Continuing my post-week coverage of the [Data Center 2010 conference], Thursday morning had some interesting sessions for those that did not leave town last night.
Having a feel for the demographics of the registrants, and specific interactive polling in each meeting, provides a great view on who is interested in what topic, and some insight into their fears and motivations.
In his blog post, [The Lure of Kit-Cars], fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) uses an excellent analogy delineating the differences between kit-cars you build from parts, versus fully-integrated systems that you can drive off the car dealership showroom lot. The analogy holds relatively well, as IT departments can also build their infrastructure from parts, or you can get fully-integrated systems from a variety of vendors.
Certainly, this debate is not new. In my now infamous 2007 post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I explained that there were clients that preferred to get their infrastructure from a single IT supermarket, like IBM or HP, while others were lured into thinking that buying separate parts from butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and other specialty shops was somehow a better idea.
Chuck correctly explains that in the early years of the automobile industry, before major car manufacturers had mass-production assembly lines, putting a car together from parts was the only way cars were made. Today, only the few most avid enthusiasts build cars this way. The majority get cars from a single seller and drive away. In my post [Resolving the Identity Crisis], I postulated that EMC appeared to be trying to shed itself of the "disk-only specialty shop" image and over to be more like IBM. Not quite a full IT Supermarket, but perhaps more like a [Trader Joe's] premium-priced retailer.
(If you find that EMC's focus on integrated systems appears to be a 180-degree about-face from their historical focus on selling individual best-of-breed products, see my previous discussion of Chuck's contradictions in my blog post: [Is Storage the Next Confusopoly].)
While companies like EMC might be making this transition, there is a lot of resistance and inertia from the customer marketplace. I agree with Chuck, companies should not be building kit-cars or IT infrastructures from parts, certainly not from parts sold from different vendors. In my post [Talking about Solutions not Products], I explained how difficult it was to change behavior. CIOs, IT directors and managers need to think differently about their infrastructure. Let's take a quick look at some choices:
Before he earned his PhD in Mechanical Engineering, my father was a car mechanic. I spent much of my teenage years covered in grease, helping my father assembling cars, lifting engines, and rebuilding carburetors. Certainly this was good father-son time, and I certainly did learn something in the process. Like the automobile industry, the IT industry has matured, and it makes no financial sense to build your own IT infrastructure from parts from different vendors.
For a test drive of the industry's leading integrated IT systems, see your IBM sales rep or IBM Business Partner.
This week, Hitachi Ltd. announced their next generation disk storage virtualization array, the Virtual Storage Platform, following on the success of its USP V line. It didn't take long for fellow blogger Chuck Hollis (EMC) to comment on this in his blog post [Hitachi's New VSP: Separating The Wheat From The Chaff]. Here are some excerpts:
Chuck implies that neither Hewlett-Packard (HP) nor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) as vendors provide any value-add from the box manufactured by Hitachi Ltd. so combines them into a single category. I suspect the HP and HDS folks might disagree with that opinion.
When I reminded Chuck that IBM was also a major player in the high-end disk space, his response included the following gem:
"Many of us in the storage industry believe that IBM currently does not field a competitive high-end storage platform. IDC market share numbers bear out this assertion, as you probably know."
While Chuck is certainly entitled to his own beliefs and opinions, believing the world is flat does not make it so. Certainly, I doubt IDC or any other market research firm has put out a survey asking "Do you think IBM offers a competitive high-end disk storage platform?" Of course, if Chuck is basing his opinion on anecdotal conversations with existing EMC customers, I can certainly see how he might have formed this misperception. However, IDC market share numbers don't support Chuck's assertion at all.
There is no industry-standard definition of what is a "high-end" or "enterprise-class" disk system. Some define high-end as having the option for mainframe attachment via ESCON and/or FICON protocol. Others might focus on features, functionality, scalability and high 99.999+ percent availability. Others insist high-end requires block-oriented protocols like FC and iSCSI, rather than file-based protocols like NAS and CIFS.
