EMC users voice mixed feelings about VPLEX appliance

EMC World attendees are concerned about its impact on other systems and cost

BOSTON -- EMC announced its latest attempt to capture the cloud-computing marketplace for storage on Monday with its release of VPLEX, an appliance that affords synchronous replication of data, applications and virtual machines across data centers.

Roaming the floor of the exhibition hall at EMC's annual user conference, EMC World, users voiced mixed opinions on the new technology, some saying it will change they way disaster recovery and data migration is performed.

Others said the product seems too expensive and they didn't get how it was any different from existing virtualization technologies, such as EMC's current Invista virtualization software and Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF).

Chris Gerace, a regional support manager for candy-maker Mars Inc.'s information services department, said his shop is starting to use VMware. Mars is also eyeing with great interest Vblock, the name for a joint venture between EMC, its subsidiary VMware and Cisco that will develop integrated cloud-computing products including servers, networking, storage, and virtualization software for data centers.

However, Gerace already uses SRDF for replicating data between his high-end EMC DMX arrays, and he only uses his EMC Clariion midrange arrays for development purposes, so he said he's not interested in replicating that data offsite.

Gerace said Mars also uses storage from 3Par Inc., which uses inexpensive commodity hardware and proprietary software to offer a relatively inexpensive offsite synchronous data replication.

"What I'd like to see is something like a DMX that's smaller and more modular, and more scalable, so if I wanted to I could replace arrays or add to it so that I could keep up with the latest technology," he said.

Several other users voiced concern over EMC's product pricing, saying they'd like to see the company charge less for their products, including the new VPLEX.

"It seems quite expensive to me," said one system administrator from the Bank of Latvia, who asked not to be named. "I'd be more interested if it were cheaper."

A base configuration of the VPLEX, which is able to replicate data within the same data center, starts at $77,000.

Sahil Gupta, a development manager for WebMD, said he uses VMware in his data center, and that the VPLEX could be very useful for disaster recovery and business continuity. "Being able to move data centers virtually is a great disaster recovery strategy," he said.

"I think it's huge," Gupta continued. "It would be very useful for building a secondary environment and managing non-production environment and for cloning environments."

Barry Parham, CIO for the Qatar branch of Virginia Commonwealth University, said he uses VMware in his data center and uses EMC's CX-4 Clariion arrays for storage, but he said he has reservations about using a cloud infrastructure for everyday applications such as finances.

"I'm big on security," he said. "I worked in health care for five or six years and I like having personal control over my information."

Storage market analyst Jerome Wendt, president DCIG Inc., said what EMC is promoting with VPLEX is one big caching environment, where data can be shared in multiple locations at the same time.

Wendt believes VPLEX will make a big splash not only for EMC's users but in the market in general, prompting more adoption of cloud infrastructures. "This really raised the awareness level in terms of the cloud," he said.

"Are they going to make some sales form this? Absolutely. Will it benefit other [vendor] companies? Absolutely. Is this good for the storage industry as a whole? Yes," Wendt said.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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