What do Evergreen Storage and Car Racing Have in Common?

This week EMC announced Unity/VNX3 as a flash-optimized array that can help you modernize your IT. While EMC is aggressively shifting its product line to all-flash, we continue to see the same technology and business model approach that is expensive, risky and burdensome for customers.

In describing the evolution of Unity/VNX, EMC invoked an analogy we like a lot and use routinely: “changing the entire car as it’s barreling around a racetrack.” Does this suggest that EMC’s new technology enables customers to use the storage they previously purchased non-stop, and upgrade it in place natively (i.e. without a bunch of other tools or equipment) throughout the product evolution without any disruption, downtime, data migrations or storage repurchases?

No.

While EMC has indeed evolved the VNX platform, adding new capabilities (and now going all-flash) — improving its own race car — its underlying technology and associated business models haven’t fundamentally changed, and the impact on customers should not be swept under the rug. The truth is, for customers looking to benefit from EMC’s new technology, it’s more like “pull your racecar off the track, head to the dealership, buy an entirely new car to leverage some new parts, tune it up and then head back out – a few months later.” The analogy truly falls short when you think about the customer – and the race car they need operating 24/7 to win.

At every stage of the evolution, customers have been forced to forklift upgrade their storage, just as they have for decades – with no end in sight. If we use the racetrack analogy, and the driver of that car represents you – the customer – and the other drivers and their cars represent your competitors in whatever business you are in, you can see how this ownership model doesn’t help you compete.

Let’s look at the economics. Imagine you purchased a CX array with 100TB. By the time you upgrade all the way to the latest VNX3/Unity array, you may have paid for that same 100TB (and all associated software) four times.

At a very fundamental level the VNX/Unity offering, as well as others such as VMAX-F and XtremIO, are all designed with a finite lifespan beyond which the equipment needs to be repurchased, replaced and the data migrated. EMC is not alone here. Most hardware technology more or less follows this model, including your laptop, your iPhone, your servers, etc. That has become an accepted burden associated with hardware technology.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for your storage. Since our first product launch, our customers have been able to keep their storage running at full performance, non-stop, while they upgrade to our latest and greatest models – all without any data migrations or re-buys of that storage. Building a technology platform that enables such cross-generational evolution was incredibly hard, but the message from our customers is that our engineering efforts are worth it, creating real value and further differentiation for customers. We are continuing to innovate in this area and look forward to sharing more news soon. Stay tuned, and see you on the track!