For the most demanding mission-critical mix of random and sequential workloads, IBM offers the [IBM System Storage DS8000 series] high-end disk system which connects to mainframes and distributed servers, via FCP and FICON attachment, and supports a variety of drive types and RAID levels. The features that HP and HDS are touting today for the VSP are already available on the IBM DS8000, including sub-LUN automatic tiering between Solid-State drives and spinning disk, called [Easy Tier], thin provisioning, wide striping, point-in-time copies, and long distance synchronous and asynchronous replication.
There are lots of analysts that track market share for the IT storage industry, but since Chuck mentions [IDC] specifically, I reviewed the most recent IDC data, published a few weeks ago in their "IDC Worldwide Quarter Disk Storage Tracker" for 2Q 2010, representing April 1 to June 30, 2010 sales. Just in case any of the rankings have changed over time, I also looked at the previous four quarters: 2Q 2009, 3Q 2009, 4Q 2009 and 1Q 2010.
(Note: IDC considers its analysis proprietary, out of respect for their business model I will not publish any of the actual facts and figures they have collected. If you would like to get any of the IDC data to form your own opinion, contact them directly.)
In the case of IDC, they divide the disk systems into three storage classes: entry-level, midrange and high-end. Their definition of "high-end" is external RAID-protected disk storage that sells for $250,000 USD or more, representing roughly 25 to 30 percent of the external disk storage market overall. Here are IDC's rankings of the four major players for high-end disk systems:
By either measure of market share, units (disk systems) or revenue (US dollars), IDC reports that IBM high-end disk outsold both HDS and HP combined. This has been true for the past five quarters. If a smaller start-up vendor has single digit percent market share, I could accept it being counted as part of Chuck's "occasional sideshow from other vendors trying to claim relevance", but IBM high-end disk has consistently had 20 to 30 percent market share over the past five quarters!
Not all of these high-end disk systems are connected to mainframes. According to IDC data, only about 15 to 25 percent of these boxes are counted under their "Mainframe" topology.
Chuck further writes:
"It's reasonable to expect IBM to sell a respectable amount of storage with their mainframes using a protocol of their own design -- although IBM's two competitors in this rather proprietary space (notably EMC and Hitachi) sell more together than does IBM."
The IDC data doesn't support that claim either, Chuck. By either measure of market share, units (disk systems) or revenue (US dollars), IDC reports that IBM disk for mainframes outsold all other vendors (including EMC, HDS, and HP) combined. And again, this has been true for the past five quarters. Here is the IDC ranking for mainframe disk storage:
IBM has over 50 percent market share in this case, primarily because IBM System Storage DS8000 is the industry leader in mainframe-related features and functions, and offers synergy with the rest of the z/Architecture stack.
So Chuck, I am not picking a fight with you or asking you to retract or correct your blog post. Your main theme, that the new VSP presents serious competition to EMC's VMAX high-end disk arrays, is certainly something I can agree with. Congratulations to HDS and HP for putting forth what looks like a viable alternative to EMC's VMAX.
I am now fully a week behind in my coverage of my romp through Australia and New Zealand. Last week was "week 2" of the "Tony and Anna" show! This time we were in Auckland, New Zealand. Anna Wells is from New Zealand originally, so it was good for her to be back in her home country.
New Zealand shares a lot of traits with Australia, including low unemployment and a healthy economy. Employees feel secure enough in their jobs to invest in real estate, get married and start families. School teachers are well-regarded in society, earning six-figure incomes. Retail stores were filled with shoppers spending [disposable and discretionary income]. What a refreshing difference from the United States! The level of optimism made my skin tingle. I had to file a lot of paperwork for all the work permits and visas for this trip, so I hate to think what it would take to emigrate to either country.
(Of course, the grass always appears greener on the other side. Not everything is perfect in New Zealand. I saw warning signs for toxic sea slugs in their beaches, sales advertising for [Brolly Sheets], and the south island of New Zealand suffered a magnitute 7.1 earthquake near Christchurch on the day I arrived to Auckland on the north island. Over 100,000 homes were damaged, but nobody died, and the entire country rallied support to help out those affected.)
The Storage Optimisation Breakfast at this, the fifth of seven cities, went smoothly. The New Zealand client case study she had planned to show was in the middle of an [RFP], so instead she covered [Edith Cowan University] and [Bunnings Warehouse] from Australia as examples of success stories.
