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EMC World 2012 Wrap: Sneak peaks at Projects X and Thunder

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — EMC was stingy with details of its pet flash projects during most of EMC World 2012, but offered glimpses of early versions of “Project X” and “Project Thunder” Tuesday during chief marketing officer Jeremy Burton’s keynote on future technologies.

Burton called up XtremIO’s product manager VP Josh Goldstein for a quick demo of what EMC is calling Project X – XtremIO’s all-flash array. Goldstein showed how the flash array scales out by adding nodes for “unlimited IOPS,” said it takes only 20 seconds to provision 1 PB of data, and claims a single node can produce 150,000 write IOPS and more than 300,000 read IOPS. He said it can handle a mixed load of reads and writes at 180,000 IOPS. Goldstein said the product is made up of commodity components to keep the price down. EMC execs say Project X is entering pre-beta deployments and will not be generally available until next year.

Project Thunder is an appliance with up to 10 1 TB flash cards and connects to servers through 40-Gigabit Ethernet or InfiniBand switches. Dan Cobb, CTO of EMC’s flash, gave a brief demo on stage and strongly hinted that Thunder will be shipping by the end of the year. “[EMC COO] Pat Gelsiner would like an early Christmas present, and he seems like he’s the kind of guy who gets what he wants,” Cobb said. …

Even with Projects Thunder and X, EMC expects most flash implementations in the near future to be the addition of SSDs to hard drive arrays. Or, as the president of EMC’s unified storage division Rich Napolitano put it, “A little flash goes a long way.”

Napolitano said if a storage array has five percent of flash, that flash can handle 70% to 80% of all IOPS. He also said more than 60% of EMC’s midrange storage systems now include flash, and claimed that all-flash systems are too costly for midrange systems. “Ninety percent of use cases will be covered with a hybrid array,” he said. “The challenge with all-flash arrays is, if they’re not hybrid, they just can’t hit the cost point for the midrange.” …

Syncplicity customers hoping that EMC will improve the online file-sharing service’s enterprise features might get their wish. Jeetu Patel, chief strategy officer for EMC’s information intelligence group, said there are plans to add enterprise features.

“We looked at many products in this space and found that Syncplicity was the best at providing a simpler user experience with the richest set of security, policy and management controls for IT,” Patel said. “It is already enterprise-strength and we have numerous exciting enhancements planned.”

Patel said recent customer surveys indicated more than 80% want an enterprise solution for syncing and sharing files. “It is critical that our solution breaks down the barriers between operating systems, devices, and business apps to allow data to reside everywhere users need it,” he said.

Patel said there are no pricing changes for Syncplicity planned “at this time.” …

EMC CEO Joe Tucci said the vendor will continue to split its product development resources between internal development and acquisitions. He said EMC spends about $2 billion a year each on R&D and M&A.

“We never comment on what technology areas we’re interested in acquiring, that only ends up working against us,” he said during a Monday press conference. “We will do multiple acquisitions a year. XtremIO will not be the last one we’ll do this year.”

He was proved correct on that last claim hours later when EMC announced it acquired Syncplicity. …

Facebook is in the news for other reasons these days, but the social media giant may have set a record for the largest storage purchase in history earlier this year. Computer Weekly’s Jennifer Scott reports Facebook is the customer EMC CFO David Goulden referred to during the company’s earnings call last month when he said a web company bought 28 PB of Isilon storage. “We believe it was the largest capacity single-order in the history of storage,” Goulden said. EMC execs have refused to publicly name the customer. …

A representative for cloud service provider Nirvanix claims EMC’s Atmos upgrades this week shows the vendor still doesn’t understand the cloud storage concept. Steve Zivanic, Nirvanix’s VP of marketing, dashed off an email mocking EMC for thinking speed enhancements to its Atmos object-storage platform will help customers who want cloud storage.

Zivanic wrote the Atmos upgrade shows that EMC still views storage as a product instead of a service. “When it’s a storage product, the risk is all on the buyer,” Zivanic wrote. “When it’s a service, the risk is on the seller. Atmos is still a product customers have to buy and manage and operate and maintain, versus a cloud service they can simply access as required.”

Zivanic wrote that customers have to pay up to millions of dollars to build private clouds using EMC technology, and its talk of hybrid clouds is hollow because the vendor has no public cloud of its own. That means it cannot enforce SLAs and security policies between a private and public cloud in a hybrid setup.

“EMC is still stuck in the old paradigm,” he wrote. “Once a customer uploads data to the cloud, it’s the last data migration they’ll ever do. That’s the new paradigm that EMC refuses to fundamentally embrace. It doesn’t matter how much faster Atmos is, EMC is still fighting the disruptive change that cloud storage represents.”

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