EMC's Hulk cluster storage system has arrived, and Maui is not far behind. Although still not announced, Hulk has reportedly has up to 10 3µ disk drawers each holding 30 native SAS or SATA drives. The drawers have a neat mechanism that allows them to be pulled out with full access to the front and back of the drives, allowing customer replacement of all parts. Up to 12 Intel 1µ 64 bit dual-core servers can be placed above together with two IP switches connecting servers, storage and the network. The result is 300 terabytes in a cabinet 44µ high, 25" wide and 44" deep. A fully configured box is hot (10,000 watts) and heavy (over 2,600 lb).
Hulk is designed for cloud computing based on open-source or proprietary file systems. The architecture of such systems assumes that all components can fail without impact on applications and can be replaced on the fly. ISPs and large self-sufficient enterprises are primary targets.
Hulk's architecture differs from the traditional model for this type of storage/computing, which is simple 1µ servers with 2-3 direct attach drives. The drive to disk ratio is more flexible on Hulk, and heat management is far less onerous. This architecture is also more future-proof as server heat densities are projected to rise faster than external storage.
Hulk is designed for applications similar to those supported by the Google File System. Make no mistake, EMC is trying to find a way to compete in markets typified by razor thin margins which presents a new challenge for EMC and other enterprise storage companies. The answer may be in Maui, the software for the cloud which will compete against many well-established open-source file systems and other software. EMC's added value with Hulk is a nice functional design and well-tested components. Wikibon believes this will command a 5-10% premium, no more. However, there is a huge market opening up as ISPs migrate from traditional server racks with direct attach storage to an external storage model. EMC can now compete in this marketplace with Hulk.
Action Item: Many of the fastest growing areas of storage such as document handling, archiving, video management, surveillance and research repositories are well matched for systems based on storage such as Hulk. Storage executives should become comfortable with the technology which will become commonplace over the next few years. It is likely that ISVs and system integrators will be the initial shippers of hulk-like systems into the data center, but enterprise development teams will not be far behind.