EMC Intros 41 Products, Unifies Clariion and Celerra

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EMC put on a show today at multiple venues and with a global webcast audience. Attendees watched a 100-minute event complete with world record leaps by daredevil biker Bubba Blackwell, and 26 people packed into a Mini Cooper to achieve a Guinness World Record.

That was the glitz surrounding EMC’s announcement of 41 new products, as well as claiming world records in storage performance in a wide variety of categories over comparable systems from IBM, NetApp, HP and other rivals.

“These new products are part of the largest launch ever in the storage industry . . . spanning virtually the entire spectrum,” said Pat Gelsinger, EMC’s president of Information Infrastructure Products.

The various announcements included: the EMC VNX unified storage family — including VNXe systems for SMBs — which consolidates the Clariion and Celerra platforms into one line; an upgrade for Symmetrix VMAX with improved Fully Automated Storage Tiering (FAST) software; new Data Domain archiving appliances; Federated Live Migration (FLM) to reduce Symmetrix-related data migration times by 75%; and the unveiling of the first line of EMC Isilon products.

“EMC already had about the deepest product portfolio in the industry, and it just got even deeper,” said Steve Duplessie, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) research and consulting firm.

Greg Schulz, an analyst with the StorageIO Group, believes this could spark an even fiercer war with NetApp: “With continued growth of unstructured data for traditional, virtual and cloud environments, unified SAN and NAS along with multi-protocol interfaces has become more important for enabling flexibility and agility,” said Schulz. “While many vendors have or will have unified and multi-protocol solution offerings, the major battleground involves EMC versus NetApp.”

VNX Front and Center

For a company that has been steadily moving beyond its hardware array roots over the past decade, this event represented a major return to EMC’s roots. EMC chairman and CEO Joe Tucci led up to the announcement by celebrating the company’s history in disk storage. Gelsinger followed to officially unveil the VNX family.

Gelsinger began at the low end with the VNXe, which marks a major attack of EMC into the SMB space. He commented that when people think of EMC, they think quality, reliability – and expensive. The goal of the VNXe is to change that perception, according to Gelsinger.

Gelsinger claimed that the VNXe unified storage series, at an entry price of $9,499, is at least $1,000 less than comparable offerings from Dell and NetApp. Wizards make it possible to set up iSCSI volumes, as well as NFS and CIFS shares, in a few minutes. To make the point on simplicity, an on-stage demo provisioned Microsoft Exchange in under a minute. Gelsinger then brought out a fourth grader who managed the system via an iPad, then changed a failed hard drive in 10 seconds.

“Who would have thought we’d be saying that EMC was the low cost leader in storage,” said Gelsinger. He added that 28 applications are included in the SMB packages, which are broken down into three simple bundles. Unisphere is provided for management.

Gelsinger then moved on to the midrange. EMC has converged its Clariion SAN and Celerra NAS platforms into a single family known as VNX. The company claims 3X simpler management, 3X better efficiency, and 3X more performance than current EMC midrange products. VNX systems come with improved FAST – FAST VP (Virtual Pools) — and FAST Cache in order to boost performance, optimize capacity and incorporate solid state drives (SSDs). The arrays are powered by Intel Westmere six-core processors, a 6Gbps SAS back end, and a range of I/O options. Many of the VNX models will be available this quarter.

“This is our most exciting midrange product ever and it combines file and block in one system,” said Gelsinger.

Symmetrix VMAX Facelift

The high end also received a facelift. A Symmetrix VMAX cluster is now capable of supporting petabytes of information and up to five million virtual machines (VMs). The VMAX systems have the latest FAST technology, a new OS to double system performance, and upgrades in server virtualization, security and federation.

“Our new software adds 55 new features to VMAX,” said Gelsinger. “The system is now 2X faster on OLTP and decision support workloads, and FAST VP [virtual pools] makes it much smarter.”

Gelsinger made a passing comment about getting rid of Fibre Channel drives, which may well be a sign of things to come. For now, however, VMAX continues to include Fibre Channel drives. But it has been squeezed down to a handful of high performance disks, with the bulk of capacity taken up by SATA and the highest performance I/O on SSDs.

“EMC shipped more flash last year than the rest of the storage industry combined,” Gelsinger claimed.

Each VMAX unit includes up to 128 Intel processor cores. The systems also come with Data at Rest Encryption (DARE) courtesy of RSA Security to safeguard data via key management, as well as Federated Live Migration (FLM), which reduces the time it takes to move data to another array by 75%, according to EMC officials.

Data Domain and Isilon

The fact that Data Domain also made it to the party is significant. EMC clearly is on a major push via deduplication and it looks like the endgame is the elimination of tape once and for all.

“The time for tape is over,” said Gelsinger.

With performance of up to 9.8 TB per hour, DD Global Deduplication Archiver (GDA) moves aging data to a scalable archive tier. By deduplicating the documents, its 768 TB of raw capacity offers retention times of perhaps seven or more years – enough to satisfy most retention requirements.

Finally, EMC rolled out three series of Isilon devices for what it calls “big data” – video, graphics, simulation and other workloads that consume vast amounts of storage. The Isilon S Series is for high performance, the N Series for high capacity, and the X Series for a balance of both.

“Isilon made a name based on simplicity,” said Gelsinger. “One file system can deal with 10 PB, enabling you to scale out with ease.”

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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