Today, EMC hosted an event to update the market on its 2016 flash strategy. We praise EMC’s drive and market leadership around flash – more so than any other legacy storage vendor, they’ve taken an attitude of going “all-in” on flash, and are making it very clear to customers that flash is where it’s at in 2016 for any production workload – a point-of-view that we can’t help but agree with, since we’ve been touting it since the turn of the decade!
Before we get into the details of EMC’s announcements, I wanted to start by acknowledging a few trends which I think will make flash even more interesting in 2016. We call these the “Big 3 Flash Disrupters:”
So amidst all this change and given their announcement today – is EMC well-prepared to ride the Flash Disruptors of 2016?
Enter the Lamborghini: DSSD
After years of speculation, we’ve been eagerly awaiting the DSSD announcement. We have tons of respect for Bill, Andy and the whole DSSD team – from the early days of DSSD we often competed with them for key hires in Silicon Valley, and it was clear they were taking on an ambitious project.
Let’s start with what we think DSSD got right: a bet on embracing raw flash, a focus on next-gen data sets, a simplification of the layers, and a common object store. While increasingly larger SSDs are affording the storage market the ability to continue to plug flash into existing storage architectures, we can’t help but get excited when we see products built from the ground-up to really take advantage of flash, and that’s clearly DSSD – built for going after Disruptor #3.
Where – in our view – does DSSD fall short? The software and the scale, making it a really fast RAIDed JBOF, connected with proprietary wires, HBAs and software interfaces. At Pure we believe that hardware innovation only takes you so far — the real magic happens in software. In particular, software tightly-coupled with hardware and engineered together. Not joining this compelling hardware with a complete storage software stack was a missed opportunity: no data services, no copy services, and no data reduction.
That said, it’s fast, and it will unlock some new types of applications and analytics that aren’t possible on other flash products. But at what cost? There’s a long, troubled road of failed extreme-performance “Tier 0” solid state appliances and cards that have struggled to gain significant market traction over the years: Texas Memory DRAM appliances in the 90s/2000s, Fusion-IO and PCIe card adoption en-masse, Kaminario’s original DRAM appliances, Skyera’s direct-connect appliance, and EMC’s very own Thunder, killed just 4 years ago by EMC for being “too niche.”
The challenge with each of these approaches were three fold: hardware that was too finicky and exotic to reach real enterprise stability, super-high cost and limited scale, and a requirement for too many changes to the application model via custom interfaces. In short – a product for the storage 0.1 percent, kind of like a Lamborghini. Just looking at DSSD’s launch references makes this clear: super-computer centers and the DoD.
Return of the Prodigal Son: VMAX3
We are scratching our heads over this one. After a two-year run of pushing XtremIO anywhere and everywhere (particularly into the VMAX installed base), EMC seems to have reversed directions and is demoting XtremIO in favor of VMAX again. In fact, XtremIO barely got a passing mention in today’s launch event. We have already seen this behavior change in a number of customer accounts over the past month – and this makes it official.
I’m not sure any outsider will ever know the reasons as to why, but we can only speculate on some combination of:
But this switcheroo leaves customers with a confusing and frustrating choice:
And herein lies the problem: Resiliency is always important, but if I am serious about building a cloud environment for my applications, so is cost – and clouds just aren’t built on VMAX economics (or complexity). Today’s announcement was also very unclear in what actual modifications were made. How is this not simply yesterday’s VMAX filled with SSDs, and packaged in pre-configured configurations bundled with software and slightly more favorable business terms?
Finally, as we wrote on Friday’s preview blog, EMC|Dell have more than a few all-flash platforms at this point – nine completely Independent all-flash hardware and all-flash software OS stacks, to be exact. No consolidation came with this announcement. The reckoning is coming. Significant consolidation is needed. It isn’t a reasonable or viable business strategy to maintain nine platforms – I’d suggest you can probably cover the entire market in three or four, max. If you are buying into any part of EMC or Dell’s flash portfolio – you should be asking your account teams the tough questions – are you committing to a multi-year relationship with a product that is on the wrong side of the accountant’s line?
Teeing-up an Exciting 2016
EMC announcements aside – we couldn’t be more excited for the the year ahead in flash. If you want to hear more about the Three Big Flash Disruptors – you can bet we’ll have a lot to say about them, and a few surprises up our sleeves at our Pure//Accelerate conference in just two weeks. Come join us!