Our next speaker was Glen Mitchell, an IT architect in the Operational Integration, Technology & Shared Services of Telecom NZ. The Telecom NZ is New Zealand's phone company, recently split up into separate business units, similar to what the US government did to AT&T during the 1974 [Bell System Divestiture].
The change forced Telecom NZ to be more financially responsible. Before, they were using an all-EMC disk environment, managed by HP Enterprise Services (formerly known as EDS). The EMC gear worked as expected and Telecom NZ is happy with EMC as a vendor, but they were uncomfortable with vendor lock-in. Some firmware upgrades on their EMC boxes often forced them to take outages on hundreds of connected servers to install Powerpath updates. After an EMC disk array went off its four-year prepaid warranty, it took another FOUR YEARS to get all 180 servers migrated to another disk array. Keeping a disk array after warranty expires can cost as much as $450K NZD per year, per disk array, in maintenance fees! Ouch! This served as a strong motivator to find a way to migrate data from one disk array to another in a more smooth and timely manner.
The new direction was a dual-vendor environment, keeping some of the midrange EMC gear, and getting new IBM high-end DS8700 gear, resulting in a drastically lower TCO. To make the transition as smooth as possible, Telecom NZ employed IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC) to virtualize their entire environment, both EMC and IBM happily being part of shared disk pools. They had originally planned to migrate their entire server environment over in 12 months, but in the first six weeks, they are already at 20 percent, ahead of schedule!
The SAN Volume Controllers will also allow Telecom NZ have Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery protection in a consistent manner across both EMC and IBM equipment between their two main data centers in Auckland and Hamilton.
By deploying IBM DS8700 and SAN Volume Controller, Telecom NZ was able to reduce costs, manage risk, and improve service delivery!
I'm down here in Australia, where the government is a bit stalled for the past two weeks at the moment, known formally as being managed by the [Caretaker government]. Apparently, there is a gap between the outgoing administration and the incoming administration, and the caretaker government is doing as little as possible until the new regime takes over. They are still counting votes, including in some cases dummy ballots known as "donkey votes", the Australian version of the hanging chad. Three independent parties are also trying to decide which major party they will support to finalize the process.
While we are on the topic of a government stalled, I feel bad for the state of Virginia in the United States. Apparently, one of their supposedly high-end enterprise class EMC Symmetrix DMX storage systems, supporting 26 different state agencies in Virginia, crashed on August 25th and now more than a week later, many of those agencies are still down, including the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Taxation and Revenue.
Many of the articles in the press on this event have focused on what this means for the reputation of EMC. Not surprisingly, EMC says that this failure is unprecedented, but really this is just one in a long series of failures from EMC. It reminds me of the last time EMC had a public failure with a dual-controller CLARiiON a few months ago that stopped another company from their operations. There is nothing unique in the physical equipment itself, all IT gear can break or be taken down by some outside force, such as a natural disaster. The real question, though, is why haven’t EMC and the State Government been able to restore operations many days after the hardware was fixed?
In the Boston Globe, Zeus Kerravala, a data storage analyst at Yankee Group in Boston, is quoted as saying that such a high-profile breakdown could undermine EMC’s credibility with large businesses and government agencies. “I think it’s extremely important for them,’’ said Kerravala. “When you see a failure of this magnitude, and their inability to get a customer like the state of Virginia up and running almost immediately, all companies ought to look at that and raise their eyebrows.’’
Was the backup and disaster recovery solution capable of the scale and service level requirements needed by vital state agencies? Had they tested their backups to ensure they were running correctly, and had they tested their recovery plans? Were they monitoring the success of recent backup operations?
Eventually, the systems will be back up and running, fines and penalties will be paid, and perhaps the guy who chose to go with EMC might feel bad enough to give back that new set of golf clubs, or whatever ridiculously expensive gift EMC reps might offer to government officials these days to influence the purchase decision making process.
(Note: I am not accusing any government employee in particular working at the state of Virginia of any wrongdoing, and mention this only as a possibility of what might have happened. I am sure the media will dig into that possibility soon enough during their investigations, so no sense in me discussing that process any further.)
So what lessons can we learn from this?