EMC Says Dedupe, Cloud and SSDs Will Dominate Storage

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ORLANDO, Fla. — EMC (NYSE: EMC) stressed a few key themes at this week’s EMC World show, among them public and private cloud computing, data deduplication, virtualization and solid state flash drives (see EMC Adds Some Thunder to the Cloud).

The data storage giant expanded its dedupe product offerings, held something of a love fest with Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) and VMware (NYSE: VMW), and EMC CEO Joe Tucci held forth on a range of issues in a Q&A session with the media.

EMC’s backup product portfolio is getting a number of new deduplication features and upgrades. The latest version of EMC Avamar, for example, has had its deduplication and recovery capabilities extended across more platforms. It can now do source-based deduplication on Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) SharePoint Server 2007 and IBM Lotus Domino.

“Backup to disk is much better than tape for recovery, but it costs more,” said Tucci. “Technologies such as data deduplication and compression, along with larger disk drives, are bridging that cost gap.”

Source-based products deduplicate data where it resides, at the client or virtual machine (the source), rather than deduplicating it through a device (known as target-based deduplication). Target-based tools are either inline or post-processing (delayed).

“Source-based deduplication is effective when you are seeking to maximize compression ratios or you need to deduplice before you transport data over the network,” said Mark Sorensen, senior vice president of the Enterprise Storage Division (ESD) in EMC’s Storage Software Group. “Source is more CPU intensive, but you get better dedupe efficiency.”

He said source-based tools are ideal for VMware, remote offices and NAS, while a target is more appropriate for SAN-based backup, where performance is more important than the deduplication ratio. He gives the example of a database, where you don’t usually get as good a dedupe ratio. Anything where bandwidth constraint is a concern, he said, is better for source-based dedupe.

EMC Disk Library — the company’s target-based dedupe offering — is another product that has received a “wax and shine” this year. Better management and monitoring have been added through integration with EMC Data Protection Advisor. Stronger performance and replication, as well as enhanced deduplication capabilities, have also been thrown in. According to Sorensen, Disk Library models 1500 and 3000 have had their replication throughput pace increased by as much as 80 percent. The product line now comes with EMC Networker path-to-tape and replication support, OpenStorage API support for Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) Veritas NetBackup, and API support for Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) Recovery Manager, which optimizes the deduplication process on Oracle.

Sorensen believes that target-based deduplication is also a good idea for primary storage — Tier one in an EMC Celerra, for example, could be deduplicated to free up space in that tier to maximize its effectiveness.

EMC Networker, too, is included in this round of backup upgrades. It now has source-based deduplication, which is achieved by integrating it with EMC Avamar. This enables it to provide source-based deduplication for several Microsoft products — SharePoint Server, SQL Server and Exchange Server — as well as Oracle databases. It continues to support VMware too. Effectively, this adds data protection and deduplication to traditional backup environments.

“Most backups will be on disk by 2012,” predicted Sorensen. “Deduplication technology is driving disk-based backup from purely mission-critical data into the backup mainstream.”

Tucci Not Touchy

Tucci fielded several thorny questions at a Q&A session with the media. He stressed that R&D spending would stay the same this year despite lower revenues. He’s also looking for what he terms “opportunistic acquisitions” to consolidate and strengthen the company’s competitive position.

“Any possible acquisitions would be in and around virtualization, storage and security rather than entering into a new space,” said Tucci.

What about the company being a target for acquisition by, say, Cisco or another tech giant? He brushed that one aside without any apparent discomfort, saying that few could afford EMC’s market cap of $25 billion.

“We are not for sale, and we see plenty of opportunities for growth,” said Tucci. “Although we are obligated to do what is in the best interests of shareholders, such an acquisition is not in our plans.”

Another potentially contentious question about storage chief David Donatelli’s defection to HP (NYSE: HPQ) was dealt with, again, without any change in demeanor or defensiveness.

“It happens that good people are poached,” he said. “Dave was a good leader, but the technologists that developed our key storage products are still alive and well.”

He revealed the company’s long-term branding strategy, too. The name Documentum is no longer being used, and other brands such as Avamar and RSA Security are probably going to dwindle steadily in the coming years.

“Apart from EMC and VMware, most brands will be consolidated over time,” said Tucci. “We don’t want to be a house of brands.”

While he is bullish about the concept of the virtual data center, VMware, Symmetrix V-Max, deduplication, FCoE and several other technologies, for the second year running he placed heavy emphasis on flash-based solid state drives (SSDs).

“Solid state drives will be the biggest change in storage, a total game-changer, and flash will be the dominant type of SSD for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Within a year, it will be unusual to see a system like V-Max go out the door without SSD technology inside.”

Cisco, VMware Share EMC’s Virtual Vision

For all the speculation about Cisco acquiring EMC, it was interesting to see EMC, VMware and Cisco united in a panel on next-generation virtualized data centers. The three have also been working together on Cisco’s new Unified Computing System.

Ed Bugnion, CTO of the server access and virtualization business unit at Cisco, Parag Patel, vice president of alliances at VMware, and Chuck Hollis, vice president and CTO of global marketing at EMC, discussed the private cloud and what it will mean to the future of the data center.

“All three companies are working towards a private cloud and the key technology behind this is virtualization,” said Hollis. “VMware provides the evolutionary path to the private cloud, which will be the dominant model.”

One result of all this is that Cisco’s Nexus 1000V products, for instance, were designed with VMware in mind to take this virtual data center and virtual network concept a step further.

“The Nexus 1000V was designed specifically for VMware and extends the network into the vSphere layer,” said Bugnion.

Patel termed VMware’s vSphere “an OS for the entire data center” that abstracts the infrastructure. In essence, it takes the advantages of an internal data center and marries them with cloud computing to create a more dynamic and flexible infrastructure.

And big government could be the area that really pushes the cloud model into the mainstream. Hollis noted that the government of Japan and the U.S. Department of Defense were already building their own private clouds.

“Complex, process-driven environments like those big government are so inflexible that the cloud’s flexibility becomes really appealing,” said Bugnion. “This will drive the creation of an internal federal cloud.”

Attendance at this year’s EMC World was down by about 2,000 to 7,000, but the role of social media was up, including some 2,000 tweets on Twitter.

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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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