EMC Unveils Invista

The long-awaited storage router is unveiled - a bit late, and with a few missing parts

May 16, 2005

4 Min Read
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NEW ORLEANS EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) today launched its storage virtualization appliance, christened it Invista, and admitted it will take at least until next year to achieve wide market appeal.

EMC chief development officer Mark Lewis kicked off EMC’s Tech Summit here today with the official announcement of the product he sketched out a year ago under the code name Storage Router. He said Invista will ship in the third quarter – a bit behind schedule – and originally will be targeted at large enterprises with at least five storage arrays, 50 Tbytes of storage, and 100 ports in use.

The shipping product is similar to what EMC has been demonstrating at tradeshows and talking about for the past year, albeit with a few missing parts (see EMC Takes Storage Router for a Spin and New EMC Group Jabs Veritas). Initially, Invista doesn’t include all the virtualization functionality of the IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) SAN Volume Controller and Hitachi Data Systems' TagmaStore.

Lewis says remote replication, continuous data protection (CDP), and mainframe support are in the works, though he provides no specific date for the upgrade and hints that features will be added gradually. Industry sources, however, say EMC will ship a significantly upgraded version of Invista in the first quarter of next year.

Until today, EMC had pledged to ship Invista by the end of June (see EMC Growth Continues and The Envelope, Please ...). As that's been pushed back at least a little, and some things are missing, EMC is already playing catchup. IBM has been shipping SVC since 2003, and Hitachi unveiled its virtualization when it launched TagmaStore last September. Besides replication, Hitachi and IBM have wider support for other vendors’ hardware.Lewis is conceding nothing to the competition. He says EMC’s out-of-band virtualization is superior both to IBM’s in-band network appliance and to Hitachi’s virtualization cache in the storage array (see Hitachi Struts Mr. Universal and EMC & IBM in Virtual Skirmish). He says EMC's efforts to achieve more than its rivals are the reason it's late with some features: “We want to get the architecture and foundation right, because you’re going to have to live with it. EMC will be there in price and features as those issues come in. We want to get the architecture down first. This market has had a lot of interest, but no buyers. That’s because competing products from major vendors have been inferior to the task.”

The competition is wasting no time counter-thrashing EMC. “If they had a full-blown virtualization box today, they’d still be seven or eight months behind us,” Claus Mikkelsen, Hitachi’s senior director of storage applications, says of EMC.

IBM storage software GM Tom Hawk adds: "This appears to be an extended beta program for EMC's high end customers in lieu of being able to true deliver disk virtualization. This approach is useful as part of a solution but doesn't provide protection for data that comes with disk virtualization."

Hitachi and IBM claim EMC’s lack of replication limits Invista’s usefulness, and EMC's critics say it is reluctant to offer replication because it would hurt sales of its SRDF replication software. Lewis says remote replication is coming in Invista, but SRDF will remain its recommended platform for disaster recovery and high availability.

Smaller vendors such as DataCore Software Corp., FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC), and StoreAge Networking Technologies Ltd. ship virtualization software, but the industry has been looking to EMC’s announcement to kickstart the market (see DataCore Sings Virtual Song, FalconStor's Feelin' It and StoreAge Touts Partners in Spaid). Now, it looks as if demand won't build overnight, and it will start not with the storage hoi polloi but among a select few large customers. “This is a high-end product,” Lewis says. “There will be limited deployments in 2005, with major deployments in 2006.”According to Lewis, Invista allows customers to perform volume management on the network rather than server – which makes it a competitor with volume management software like the Storage Foundation product from Veritas Software Corp. (Nasdaq: VRTS).

Invista will support Hitachi and IBM hardware in its initial release. It has a list price of $225,000, which includes virtualization of at least 64 Tbytes, plus management software and intelligent switches from either Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) or Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). Lewis says a McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) intelligent switch supporting Invista will be available in the first quarter of 2006.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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