A Preview of EMC’s Project Lightning

The storage world is getting ready for the launch of EMC’s Project Lightning. EMC has invited press, analysts and the world to an announcement on February 6th to see the unveiling of the server-based flash product and strategy to manage data using EMC automated tiering software.

EMC’s strategy with Project Lightning is to extend the storage stack closer to the server. For the past two decades, we’ve seen storage function steadily move from server/host to storage/SAN. EMC started this trend with its Symmetrix disk array, which initially connected to virtually all types of OSes and host processors. That vision extended to the SAN and the external RAID, storage network concept became the standard architecture for storing, protecting and sharing mission critical data.

At the recent Node Summit conference, Wikibon.org’s David Floyer and SiliconAngle’s John Furrier talked about Project Lightning to a live audience. Floyer made the following points:

  • EMC is putting PCIe cards into the server and managing that capacity using its Fully Automated Storage Tiering Software (FAST)
  • Floyer predicts that initially, EMC will have a cache-like approach but he posits that over time, EMC will introduce cache coherency and further extend and mature the IO stack– from server flash all the way into spinning SATA disk (i.e. “the bit bucket”).
  • The other key point Floyer makes is that for enterprise buyers, guaranteed delivery becomes more important and the faster you can write to a persistent media (e.g. flash) the more advantageous to mission critical applications.
  • Floyer also predicted that over time, EMC will increasingly become more systems-oriented, marrying flash technology with VMware specifically.

The major difference Floyer sees with EMC’s Project Lightning is it’s designed to dovetail with EMC’s VMAX, VNX and FAST infrastructure as a way to extend the company’s value proposition to its existing installed base. EMC started the flash trend when it landed a haymaker, introducing enterprise flash drives in 2008. Others such as Fusion-io have pushed the flash concept closer to the servers and enabled new types of applications for the Web. EMC has observed this trend and will likely compete, not head-on with the likes of Fusion-io, but rather by leveraging its existing customer base and extending value closer to the server.

Here’s the three-minute video clip of Floyer and Furrier:

  • Yes, but the fundamental problem is that EMC needs to change it’s organization to live on smaller margins with a different sales force targeting new customers.  Technology won’t fix that.