Friday, May 13, 2011

EMCWorld: Part 1: Cloud Tiering, Project Lightening, Intelligent Tiering and more!

EMCWorld came with all the fanfare we have grown to expect from a major EMC event. However despite the glitz and glitter what I found most impressive was the breadth and depth of their announcements.

Tucci introduced his presentation by talking about the end-user pain that regularly surface in his travels and discussions with end-users. The three big issues were how budget dollars were spent, not surprising when 73% of budgets are spent on maintaining the status quo and only 23% invested in helping drive business advantage, untamed growth in data was second followed by data security, an issue that stretches from the data center to the board room. The discussion of these real world concerns set the stage for the Tucci’s cloud onslaught and for the rest of the key notes to reinforce the cloud theme in their own manner and style.

As an aside Pat Gelsinger in a later presentation mentioned that EMC had managed to coral the maintenance cost percentage down to the low sixties with a goal to getting into the fifties. This success he attributed to their implementing their own technologies within their data centers. A successful example of eating your own dog food!

EMC’s cloud discussion has evolved from a private vs. public cloud discussion to one that focuses on the hybrid cloud where private and public clouds play complimentary roles in an enterprise strategy. To paraphrase Tucci “Hybrid clouds will become the de-facto enterprise standard”. Of course “Big Data” was not far from the discussion particularly as the event theme was “Intersection Where Cloud Meets Big Data”. In fact I doubt if there are many discussion where “Big Data” and cloud are not linked in some way in the conversation.

So to summarize some of the key announcement. I know I will miss some relevant announcement but these are the ones that registered with me: (in no particular order)

Cloud Tiering Appliance (CTA): I am sure there are a few early stage companies in the nascent cloud, file storage bridge market who have just had a tightening of the sphincter muscle. This appliance (physical or virtual) integrates with the VNX and is a policy driven file tiering and archiving tool. Its purpose is to facilitate the transparent migration of low value, cold data from expensive storage to a lower cost medium i.e. cloud. With its multiple protocols it makes adding cloud storage to a data centers storage hierarchy easy and transparent.

With the combination of the FAST tiering functionality within the VNX and the CTA tiering/archive migration tiering tool, EMC have introduced a tiering architecture that embraces the complete storage hierarchy from SSD to cloud. The potential contribution of such a capability to improving storage economics is obvious.

Current support is for Atmos powered clouds but EMC are in the process of qualifying support for other cloud providers.

The Cloud Tiering Appliance is not restricted to data on EMC storage. It is capable of siphoning data from non EMC hardware, read NetApp, and placing it in the cloud. The CTA will also support the migration of data from third party storage to VNX and later this year to Isilon. Question, who is the next target after NetApp?

Although just announced its adoption is quite impressive. They have approximately 800 unique customers with 3500 units installed and the current install rate is 300/quarter.

Fast – Intelligent Tiering of SSD’s: On this one I need to apologize to EMC. I missed their message on the functionality of their FAST suite. I have regularly been critical of the course granularity in tiering options such as FAST (1GB) and the lengthy update cycles (hours to days). I firmly believe that effective tiering solutions that manage solid state storage must use small chunk sizes to avoid the promotion of cold, inactive data and refresh cycles that should be near instantaneous. If not the storage will not be responsive to dynamic workflows. So my hat came off to EMC when I realized that they have blended the dynamic characteristics of FlashCache with its smaller more efficient data chunks (64k) and a millisecond refresh cycle, with a complimentary longer term view of larger chunk activity (1GB) and a refresh cycle of hours to days. Would appear to be best of both world.

Worth noting that in the last quarter 50% of all VNX sales were with FAST cache.

Project Lightening: Boy did this create a buzz or what!! EMC has (or will shortly) reach into the server space with PCIe/flash-based storage option similar to FusionIO. (speaking of sphincter muscles twitching). This server-side solution will be focused on compute intensive applications where IOPS are king. The BIG difference with the EMC product is the intent to support this server based cache technology product with FAST. A storage based tiered management software reaching in and managing server based cache. Most certainly heresy not to many years ago.

Flash 1st: This terminology is a bit of marketecture but it does serve to illustrate the EMC commitment to flash based storage. A new business unit has been created to identify and exploit new business opportunities based on flash technology. With 14PB of SSD’d already shipped in their array’s the commitment is well founded. EMC has already delivered all-flash versions of its VMX arrays and plan to offer this as a standard configuration by mid-year. Although an all flash versions of VNX is planned for later in the year that has not stopped them using this configuration to complete impressive benchmarks testing that logged over 660k IOPS. Their claim is that this number is understated.

EMC are broadening their flash options with the introduction of a cost effective, higher capacity (relatively speaking) MLC option while keeping their current SLC product on the line card.

To avoid this post turning into a marathon and a reading drudge I will close this installment with part 2 to follow in the very near future.

To be continued…………..

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