EMC aims for "ease of use" at EMC World


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For one week in May, EMC's top executives preached to the choir at EMC World in Orlando, FL, telling everyone within earshot that the company is making its products easier to use.

"We've listened to you and we're responding," said Dave Donatelli, EMC's executive VP for storage product operations, in his keynote speech. But several EMC users at the show said "ease of use" is a moving target. One senior EMC software developer even conceded that "we still have a long way to go."

Donatelli happily detailed how EMC has reduced the number of clicks required to provision storage in its arrays. For example, with Clariion's Navisphere task bar wizards it now takes only one minute to provision 1TB, or 16 clicks, and just 11 clicks to create a clone for a backup, said Donatelli.

EMC also plans to offer a "Celerra Start-up Assistant" later this year, which would move a new Celerra into production in approximately 15 minutes and take "two clicks to thin provision a file system," said Donatelli. He added that with Symmetrix Management Console 6.0, the number of clicks required to set up and activate one TimeFinder snapshot session has dropped from 21 to three.

But not all users were impressed with EMC's new provisioning wizards. "To get any kind of granularity [for provisioning] you have to do it manually," said Earl Hartsell, senior IT analyst at Solvay Pharmaceuticals. Hartsell said the simplified provisioning in Clariion is good for new users, but

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makes life more difficult for people used to doing things the old way. "You think about it one way and then they make a 180-degree turn," he said.

Bill Dorough, senior systems engineer and architect at CSC in Indianapolis, said EMC's effort to make its products more usable is a double-edged sword. "We can pass off more tasks to junior administrators, but if something goes wrong they have no idea how to get past the GUI," said Dorough. "The kids coming up today only know [how to work with] wizards."

Furthermore, as wizards and GUIs get more complex, providing dense graphics that explain how to do things, they consume more CPU power. "They often run Java, which is slow, and we need to be aware of anything that's sucking up power," said CSC's Dorough.

This was first published in July 2007

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