EMC: Keeping Core Technologies Fresh, Active and Relevant

Large IT vendors cut a large swath in the markets, products and services that they offer, but they also need to respond to emerging market trends in order to grow and prosper.

Every large vendor has a heritage that serves as a mental anchor for outside observers. In the case of EMC, “storage” is the first word to pop to mind. Let’s see briefly how EMC is keeping its core technologies fresh, active and relevant in light of the company’s recent EMC World 2015 customer and partner conference.

XtremIO 4.0

Flash storage arrays are by no means legacy products as they haven’t been around long enough to qualify. But they fit nicely into both the storage industry continuum and heritage. EMC has a long history of pushing the hottest new technologies in the storage market with great success, and the company’s XtremIO flash solutions certainly qualify in that regard.

Customers acquire XtremIO storage in units called “bricks” and cluster them together. Although they can start with as little as 5 TB, 10 TB or 20 TB X-Bricks are the usual starting point. With the new XtremIO 4.0, EMC is now offering 40 TB X-Bricks with the ability to cluster together up to 8 of them for a total capacity of 320 TB. Scaling is linear and, at the top, the system supports 1.2M mixed (i.e., both read and write) IOPS and 2M read IOPS while latency stays at less than 1 MS.

XtremIO’s dispersed cluster management enables multi-rack configurations, providing IT flexibility for planning its data center footprint. Its ability to withstand up to 16 simultaneous SSD failures proves XtremIO’s enterprise-class resiliency. Altogether these capabilities mean that EMC enables enterprises to use XtremIO 4.0 as a centerpiece for overall production storage in the data center, rather than just targeting specific applications for an all-flash solution.


VMAX3 is EMC’s most recent (last year) incarnation of its flagship enterprise-class storage platform. VMAX3 is the first VMAX platform to separate software data services, such as mirroring and snapshots, from the bowels of the storage hardware itself. This is a significant architectural change and a very powerful one. Why? For years, one of the great strengths of EMC’s enterprise class storage has been its software data services, such as SRDF (Synchronous Remote Data Facility). Users tend to swear by those offerings, but the services were tightly coupled with EMC hardware, meaning they could not be used with other storage platforms.

The introduction of FAST.X software on VMAX3 changes all that since FAST.X automates the movement of data to storage tiers across the data center, regardless of platform, as well as to the public cloud. In other words, EMC VMAX3 data services can be extended across all of a company’s storage assets. For example, VMAX3 tiering to XtremIO with FAST.X brings the data services that enable enterprise-class RAS (Reliability Availability Serviceability) along with service level objective (SLO) management to a high-performance environment. What a good deal for IT to now be able to leverage all those years of investment by EMC in data services in all-flash arrays. What a good deal for EMC, as well, since this approach gives users a further rationale for acquiring all-flash arrays for enterprise-class production storage and a further reason to remain committed to EMC.

That is not all. VMAX3 tiering to public or private cloud with FAST.X and EMC Cloud Array provides for capacity/commodity storage, that is, storage that takes advantage of the cloud’s greater scalability and lower costs. An IT organization can now take advantage of the same management platform with its associated data services across three key storage tiers—high-performance, traditional production storage and capacity storage—resulting in better managed and consolidated storage workloads. And EMC cannot be unhappy about being in a cat bird’s seat with regard to the two hottest trends in storage — all-flash arrays and cloud storage — as well as enabling IT to keep its eye on the VMAX storage “ball” for still-appropriate enterprise applications.

Mesabi Musings

With investments in virtualization (VMware), security (RSA) and other areas, the days of EMC being a storage-only company have long since passed. That was eminently clear at EMC World 2015, but it does not mean that EMC is neglecting its storage heritage. In fact, with the continuing success of XtremIO, many within EMC must feel young again, as if it were the heyday of enterprise and midrange storage and EMC were firmly seated on a winning horse.

But EMC is continuing to make existing technologies relevant. By decoupling software data services from its VMAX hardware, EMC has taken a page out of the software-defined storage playbook. This leverages EMC data services with two of the hottest trends in storage today — all flash arrays storage and cloud storage — while maintaining a leadership position in enterprise class storage.

EMC is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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