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V-Max: EMC Follows Again
Earlier this week, EMC announced its Symmetrix V-Max, following two trends in the industry:
Using Roman numerals. The "V" here is for FIVE, as this is the successor to the DMX-3 and DMX-4. EMC might have gotten the idea from IBM's success with the XIV (which does refer to the number 14, specifically the 14th class of a Talpiot program in Israel that the founders of XIV graduated from).
Adding "-Max", "-Monkey" or "2.0" at the end of things to make them sound more cool and to appeal to a younger, hipper audience. EMC might have gotten this idea from Pepsi-Max (... a taste of storage for the next generation?)
I took a cue from President Obama and waited a few days to collect my thoughts and do my homework before responding.Special thanks to fellow blogger ChuckH in giving me a [handy list of reactions] for me to pick and choose from. It appears that EMC marketing machine feels it is acceptable for their own folks to claim that EMC is doing something first, or that others are catching up to EMC, but when other vendors do likewise, then that is just pathetic or incoherent. Here are a few reactions already from fellow bloggers:
This was a major announcement for EMC, addressing many of the problems, flaws and weaknesses of the earlier DMX-3 and DMX-4 deliverables. Here's my read on this:
Now you can have as many FCP ports (128) as an IBM System Storage DS8300, although the maximum number of FICON ports is still short, and no mention of ESCON support. The Ethernet ports appear to be 1Gb, not the new 10GbE you might expect.
Support for System z mainframe
V-Max adds some new support to catch up with the DS8000, like Extended Address Volumes (EAV). EMC is still not quite there yet. IBM DS8000 continues to be the best, most feature-rich storage option if you have System z mainframe servers.
Both the IBM DS8000 and HDS USP-V beat the DMX-4 in performance, and in some cases the DMX-4 even lost to the IBM XIV, so EMC had to do something about it. EMC chooses not to participate in industry-standard performance benchmarks like those from the [Storage Performance Council], which limits them to vague comparisons against older EMC gear. I'll give EMC engineers the benefit of the doubt and say that now V-Max is now "comparably as fast as HDS and IBM offerings".
Getting "V" in the name
The "V" appears to be for the roman number five, not to be confused with external heterogeneous storage virtualization that HDS USP-V and IBM SVC provide. There is no mention of synergy with EMC's failed "Invista" product, and I see no support for attaching other vendors disk to the back of this thing.
Switch to Intel processor
Apple switched its computers from PowerPC to Intel-based, and now EMC follows in the same path. There are some custom ASICs still in V-Max, so it is not as pure as IBM's offerings.
Modular, XIV-like Scale-out Architecture
Actually, the packaging appears to follow the familiar system bays and storage bays of the DMX-4 and DMX-4 950 models, but architecturally offers XIV-like attachment across a common switch network between "engines", EMC's term for interface modules.
Non-disruptive data migration
IBM's SoFS, DR550 and GMAS have this already, as does as anything connected behind an IBM SAN Volume Controller.
A long time ago, IBM used to have midrange disk storage systems called "FAStT" which stood for Fibre Array Storage Technology, so this might have given EMC the idea for their "Fully Automated Storage Tiering" acronym. The concept appears similar to what IBM introduced back in 2007 for the Scale-Out-File Services [SofS] which not only provides policy-based placement, movement and expiration on different disk tiers, includes tape tiers as well for a complete solution. I don't see anything in the V-Max announcement that it will support tape anytime soon.
And what ever happend to EMC's Atmos? Wasn't that supposed to be EMC's new direction in storage?
Zero-data loss Three-site replication
IBM already calls this Metro/Global Mirror for its IBM DS8000 series, but EMC chose to call it SRDF/EDP for Extended Distance Protection.
