EMC's Midrange Disk Arrays Cannibalize Symmetrix Sales

NEW ORLEANS — Sales of EMC Corp.'s Clariion midrange storage systems are skyrocketing—but the company acknowledged last week that some of the growth is coming at the expense of the Symmetrix arrays that were once its bread and butter.

Users at the EMC Technology Summit here said the vendor continues to bolster the Clariion line with high-end functionality once reserved for Symmetrix, such as data mirroring, snapshot copying and dynamic provisioning.

"They've added feature functionality and performance to make [Clariion] what the Symmetrix was three or four years ago," said John Hegner, vice president of technology services at Liberty Medical Supply Inc. in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "Except for the highest feature functionality, I don't see a place for Symmetrix."

Hegner manages more than 50TB of data stored in Clariion arrays. Liberty Medical doesn't use any Symmetrix systems, he said.

Michael Berthiaume, a systems analyst at American Power Conversion Corp. in West Kingston, R.I., said his company recently replaced two older Symmetrix 8530 arrays with one high-end DMX and one Clariion CX700 array, achieving a "significant" return on investment.

The Clariion array, which can use either higher-end Fibre Channel disk drives or lower-cost Advanced Technology Attachment disks, is used by Berthiaume's shop for applications such as Lotus Notes and software from Oracle Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc. The DMX array is used almost exclusively for CRM applications, he said.

In the quarter that ended March 31, sales of Clariion systems totaled $419 million, up 47% from $285 million in the year-earlier period. First-quarter 2005 sales of Symmetrix systems, in contrast, declined 3% to $652 million.

Mark Lewis, EMC's chief development officer, said that the company is welcoming the movement of Symmetrix users to midrange systems.

"We just want to be change embracers," Lewis said. "At the end of the day, bring it on. Let it happen. The only risk you always have is sticking your head in the sand."

Joel Schwartz, general manager of EMC's midrange systems division, said that while Symmetrix will remain a standard for highly resilient and high-throughput systems, he isn't troubled by the user movement away from the line. "If you don't cannibalize yourself, someone else will," he said.

Financial Returns

Paul Stonchus, data center manager at MidAmerica Bank in Clarendon Hills, Ill., said he thinks EMC's midrange and high-end arrays will merge over the next 10 years to become a single line based on the best of their technologies. "The disk form factor is the same. If they merge, then you only have one R&D cost that would be less," said Stonchus, whose bank has a mix of EMC's Symmetrix, Clariion and Centera fixed-data arrays.

Tony Prigmore, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., also said he thinks EMC will eventually move to a combined storage platform with a common set of code, storage applications and physical components. He predicted that such a move by EMC would accompany an industrywide convergence of midrange and high-end systems.

Prigmore pointed to IBM's release last fall of its TotalStorage DS8000 line of arrays, which includes both high-end and midrange systems that share common applications and management software.

"We anticipate seeing that same thing with Hitachi Data Systems," he said.

Prigmore said it makes sense that users would stick with high-end arrays if they already had significant investments in storage software and staff trained to support those systems. But, he added, "the gap is closing here, perception-wise."

Upgraded Clariion

High-end functionality on EMC’s midrange arrays:

Local point-in-time copies (SnapView)

Remote synchronous and asynchronous replication (MirrorView)

Full or incremental copies between SANs (SAN Copy)

Web-based LUN provisioning (Navisphere Management Suite)

Centralized storage resource management (Visual SRM)

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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