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Top Ten Takeaways from EMC World

EMC World just ended in Las Vegas this week. Now that it’s over, here are some reflections from myself and others on the high points and major takeaways.

1. ViPR has Bite

I had ViPR, EMC's new software defined storage platform, as one of the bright spots of the show. Analyst Greg Schulz of StorageIO Group concurs.

“ViPRs significance is that is a multifunction platform to provide storage and data services (block, file and object) to virtual, cloud and physical servers across different EMC, third party and white box or commodity hardware and open source software,” said Schulz. “More importantly, it can be an onramp to the cloud (public or private, hybrid or community) while transforming existing technologies into object accessible storage, or block or file to meet different organization and applications needs.”

2. Pivotal Announcement

Last year’s EMC World was marked by Paul Maritz passing the reins of VMware over to Pat Gelsinger. Many wondered what could have tempted Maritz away from VMware, and the answer was revealed this year in the form of Pivotal, a new entity funded by EMC, VMware and also General Electric. A decade or so back, VMware became the operating system (OS) for virtualized servers, displacing the importance of the desktop and server OS produced by Microsoft. Now Pivotal aims to be the overarching OS for the cloud.


“I was intrigued by the discussion around Pivotal and what it means for the development of new applications,” said Schulz.

3. Big versus Fast Data

Maritz made an important distinction between big data and fast data, and how the two can intermingle. For example, the many sensors in a jet engine can generate vast amounts of performance and maintenance data. Normal big data systems would first ingest it then analyze it. But Maritz revealed that the coming way will be to analyze the data as it comes in – i.e. fast data. This is one area where Pivotal is investing heavily.

4. File and Block Storage to Remain

While object storage is seen as the way forward for huge amounts of unstructured storage, that doesn’t mean traditional types of storage will become a footnote in history.

“File and block storage [are] not going away,” said Jeremy Burton, executive vice president, product operations and marketing, at EMC. “But next-generation cloud applications are tending towards object storage.”

5. Object Performance

File storage is more structured, using indexes to locate and retrieve data. Object storage has a simpler model without much structure. Instead of indexing, the details are stored on the object. That means it takes a little longer to find things, but it makes it easier to store a lot more and so accommodate big data. But Burton indicated that the performance constraint for object storage may be lifted soon.

“If you don’t require extreme performance, object storage is great,” said Burton. “But we are also working to make the performance of object storage great too.”

6. Security Strategy

With so much data stored these days, Art Coviello, executive chairman of RSA, noted that there has been a paradigm shift in security strategy. For decades, the philosophy has been to keep the bad guys out. Erect firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, anti-virus, anti-spyware, etc. He admitted that this approach has failed.

“The perimeter is gone,” said Coviello. The bad guys are going to get in.”

His solution is to perform security on the inside by detecting patterns and doing real-time analysis of behaviors to detect departures from the norm. Look for more announcements on this front.

7. Software-Defined Hype

It is now official: there is a lot of hype around software-defined data centers and software-defined storage.

“Software-defined storage is an overused term,” said Amitabh Srivastava, president, advanced software division, EMC. “Some vendors are taking existing storage products and characterizing it as software-defined storage.”

His refreshing honesty earned a cheer in the press room. However, the bad news is that EMC has just thrown its immense weight behind this concept. So that means we’ll be hearing a lot more about software-defined storage.

8. Revenue Growth

EMC is a cash machine that has grown from about $5 billion a decade back to almost $22 billion last year. Joe Tucci, chairman and CEO of EMC, predicts they'll get to almost $24 billion this year. EMC World manifested this aura of success, even flaunting it by hosting the event amid the extravagance of the Venetian Hotel and having DJ’s in the exhibit corridors. This is now, by far, the largest storage event on the calendar, and it looks like it will continue so for some years to come.

9. The United States of EMC

Tucci is clearly a smart man to have steered the company away from its hardware roots to become a software powerhouse, to have acquired VMware and to have grown the company so much. And he continues to make wise choices. Most companies that acquire others are so vain that they immediately abandon the brand they acquired and assimilate it under their own brand. This is even regarded as the accepted way to do business.

But that is not how Tucci does it. Although he has folded many smaller brands under the EMC umbrella, he has retained those with a very strong identify and market share. Thus EMC is actually now composed of four brands, which will be kept distinctly separate.

“EMC is a federation of EMC, VMware and Pivotal,” said Tucci. “We are keeping those brands plus RSA for security.”

10. Big Box Bright Spot

VCE is a joint venture between VMware, Cisco and EMC, and it's proving successful. The idea is to provide network switches, storage and server blades in one pre-configured vBlock unit rather than buying all the items separately and then assembling them. According to Gartner, VCE has cornered 57 percent of the converged infrastructure marketplace. HP has 24 percent, Hitachi 5 percent, Dell 2 percent and IBM 1 percent.

Tags: EMC, Cloud Storage, VMware, RSA, big data, Storage, software-defined storage, Pivotal


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