Ease of Use
The most significant part of the announcement is that EMC is finally focusing on ease-of-use.In addition to reducing the requirement for "Bin File" modifications, this box has a redesigned user interface to focus on usability issues. For past DMX models, EMC customers had to either hire EMC to do tasks for them that were just to difficult otherwise, or buy expensive software like their EMC Control Center to manage. EMC willcontinue to sell DMX-4 boxes for a while, as they are probably supply-constrained on the V-Max side, but I doubt they will retro-fit these new features back to DMX-3 and DMX-4.
When IBM announced its acquisition of XIV over a year ago now, customers were knocking down our doors to get one. This caught two particular groups looking like a [deer in headlights]:
EMC Symmetrix sales force: Some of the smarter ones left EMC to go sell IBM XIV, leaving EMC short-handed and having to announce they [were hiring during their layoffs]. Obviously, a few of the smart ones stayed behind, to convince their management to build something like the V-Max.
IBM DS8000 sales force: If clients are not happy with their existing EMC Symmetrix, why don't they just buy an IBM DS8000 instead? What does XIV have that DS8000 doesn't?
Let me contrast this with the situation Microsoft Windows is currently facing.
I am often asked by friends to help them pick out laptops and personal computers. I use Linux, Windows and MacOS, so have personal experience with all three operating systems.
Linux is cheaper, offers the power-user the most options for supporting older, less-powerfulequipment, but I wouldn't have my Mom use it. While distributions like Ubuntu are makinggreat strides, it is just too difficult for some people.
MacOS is nice, I like it, it works out of the box with little or no customization and an intuitive interface. However, some of my friends don't make IBM-level salaries, and have to watch their budget.
In their "I'm a PC" campaign, Microsoft is fighting both fronts. Let's examine two commercials:
In the first commercial, a young eight-year-old puts together a video from pictures oftoy animals and some background music.The message: "Windows is easier to use than Linux!" If they really wanted to send this message, they should have shown senior citizens instead.
In the second commercial, a young college student is asked to find a laptop with 17 inchscreen, and a variety of other qualifications, for under $1000 US dollars. The only modelat the Apple store below this price had a 13 inch screen, but she finds a Windows-based system that had this size screen and met all the other qualifications. The message: "Windows-based hardware from a variety of competitors are less expensive than hardware from Apple!"
Both Microsoft and Apple charge a premium for ease-of-use.In the storage world, things are completely opposite. Vendors don't charge a premium forease-of-use. In fact, some of the easiest to use are also the least expensive.
If you just have Windows and Linux, you can get some entry level system likethe IBM DS3000 series, only a few features, and can be set up in six simple steps.
Next, if you have a more interesting mix of operating systems, Linux, Windows and some flavorsof UNIX like IBM AIX, HP-UX or Sun Solaris, then you might want the features and functionsof more pricier midrange offerings. More options means that configuration and deploymentis more difficult, however.
Finally, if you are serious Fortune 500 company, running your mission critical applications on System z or System i centralized systems in a big data center, that you might be willing to pay top dollar for the most feature-rich offerings of an Enterprise-class machine.Thankfully you have an army of highly-trained staff to handle the highest levels of complexity.
IBM's DS8000, HDS USP-V and EMC's Symmetrix are the key players in the Enterprise-classspace. They tried to be ["all things to all people"], er.. perhaps all things to allplatforms. All of the features and functions came at a price, not just in dollars, butin complexity and difficulty. You needed highly skilled storage admins using expensive storage management software, or be willing to hirethe storage vendor's premium services to get the job done.
IBM recognized this trend early. IBM's SVC, N series and now XIV all offer ease-of-use withenterprise-class features and functions, at lower total cost of ownership than traditional enterprise-class systems. IBM is not the only one, of course, as smaller storage start-ups like 3PAR,Pillar Data Systems, Compellent, and to some extent Dell's EqualLogic all recognized thisand developed clever offerings as well.
While IBM's XIV may not have been the first to introduce a modular, scale-out architectureusing commodity parts managed by sophisticated ease-of-use interfaces, its success might have been the kick-in-the-butt EMC needed to follow the rest of the industry in this direction.