Oh ye of little faith, why do you doubt us?

Posted on May 22, 2012 by TheStorageChap in Cloud, RecoverPoint, Virtualization, VPLEX

So VPLEX is two years old this EMC World and two years ago we announced to a fanfare how we had “conquered the challenges of distance”, could “move 1000s of VMs across 1000s of miles” and “access storage anywhere in the private cloud”. In hindsight the marketing may have been a little wide of the mark (but that is why they call it marketing) and it could be argued that our messaging was a little confusing; was it storage virtualisation was it storage federation, for that matter what was storage federation? Spurred on by our competition many customers have questioned VPLEX as a storage virtualisation solution, due to the lack of “storage commoditisation” features and have been worried about the commitment EMC has to the technology.

Well for those of you in any doubt, I can assure you that EMC is 100% committed to VPLEX. If you are at EMC World 2012 the one thing you will have noticed is that VPLEX is everywhere, it is, as an example, one of only a few products that has it’s own booth on the show floor, and is featured heavily in the ESD announcements. For those not in the know the Enterprise Storage Division (ESD) is responsible for amongst other things our enterprise class of VMAX storage arrays (one of the foundations of EMC’s business and reputation), the same division that both VPLEX and RecoverPoint are now part of, which in itself shows that both of these products are important to EMC. The truth is that VPLEX and RecoverPoint are not only important, they are critical to the on-going success and development of EMC’s cloud strategies. As this weeks announcements have shown the VPLEX and RecoverPoint technologies have started to come together, but this really is just the start of a strategic plan to dissolve boundaries and distance to enable true private, public and hybrid cloud environments; access anywhere and protect everywhere.

Our competition has been so focused on competing with VPLEX as a storage virtualisation solution they have missed the point of VPLEX and the AccessAnywhere functionality. Storage virtualisation is important, but virtualisation is an enabler, in the case of VPLEX an enabler for true, active-active, distributed datacentres.

But that does not mean that we don’t understand the other benefits that storage virtualisation can enable for our customers. The market generally accepts that EMC is number one in regard to the features and functionality within our storage controllers. Whilst we could take a strategic direction similar to IBM’s and build a virtualisation technology with a subset of storage commoditisation features and functionality it is not really what the vast majority of our customers want. This is why VPLEX provides write-through caching; customers using VPLEX can still benefit from all of the functionality of the back-end storage arrays and use VPLEX Local to enable uses cases such as heterogeneous data mobility and storage mirroring. But what about those customers who do want storage commoditisation? Well as announced this week, Symmetrix Enginuity 5876 code enables a new feature called Federated Tiered Storage, FTS enables heterogeneous storage arrays to be consolidated and  virtualised behind a VMAX and benefit from many of the features including FAST VP, EMC SRDF, EMC Timefinder, VLUN, VAAI etc.

So within a local datacentre our customers can:-

  • virtualise our storage within a single consolidated storage platform  (think VNX and VMAX)
  • virtualise storage across arrays using FTS for use cases like storage commoditisation
  • virtualise storage across arrays using VPLEX Local for multi-array mirroring

So that’s most, if not all, of the competition’s virtualisation functionality covered. But we can then use VPLEX Metro and Geo to distribute storage from a site doing any of the above, including customers not using EMC virtualisation technologies (IBM and HDS) and distribute that data between sites. This can be active/active using VPLEX and now also a third copy to another site using for example the new RecoverPoint integration within VPLEX 5.1. The competitive virtualisation solutions in the market just simply cannot offer true active active distributed datacentres in the same way that we can with VPLEX. They would have to completely re-architect their technologies or start from scratch, in either case our best estimation is they are still several years from enabling such functionality.

The reality of the situation is that the IT landscape is continuing to change. Traditional storage virtualisation has it’s place, but the days of organisations operating a multi-vendor storage environment so that the can play one storage vendor off against another in a pricing battle are no longer the future. The problem is that the operational complexities of those multi-vendor environments often outweigh the original cost savings. Storage virtualisation within the datacentre is becoming a tool to temporarily help consolidate existing arrays behind new arrays to reduce complexity whilst the asset is sweated or migrated; not to run a long term multi-vendor strategy. The significant future datacentre cost savings come from getting rid of your own datacentre altogether and moving to a public cloud model or, initially more likely,  moving to a hybrid model, where a large majority of the commodity applications are moved into the public cloud and the business critical applications and data are maintained in a private cloud. The very nature of the applications being hosted in the private cloud demand, high performance, distributed access to continuously available information spread across physical locations. That data is more likely to be stored on highly available, consolidated storage platforms that offer market leading features and functionality, that can continue to decrease cost and increase performance.

Hopefully I have given you an insight into some of the thinking and reasoning for the sometimes contentious path that we embarked on two years ago with VPLEX. I honestly believe that today  we are in the best possible place that we could be to help our customers continue their journey to the cloud and as for the future, well you know I cannot comment on that! 🙂