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fanfare.bmpEMC held an event in Milan, Italy today where several product announcements were made amidst great fanfare.  Since this event was highly publicized by EMC, and in many ways was aimed directly at NetApp, many people are probably wondering what our response is.  In this blog, I’ll take the opportunity to share my early thoughts.


As has been their penchant; this event was heavy in style and light in substance.  The key component of the event was the announcement of a new operating system, MCx, for EMC’s mid-range VNX storage array.    This operating system was touted as leveraging the power of multicore CPUs, although this can hardly be seen as innovative, since NetApp has been supporting multicore operations for many years with Data ONTAP, the world’s most widely used storage operating system.


EMC also announced a refresh of VNX hardware, utilizing the latest Intel multicore processors, with a 4X performance gain over prior VNX models.  It’s important to remember, as witnessed since the dawn of commercial computing, performance claims are a fleeting entity.  Thanks to Moore’s Law, all technology vendors regularly update their hardware, and claim “record-breaking” performance – that is, until the next vendor refreshes their hardware.


As expected, EMC also stated that the new VNX models would be incorporated into VSPEX, a loosely grouped IT stack that EMC claims is “the world’s fastest growing reference architecture.”  This is an entirely subjective claim since virtually any server and networking switch can be combined with VNX and labeled “VSPEX”, whereas NetApp’s FlexPod is a tightly coupled converged infrastructure system that includes documented best practices and best-of-breed products from a small, select, group of server, networking, and virtualization vendors.


Despite the hoopla surrounding the VNX announcements, it remains deficient in 3 key areas – lack of scale-out capabilities, a weak storage efficiency portfolio, and no true ability to operate nondisruptively – all hallmarks of NetApp’s FAS and V-Series storage architecture.


In addition to VNX , EMC made some other software-specific announcements:


  • General availability of the ViPR Software-Defined Storage platform – this vaguely-described storage virtualization layer will begin shipping later this month.  Once EMC actually unveils the capability of ViPR it will be interesting to compare it to NetApp’s established storage virtualization capabilities.
  • New capabilities for XtremeSW, EMC’s server-based flash caching software.  Surprisingly absent were any announcements of the XtremIO all flash array or XtremSF PCI flash cache.  Given EMC’s tendency to pre-announce, it seems that these products may have fallen into the clutches of engineering delays.  Meanwhile, NetApp Flash Cache, Flash Pool, Flash Accel, SSD Cache and the EF540 all flash array continue to see strong demand.
  • Finally, EMC threw out the day’s red herring by disclosing its “Project Nile” Elastic Cloud Storage platform, even more secretive than ViPR but apparently a private cloud platform that acts a lot like public storage and thus will go head-to-head with Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and Google Storage.  Instead of competing with the cloud hyperscalers, NetApp has chosen to partner, as evidenced by the NetApp/Amazon collaboration in private storage for Amazon Web Services.


From my perspective, the EMC event was a valiant effort but fell short in many areas.  NetApp’s unified storage solution, built on clustered Data ONTAP, retains industry leadership as the first and only unified architecture that enables customers to consolidate a variety of applications onto a single, nondisruptive, infrastructure. Our solutions offer performance and scale as well as efficiency and comprehensive flash integration along with the industry’s most extensive partner ecosystem.