Q&A: EMC's Mark Lewis on virtualization, competition

He expects the company's Invista software to gain traction by '07

Mark Lewis, chief development officer at EMC Corp., spoke to Computerworld this week about EMC's Invista virtualization software. Invista promises to pool storage resources behind switches from multiple vendors. But EMC has yet to ship the product -- which it announced earlier this year -- in bulk, even though IBM began selling its own SAN Volume Controller virtualization technology more than two years ago. Lewis also addressed recent announcements by IBM and Cisco Systems Inc. that they expect to sell virtualization products for the entire data center, from servers to back-end storage.
There seem to be a lot of delays in getting the Invista virtualization technology out. What's the holdup?
No. We're really where we wanted to be with it. We announced it and said we'd announce it. We said it would be very limited availability this year. We didn't expect material impact. We didn't want or expect any volume ramp. We said customers should put it in development environments and said it was enterprise customers. It's undergoing evaluation. At such point in time they choose to deploy and reference and all that, we'll be providing that information too. It's where we want it in the early release status. At least we're trying to be forthright that that was our expectation.

So you're not experiencing hurdles in getting this out? We very much acknowledged this was a major tech advancement. It involved new switch intelligence and a new product from us. We really tried to set the V1 expectations for this and virtualization in general. It's one of those things that I consider one of the hottest core technologies in the market today. VMware, our acquisition of Rainfinity, Invista -- hottest market today. Especially in the SAN space, we know it's going to be something that is [a] late 2006-, 2007-type of technology. We have a lot of customers looking at it. We have a reasonable number that have it in their development centers.
When can customers expect to see Invista be generally available? It's going to depend on our customers' development cycles. [General availability] will just be at the point in time when our customers want to put it into production.
You really feel it's not going to be ready for prime time until late 2006 or 2007? The virtualization market in general, yes, but I think the product itself will start deployments into production environments early next year. The difference is that we don't expect quantities to be significant or there to be a lot of major adoptions until the 2007 time frame. It's the typical ramp. You can look at iSCSI -- that was supposed to be the hottest thing five years ago. And... we came out with front-end arrays with iSCSI. And it's still one of those things where people say it's the hottest ticket and it's been five years. I think virtualization is very much game-changing technology, but even being game-changing, VMware started selling GSXServer in [2001], and it was [a few] years in relative obscurity before it took off. So it's not inappropriate for us to say it will be a year before we see volume deployments.
What do you think will be the hot topic at Storage Networking World next week? I think it will be information security. I think you're going to see that market hit a fairly chaotic state right now.


IBM and Cisco have both come out saying they're going to virtualize the data center. How is EMC going to take on that challenge? Obviously with VMware to have core server virtualization technology. I would agree virtualization technology is a key part to building out a more grid kind of utility computing. I think really the thing that sets us apart is we have the leading Intel-based virtualization technology today. We, with Invista, have taken the extra effort to do virtualization right in storage. We just acquired Rainfinity, which I believe for NAS virtualization and global name space capability is a very highly functional set of tools.
Within that virtualization environment, we last February acquired a [network systems management software vendor] company called SMARTS, which delivers many of the key pieces of cross-domain technology required to connect all of these virtual environments together. My opinion is the other folks talk a good line, but we're doing the heavy lifting in storage.
When do you expect to have Rainfinity's technology to be integrated with your NAS technology? Like Invista, it's principally an out-of-band capability. The other nice thing about it is it can also go in-band for select data migrations. It has the ability to move in and out of band on a dynamic way. The simple fact is... there is no integration work necessary. The nice thing also is it works across multiple platforms so we can provide for seamless virtualization across EMC, Network Appliance and even Windows-based file systems.
You recently said you were shutting down sales of your NetWin Windows-powered NAS arrays. There was no way you were going to compete with Dell and other commodity server makers in the NAS space, so why do it? Were you at any time pressured by Microsoft to use their Storage Server 2003 platform? No. We wanted to partner with Microsoft and still do that in as many areas as possible. We looked at the NetWin opportunity as just that: a way to fill out our overall NAS product line. What we clearly found is that EMC is a technology company and there may be areas of the market where we play and don't play. We couldn't bring enough value ourselves to that sale to really make it interesting to not just buy a Windows box from Dell. Microsoft is going to sell low-end backup and their version of CDP [continuous data protection], which is really snapshots. They're going to do things in storage. If we've learned anything from the experience, it is that even where we have products that may provide the same functions as others, we tend to exist in different areas of the market.

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