Moderator: Peter Burris
Analyst: David Floyer
Recently EMC made a series of very broad announcements across its product line covering high-end products such as the Symmetrix DMX-4 across file-based and other products including Celerra, Clariion and Centera. The announcement demonstrates that EMC continues to offer a broad, feature-rich product line to large numbers of customer segments. One of the main elements across all the product-line enhancements was the inclusion of the 750 GB SATA II drive for applications that can handle slightly lower performance and have aggressive archiving needs that are best served by a direct-access storage device.
We find the inclusion of the SATA II into the high-end new DMX-4 product line especially interesting. This is the second major announcement in 2007 from a significant storage vendor that attempts to deliver on efforts to make good on the vision of tiered storage. Recently we have seen four main approaches to delivering on this promise:
- The first approach, favored by EMC and IBM, uses a single, powerful controller to manage numbers of drives allocated to different storage pools.
- The second, introduced by Hitachi in 2005, uses a hierarchy of controllers managed by a single master controller that allows lower-cost solutions to support applications with lower performance storage requirements.
- The third is the multiple pool approach used in most large organizations, whereby different classes of storage technology are assigned to different pools in response to application needs. This 'static' approach is simple to set up, but inflexible as it does not facilitate easy movement of data between storage pools over time as requirements change.
- The fourth answer, which is only beginning to emerge, is the grid or matrix approach, which will eventually incorporate networks of controllers under a single management rubric to allow users to allocate the right technology with the right performance at the optimal cost to meet the needs of each application.
In this context, EMC’s announcement provides one major vendor’s vision for how tier 1 and 2 storage can be unified into a single set of managed resources so that tier 2 storage can enjoy a lower overall cost option thanks to inclusion of the new 750 GB SATA II disk, recently announced practices of lower software costs for lower performance drives, and the ability to partition cache in the controller to prioritize key applications. Users interested in adopting the EMC solution for two-tier storage, however, need to be prepared to negotiate aggressively over software costs to be sure that those costs are low enough to make sense for tier 2 applications. As well, EMC pre-announced thin provisioning, meaning customers will this year make 2008 capacity commitments which could subsequently be effected by EMC's thin provisioning delivery.
Our expectation is that the marketplace will recognize EMC’s effort as another incremental step in delivering on the tiered storage promise. We anticipate that tiered storage realities will drive competition aggressively over the next 6-12 months and beyond, especially as new types of grid- or matrix-oriented storage solutions emerge in the marketplace to deliver greater granularity and potentially simplicity to storage management.
Action Item: EMC’s announcement shows good direction across a broad product line for a wide array of EMC customers. It provides a glimpse of EMC’s overall direction and how it thinks tiered storage solutions will and should look in the near and long-term. Users should pay attention but should continue pushing EMC and others to finally realize the promises of tiered storage put forward in the last decade or so.