On May 18-21, members of the Wikibon community gathered in Orlando, FL, to participate in EMC World 2009. EMC World started as a grass roots effort by technology practitioners geared for technology practitioners. Over the years, EMC has layered senior management presentations, partner exhibits, and industry analyst and trade press material on top of the core technical content, to create the storage industry's most useful customer meetup. As EMC's business has evolved, EMC World has morphed into an information infrastructure event covering not only core storage, but also VMware, security, content management, and in the past two years, cloud computing.
The most striking aspect of the event is its size. In a climate where travel is down and other events are struggling, the organizers of EMC World and its attendees were not disappointed. EMC World 2009 had 7,000 attendees and more than 80 exhibitors and sponsors. While the number of attendees was off from last year's 9,000, it wasn't evident as the keynote sessions and technical breakouts were packed. The exhibitor hall was also very active as EMC's partners and suppliers were there to get in front the the storage industry's largest customer base.
On May 26, 2009, the Wikibon community met to discuss and summarize this year's event. What follows is a brief overview of the highlights of that call, which can be found at the Wikibon Peer Incite Archive.
Tucci and Maritz
The keynote presentations this year were kicked off by what are becoming EMC's #1 and #1A, Joe Tucci and Paul Maritz. It's clear that EMC's long-term strategy heavily involves VMware, and the company is intent on showcasing its value to customers, investors, and observers at large.
Tucci largely echoed his comments from EMC's March financial analysts meeting, in which he cited several growth areas including a somewhat expanded version of the big five, namely:
- Server virtualization - for every $1 of virtualization there are $3 of storage at the backend;
- FCoE which brings the Fibre Channel protocol to Ethernet, centralized management, and lower cost of connection;
- Cloud-based storage and private clouds;
- Data-center efficiency (aka Green) - through tiering and spindown;
- SSD and flash -- a total game-changer as price drops.
Maritz then took customers through the EMC/VMware vision of its private cloud strategy emphasizing that:
- EMC intends that VMware will become a platform for ALL applications.
- Performance generally and I/O performance particularly will not limit VMware adoption.
- VMware is building a software mainframe for the future.
- Its strategy is to encapsulate internal and external cloud computing infrastructures and allow customers a single management paradigm for security, compliance, and governance.
Notably, no customers we spoke with were planning to implement such a strategy in the near term, as much of this vision is in development and unproven. However most customers we spoke with saw the need for such capabilities, specifically as they pertain to so-called 'cloud bursting' -- the ability to accommodate surge demand for internal data-center resources by using the external cloud.
The Wikibon members in attendance at EMC World discussed the following observations:
Core storage - i.e. Symmetrix, CLARiiON, Celerra, Centera and data protection - the main theme is execution and EMC as the 'safe bet.' The company continues to spend heavily in R&D and expanding the functionality of its broad portfolio.
FAST - EMC's Fully Automated Storage Tiering solution, promised as part of the VMax announcement and implied to be available across EMC's core storage portfolio. FAST is a critical component for making storage more economically attractive. Few details have emerged as to how EMC will attack the opportunity to dynamically move data throughout the storage hierarchy and match data and device characteristics. Customers should push EMC for more details prior to committing major resources to VMax.
Cloud/Atmos - lots of talk but few customer references. The main emphasis is on developing the ecosystem to support object-based storage, but clearly there is a long way to go.
Content Management and Archiving (CMA) - According to Wikibon member Geoff Bock, Principle of Bock and Company - "CMA is launching a pincer movement to corral content in the wild. On one flank there's SourceOne with its emphasis on email archiving and records management; on the other there's Documentum with it's new xCP initiative for rapidly deploying content applications. Promising? Certainly. But the jury's still out and the devil's in the details." The key question is whether EMC can reconcile the fundamental flaws in its strategy between centralized document workflow and de-centralized risk mitigation.
VMware - EMC continues to demonstrate outstanding prowess in VMware integration stemming not just from its majority ownership of VMware but EMC's recognition of the importance of the platform and its ability to effectively mask the lack of array-based storage virtualization and continue to thrive in the market.
Iomega and consumer markets where EMC gets more disk drive buying power and a distribution channel into SMB. Iomega is now #2 and #3 in European and the United States, respectively. DAS markets behind WD and Seagate respectively.
Data De-duplication and data reduction. EMC's strategy is to extract intellectual property from its Avamar acquisition and place data reduction technologies (source-based, target-based, compression, single instancing, etc) across the portfolio and make them speak the same language. The benefits of this strategy are: 1) it will eliminate the need to 're-hydrate' data as it is moved through the infrastructure and 2) it allows data reduction to be both incremental and cumulative, increasing storage efficiency and optimizing data efficiency. It also is an effective attack strategy against companies that are primarily point-product based (e.g. Data Domain, although the NetApp acquisition changes that overnight).
Customers are advised to dig into this strategy and confirm that what EMC has delivered for file-based Celerra can be replicated in more complex block-based environments. Wikibon believes this is non-trivial and could result in de-duped silos.
Customer Loyalty, otherwise known as EMC's Total Customer Experience (TCE) program. Wikibon believes it is the most comprehensive and serious customer loyalty program in the storage industry and perhaps even the entire technology sector. EMC ties employee compensation to the results and is using TCE as a competitive weapon.
In the limited time we had, Wikibon members focused on visiting a limited number of exhibitors including:
Axxana - demonstrating zero data loss at asynchronous distance integrated with EMC's RecoverPoint for CLARiiON.
QLogic, Emulex and Brocade - showing off FCoE solutions, with QLogic demonstrating a single-chip converged network-adapter (CNA) that was announced as shipping with several IBM servers.
Seven10 a provider of StorFirst Altus software, a Windows-based application which can replicate an EMC Centera archive in native-CAS-format to a VTL or a tape library for compliant disaster-recovery purposes.
Unisys - announced new ClearPath mainframes and integration with EMC's Symmetrix VMax as part of the offering.
Virtual Instruments - provides instrumentation software and services to probe large FC-based SANs in VMware environments. The key to the Virtual Instruments solution is allowing customers to identify bottlenecks and improve port utilization, thereby increasing VMware consolidation ratios, which are under pressure as VMware becomes more widespread.
ZettaPoint - showing a data classification engine that classifies data by usage and I/O to optimize database object placement, performance, and cost.
Note: Several times Wikibon members attempted to sit in on Cisco's UCS presentation, but it was consistently so packed we were unable to participate effectively.
Action Item: In genera, customer feedback at EMC World was extremely positive. While none were actively considering implementing a private cloud vision, customers expressed extreme loyalty to EMC as years of processes and skills built up around EMC's solutions are hardened. EMC World remains a highly useful event developed by practitioners for practitioners and for clients looking to maximize investments in EMC hardware and software it's a must attend annual event.