EMC’s Storage System for the Cloud

EMC (NYSE: EMC) today took the wraps off its long-awaited cloud storage infrastructure solution, moving the vendor long known for proprietary hardware offerings into the market for commodity hardware.

EMC Atmos, previously known by the codenames “Maui” on the software side and “Hulk” on the hardware side, is aimed at massive global storage infrastructures, such as those in the telco, service provider, Web 2.0 and media and entertainment industries, that distribute petabytes of rich, unstructured information across global storage environments.

The system, under development for two years, marks EMC’s entry into the market for Web 2.0 storage (see What Is Web 2.0 Storage?).

EMC also hopes to coin a new storage acronym in the process, dubbing the new wave of storage “COS,” for cloud-optimized storage.

Atmos is based on object-based storage principles, using metadata to automate storage and management of data wherever it resides.

The system keeps multiple copies of data to boost reliability while scaling “within and across data centers and hundreds of sites,” said Mike Feinberg, senior vice president of EMC’s Cloud Infrastructure Group.

“We count on very unreliable hardware,” said Feinberg, adding that Atmos’ software capabilities give the system “Clariion and Symmetrix reliability on an x86/SATA environment.”

Users can set policies based on the value of data, so, for example, critical or in-demand data could be copied to more locations. Atmos also offers services such as compression, de-duplication, spin-down and multi-tenant and Web service API features.

EMC’s new hardware for Atmos is a high-density storage system that comes in 120TB, 240TB and 360TB configurations, but Atmos is also available as a software-only offering.

Greg Schulz, senior analyst and founder of StorageIO group, said Atmos has “similarities to many other vendors’ solutions, including
clustered file systems, grids, search, global name space and policy-based
storage, yet what’s different abut Atmos is that it includes the features
found in many different and separate products in a single solution, which
makes acquisition and deployment much easier.”

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure said the cloud storage market faces “numerous inhibitors, such as cost of WAN bandwidth, security concerns, trust. But the train has left the station and is accelerating. … This announcement is just the beginning for EMC — they did not discuss a cloud strategy, just software packaged as cloud optimized storage — there is more to come.”

Atmos, McClure said, “is not HPC file storage redeployed to a new use case, it is designed from the ground up for use over the internet. It is a centrally managed distributed architecture, not a local file system with a global name space. … Atmos is designed to scale for file storage and distribution with up to hundreds of locations, yet still be managed as a single system. Most of today’s clustered architectures are designed to scale up to hundreds of nodes within the walls of a single data center. Also, the system is object-based, with rich metadata and policy-based data management. Most of the scale-out vendors don’t let you set object-based policies for de-dupe, replication, spin down, etc.”

EMC isn’t revealing pricing or making customers available yet, despite claims of low total cost of ownership and its use in some customer environments for as long as a year.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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