EMC Muffs Migration

Major customer finds key incompatibility between Symmetrix 3000 and DMX late in the game

March 8, 2003

5 Min Read
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EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) has deeply annoyed one of its major customers by not disclosing an incompatibility between the older Symmetrix 3000 series and its recently launched DMX storage arrays.

Last month, EMC launched the Symmetrix DMX, a major enhancement to its flagship enterprise storage lineup. It's pushing these boxes hard, expecting the new systems to account for around half of all its high-end Symmetrix storage revenues for the current quarter (see EMC Soups Up Symm, Does EMC's DMX Measure Up?, and EMC's DMX a Slow Starter?).

But at least one Fortune 100 company -- which is eager to move to the DMX platform -- has been stymied because EMC's data-replication utility on the DMX isn't compatible with the one running on the older Symmetrix model the company already has.

Here's the issue, according to one of the company's storage administrators contacted by Byte and Switch, who insisted that he and his company remain unnamed. This admin says his company was in the process of moving from a three-bay Symmetrix 3930, which had maxed out its capacity at 256 drives and around 10 TBytes.

The company had already submitted a purchase order on a DMX 2000, which was attractive because it offers almost four times the usable capacity (up to 36.8 TBytes) than the 3930. But late in the process, the administrator says, EMC informed him that there's no way to connect the 3930 with the DMX via Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF), the data-replication software for Symmetrix.EMC proposed bringing in a "swing box," in this case a Symmetrix 8000, to act as the go-between for data migration. In this setup, the company would have had to do an SRDF transfer twice: once from the 3930 to the 8000, then another from the 8000 to the DMX. The storage admin says EMC proposed temporarily leasing an 8000 system for $75,000; the company declined and is currently attempting to figure out another solution. "Our management is furious with EMC," he says.

EMC officials say it always ensures its software is compatible with the prior generation, and they note that the customer's Symmetrix 3930 is two generations old. "This customer has a 4-plus-year-old system," says an EMC spokesman. [Ed. note: In other words, It's not our problem those guys are running a rickety old Symm...?] "Open systems migrations are rarely ever a problem, because most customers that purchase current-generation systems also have a prior-generation system they're either migrating from or that they can use as the so-called 'swing system.' It's basically a multi-hop migration."

Still, this need for a "multi-hop migration" is proving to be a major headache for this particular EMC customer. Our storage administrator says his company has a mixture of Unix and Windows NT servers, which run Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS) remote access servers, connected to the 3930. The problem is, he can't use NT's native tools to do the data migration, because they're not very advanced. "If it were just Unix that would be fine -- we'd just use the native Unix tools... but on NT, we're hosed," he says. "We could dump it over the network, but that would probably take the better part of two days."

The admin says the company hasn't decided what they're going to do, but it will probably look at third-party data-migration utilities. "We're going to leave it up to the NT guys to figure out a solution," he says.

EMC says if it had been a mainframe-attached Symmetrix 5000-series system, the customer could have migrated the data using Symmetrix Data Migration Services. [Ed. note: Damn! Why didn't they think of that sooner?!]Robert Gray, an IDC storage analyst, says it seems strange that EMC wouldn't support data migration from a Symmetrix just two generations old. "The ability to migrate data off an older generation to the new one is usually mandatory," he says. On the other hand, "Every supplier has to make investment choices, and sometimes it's a matter of testing or qualification priorities."

For comparison, EMC's two primary competitors in this segment -- Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) -- both support backward compatibility with software on their older systems. Hitachi, for instance, supports TrueCopy across its 7700, 7700E, 9900, and 9900V systems. IBM supports Peer-to-Peer Remote Copy (PPRC) across its three most recent generations of Enterprise Storage Server (ESS) systems, including the Shark 800 as well as the older F- and E-series systems.

But in general, users of an older storage system are obviously more likely to get stuck in a bind when a vendor stops actively developing it.

Bill Peace, a server support specialist with Publishers Printing Co., a magazine printing firm based in Shepherdsville, Ky., had a different issue with the two Symm 3930s his company runs. Publishers Printing recently purchased servers that had only 64-bit PCI and PCI-X slots; the problem was, EMC had not qualified any SCSI host bus adapters (HBAs) that would fit into these servers.

"We complained to EMC, and we were told that they were going to concentrate on Fibre Channel and would not be trying to qualify new SCSI adapters" for the Symm 3930, Peace says. That meant the company had to either adopt FC -- or choose to move to another storage platform. It's opting for the latter route, and Peace says the company is currently deciding between an EMC Clariion CX600 or a Hitachi Thunder 9570V.Our Fortune 100 storage admin, meanwhile, mainly wishes EMC had informed him of the data-migration issue earlier. He adds, however, that he's impressed with the DMX 2000 system. "We'd probably be using EMC no matter what," he admits. Once his team figures out a way to get the data on the DMX array, then, he'll be all set.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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