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Four Years Later: The Return of 31 Flavors of Flash?

On the eve of EMC’s big 2016 flash announcement, I thought it an apt time to take a look back through history of how EMC’s flash strategy has evolved. Nearly four years ago, I wrote a blog, “31 Flavors of Flash.” I pointed out that EMC’s flash strategy was, well, fragmented at best, and that buyers should be careful about committing to any EMC flash product, given their strategy at the time. Let’s look at what’s transpired since that original blog.

EMC response blog image

Fast forward four years, and some things have changed, while some remain the same:

  1. EMC is “All-In” with Flash for Primary Storage. Strong kudos to EMC, who after a few years of chasing the hybrid myth, made a set of “bet the company” decisions to be all-in with flash – validating the strategy that we at Pure Storage built our company around. They have been, by far, the most aggressive executor of any legacy storage vendor toward flash, and have helped move this market forward appreciably. For this we thank them!
  1. As predicted, some products have consolidated. EMC’s “Tier 0” uber-performance flash JBOD, Thunder, was put out of its misery before launch, and vfCache (their Fusion-IO killer) has been largely deprioritized.
  1. EMC bet big on XtremIO. Over the past two years, EMC has all but pivoted focus entirely towards XtremIO. XtremIO has been aggressively sold, given, bundled and every other method possible to push XtremIO into the market. It wasn’t an easy path for EMC, but they transitioned a big chunk of the legacy VMAX base to XtremIO.
  1. And more and more and more all-flash products were added. All-flash variants of VMAX, VNX, VNXe were added to the stable, all-flash ScaleIO and DSSD were acquired, all-flash VxRail was recently launched by the EMC Converged Platforms Division, and now the market is expecting the launch of DSSD coming on Monday. And that was before you even consider Dell’s all-flash portfolio, which includes all-flash EqualLogic and all-flash Compellent.

So as a Dell|EMC customer, that leaves quite a few options to choose between – in rough order of high-end to low-end:

  1. All-Flash EMC DSSD (+ performance, – unknown software and data reduction features)
  2. All-Flash EMC VMAX (+ resiliency, – cost and lack of data reduction services)
  3. EMC XtremIO (+ data reduction services, – lack of built-in replication and proven resiliency)
  4. All-Flash EMC VNX (+ unified options, – lack of performance)
  5. All-Flash Dell Compellent (+ unified options, – lack of inline data reduction)
  6. All-Flash EMC ScaleIO (+SDS, – SDS)
  7. All-Flash Dell EqualLogic (+ low-cost, – performance and data reduction)
  8. All-Flash VxRail (+HCIA, – unproven enterprise resiliency and performance)
  9. All-Flash VNXe (+ low-cost, – performance and resiliency features)

So there you have it. Nine all-flash block storage products (I didn’t get into all-flash file options). Nine different all-flash storage OS software stacks.

I’m looking forward to EMC’s launch. From what I have read about DSSD, EMC is taking some important steps towards innovation there (raw flash architecture, and a bet on low-latency plumbing). But mostly, I’m looking forward to how EMC positions the nine all-flash products in its stable to customers. Will we see VMAX3 rise again like a Phoenix?  Which do I choose for which use cases?  How do I migrate between them?  Will licensing practices finally be made consistent between VMAX and XtremIO? Which products are part of the go-forward strategy? Get out your popcorn, folks.

And finally – I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention we have a bit of a big event coming up too. We can’t wait to show you the future of the all-flash cloud at Pure//Accelerate – our first user conference – in a few weeks.  Come join us!