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This week, the storage industry turns its focus to one of the industry’s flagship events – EMC World. With so much uncertainty around how the new Dell/EMC structure will evolve, you can’t help but wonder if this will be the final EMC World of its kind. As we prepare to potentially bid farewell to EMC World as we know it, we decided to put some thought into the theme of this year’s conference – Modernize.
We love to talk about modernization. We, too, are firm believers that modern storage drives massive business transformation for customers. And like EMC, which has doubled down on flash in recent months, we believe that the underlying basis for modernization is an all-flash storage environment. So it seems ironic that the theme of EMC World – at a time when the company is being taken private and introducing retrofitted technology under the guise of innovation – is Modernize.
With its EMC Unity/VNX3 announcement today and recent EMC VMAX F announcement, EMC would have us believe that we can modernize by retrofitting 20-year-old architectures with all-flash. Can you modernize through retrofit? Fundamentally, it just doesn’t compute.
Imagine you’re in the market for a hybrid vehicle, because it gets 50 miles to the gallon. It’s not just the hybrid engine that contributes to great gas mileage. It’s the entire car, from aerodynamic design to weight to horsepower. If you simply drop a hybrid engine into a 1960s Mustang, for example, 50 miles to the gallon is no longer on the table. And, quite frankly, that’s not innovation – it’s retrofitting.
EMC has now pivoted back to retrofit VMAX and VNX arrays as their primary all-flash selling motion, so why will this retrofit strategy be limiting? It’s mostly about the metadata. Modern, all-flash arrays rely on rich, always-fast metadata architectures – it’s that metadata speed and granularity you need to implement advanced data reduction, copy services and flash management. The metadata is core to the inter-workings of the array, and is difficult or impossible to retrofit. Here are two tangible examples of how metadata shortcomings manifest themselves in EMC’s retrofits:
When the bright lights and machine-made smoke clear from Vegas, two simple truths emerge in EMC’s new flash strategy:
Four All-Flash Arrays, No Ideal Solution
Part of what’s made all-flash arrays so attractive to the market is that they are potentially a gigantic leap forward in multiple dimensions:
When customers buy into the promise of an all-flash array, this is pretty much the shopping list. And to be fair, EMC does deliver these attributes – but unfortunately not from a single product, which is why they’ve likely chosen this 4-product strategy. Below is our relative assessment of the attributes across these EMC products. As a customer, how do you choose?
Want resiliency? Pick VMAX. But what if I want resiliency and efficiency? Want the best performance while achieving simplicity? The choice becomes less clear. And this is only the beginning – don’t forget the Dell options (all-flash Compellent, all-flash EqualLogic), the all-flash hyper-converged options (all-flash VxRail) and software-defined all-flash options (ScaleIO, vSAN).
At Pure, our strategy is to deliver a purpose-built all-flash architecture from two products – one optimized for applications, databases, and VMs (FlashArray), and one optimized for large-scale file and object environments (FlashBlade). Both purpose-built for the use cases they serve, and neither making a customer choose between performance, resiliency, scale, efficiency or simplicity. We’ve built our arrays from the ground-up, investing in hardware and software that have only lived in the era of flash. And we’re only starting to exploit the advantages of more closely-coupling flash-optimized hardware and software – just check out what’s possible with our new FlashBlade product.
Some Recommendations for Evaluating a Modern EMC
So, if you’re looking to refresh your VMAX2, VNX2 or XtremIO, here are a couple of tips for you:
Modernization is not about getting incrementally better. It’s about getting exponentially better, all of the time, by innovating with purpose-built solutions designed to maximize the benefits of flash today and seamlessly integrate future technologies. That’s simply not something EMC can offer, and a problem that certainly won’t be addressed with retrofit arrays.