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EMC's Unified Storage Division Is Focusing on Customer Requirements

Storage plays a vital role in such glamorous and revolutionary IT trends as virtualization, cloud and big data. While these are fun to watch and comment on, one should not forget the importance of product evolution. Day by day, customer requirements change. Storage products have to evolve to meet these specific needs, as well as be able to deal with the larger trends. EMC's Unified Storage Division illustrates how one vendor is keeping its eye on the customer requirements ball while also participating in the greater game.

In January, EMC combined two of its very successful product lines--CLARiiON for midrange block-based SAN storage and Celerra for file-based midrange NAS storage--into one unified product family called VNX, under the auspices of the new Unified Storage Division (USD). This was a bold move because EMC had to convince customers that it would not lose anything (existing functionality) and would gain something (such as better utilization of storage arrays), while overcoming the loss of well-established brand awareness (which is not always easy to do, even for a company the size of EMC). However risky, the move seems to have been successful. In and of itself, VNX product revenues have grown more than 20% since the launch, and over 80% of EMC's new midrange system revenue comes from the VNX family.

More recently, EMC’s USD made several product announcements related to the VNX family:

  • VNX high bandwidth: This delivers a 50% bandwidth improvement in the VNX5500, increasing bandwidth up to 6.5 Gbytes. Hey, all you need is to add an additional 6-Gbyte four-lane SAS UltraFlex I/O module for back end connectivity. (There will be a quiz later.) Seriously, high-end bandwidth applications such as data warehousing, video production and seismic data processing all seem to have insatiable appetites for more bandwidth, meaning there are commercial markets ready for this new solution.
  • VNX-F: This is the introduction of the VNX5500-F Flash (SSD-based) Array that USD targets for high-performance and high-availability OLTP applications that reside on Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server. The starter configuration is 2 or 4 Tbytes of flash. EMC states that flash storage delivers 10 times the performance of hard disk drives, along with the five nines of reliability needed for mission-critical OLTP. The array also qualifies as another example of the inexorable move to greater use of SSD storage within enterprises.
  • VNX High Density Cabinet: EMC can now replace five 1/4 standard racks of storage with two VNX High Density racks. This translates into a three times increase in raw capacity, with each rack capable of storing 1.6 petabytes of data. The VNX High Density Cabinet will be useful where floor space is limited or for customers needing to meet large archiving requirements

    Transformation trends are very important, but they take time; customers have immediate requirements that need to be met now. Whether for increased bandwidth needs (VNX high bandwidth), storage performance (VNX-F) or more capacity in a smaller space (VNX High Density Cabinet), EMC’s USD has recognized the customer needs.

    While evolutionary rather than revolutionary, customers who have those needs should find the upgrades valuable. Now, all these changes fall into the speeds-and-feeds category, but the evolution of speeds and feeds has been an ongoing dynamic that enables the IT vendors to keep up with customer needs. Recall that EMC made a major splash with its VNX announcements in January of this year. These efforts serve to extend these changes further in the midrange storage market.

    EMC is currently a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.