storage and is built using EMC ECS software, offering S3 protocol for an online object repository.  This includes use as a remote repository for the  Data Domain feature that includes a policy engine and data movement to object storage using S3.  EMC VMAX, XtremIO, Isilon and in the future Unity primary storage systems will support Virtustream Storage Cloud as a cloud tier.  EMC Data Domain and Data Protection Suite will support Virtustream as a target for long-term backup retention.

Virtustream Storage Cloud is being positioned as a service offering bundled with other EMC products.  In this way, Virtustream will be sold as a cloud extension of other EMC primary and secondary storage products.  It will be structured as an additional item, rather than as a replacement for on-premises equipment.

Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM) product version 1.0 was pre-announced, but not planned for shipment until third quarter of 2016.  eCDM is intended to act as a policy management layer to both catalog and manage the copies of data in an environment.  It will track array replicas and backup copies and facilitate movement to data protection systems for compliance.  Initially, it will support EMC storage products including Unity, VMAX and XtremIO for primary data, along with Data Domain using ProtectPoint for secondary data.

Pre-Announcements

This EMC World had more pre-announcements, technology previews and other introductions of products not currently shipping than is typical.   These included the following:

  • Project Nitro – New all-flash Isilon using blade architecture to support hundreds of nodes
    • Up to 60 SSD’s in a 4U enclosure, with 8 @ 40 GbE
    • Planned 15 GB/s bandwidth and 250K IOPS / 4U node
  • DSSD based VxRack system – planned for late 2016
  • Enterprise Content Data Manager (eCDM) planned for late 2016
  • Multiple SSD options across the EMC portfolio, including 6TB and 15 TB in 2016

Evaluator Group Impressions

There were several truly new product introductions, along with re-packaging and extensions to existing products, combined with a significant number of pre-announcements of products not yet shipping.  One aspect that was apparent during EMC World 2016 is the fact that an unusually high number of products were announced before they are ready to ship.  This is likely due to the pending acquisition by Dell, which is a significant issue weighing on everyone’s mind, including EMC employees, partners and customers.   By “announcing” products EMC is seeking to lock-in commitments from Dell, as well as partners and customers.

Clearly EMC is positioning themselves as an enterprise systems company, pending their acquisition by Dell.  From their messaging, it is clear they see their primary competitor as HPE, along with IBM to a lesser extent.  EMC and Dell appear to believe that integrated, converged and hyper-converged systems are the future, and they believe EMC-Dell is well positioned to leverage the next wave.

With the impending Dell acquisition of EMC, it is reasonable to question the longevity of some products.  However, Michael Dell and the management team were adamant that EMC would run the enterprise portion of the newly merged company, thereby maintaining continuity for EMC customers.

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