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At Last, EMC Finally Joining the All-Flash, All-the-Time Fraternity

neeraj gokhle

But what’s going to happen to the customer as the storage company makes the transition to the 21st Century?

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As promised a few weeks ago, EMC re-architected its VMAX enterprise and VNX mid-range legacy storage product lines with all flash. EMC says the new VMAX and VNX mid-range and high end lines now feature “all flash, all the time” to keep up with the times. My only reaction, “What took them so long?”

Fragmented Architectural Approach

Storage is a competitive business, as everyone in the industry knows. Despite being a leader in enterprise storage, EMC suffers from a fragmented architectural approach across market tiers. That’s because its product lines were assembled from a list of acquisitions not only in flash but older technologies as well. EMC’s VMAX and VNX systems were developed to work with traditional hard disk drives but then were later retrofitted for SSDs. In announcing the move, EMC’s executive said the revamped systems will include substantial technological improvements to take full advantage of new flash technologies.

Now that’s all well and good. But I question how successful they’ll be in transitioning from the older technologies to the new. And, I question how much more disruption they’re creating for their customers, by going to all flash. Will there be a forklift replacement for the new products now that they’ve been introduced to the market? In other words, even if customers want to stay with EMC, do the upgraded products represent a wholesale replacement from previous lines to new ones? In introducing all flash, has EMC considered the migration path, and how this fits into the bigger picture? And how this will impact the customer? My suspicions are there will be an impact, and a big one. Migration is going to pose a set of challenges for EMC and its customers going forward, if it hasn’t already.

Fragmentation

The first big challenge is one of fragmentation. Let’s say you’re an EMC customer and you want to grow from a mid-tier to a higher-end environment. What happens after the re-architecting is completed? Will you be able to make that transition? If you’re ready to move up into that high-end environment, will you have to go with a new system? This is in stark contrast to HPE 3PAR Storage, which has successfully evolved into the era of the all flash domain. This makes for easier data transitions and migrations, and doesn’t undermine user training, which brings us to the next challenge.

Re-training

When new products come to market, retraining for existing customers is usually required. Retraining amounts to change, and change, of course, is difficult to deal with. Customers especially don’t like change after they’ve spent years developing expertise and familiarity with their current storage systems. This is especially true as they aim to grow their environment from one level to the next with the least disruption, which brings me to the third challenge facing EMC.

Disruption

As existing customers grow into new, higher end environments, again I ask, “Will they have to move to a new system? Customers may now ask themselves what other options they can consider. In contrast,we offer one system with a single system-defined design, whether we’re dealing with spinning disks, flash, or a combination of the two.

Why HPE Storage is Different

I can’t emphasize enough that our approach to all flash storage is in sharp contrast to what EMC is trying to do. Our strategy for primary storage is part of a simple and clean approach to storage in general, not just all-flash. We only have two design points, one that is system-defined, based on the HPE 3PAR platform (whether disks, all flash, or a combination of the two) and the other that is software-defined, based on the HPE StoreVirtual platform. It is the same approach and the same techniques across system-defined and software-defined, with no need for the customer to deal with several different architectural approaches and training. This makes us unique. And the market appears to agree because HPE is the only major storage vendor to grow YoY market share over the last nine quarters, while others have declined steadily.

In making the announcement about re-architecting their two storage product lines earlier this year, EMC’s Chairman and CEO said, “Flash is one of the megatrends that’s changing the infrastructure business forever.” To that comment, I’d say, “Welcome to the all flash fraternity, EMC.” This from someone who has been a member for some time. In the meantime, while EMC has re-architected—and now trying to catch up, we’re here to help anyone caught in the confusion.

Want to learn more about our all-flash 3PAR StoreServ Storage systems designed to accelerate business and simplify IT?
You can read Vish Mulchand's blog on the importance of all flash vendors with multiple plan Bs, but no Plan A here.
And you can catch the most recent blog in this series, "If I Were in the Driver’s Seat at EMC" written by Jorge Maestre here.
You can also get more information about HPE 3PAR StoreServ all flash.

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