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EMC launches Symmetrix V-Max, may add spin-down

EMC Corp. had a virtual press conference this morning to announce the new Symmetrix V-Max high-end disk array. DMX-4 will remain on the market, but the new distributed architecture and software updates have EMC claiming V-Max is faster and more scalable.

The president of EMC’s storage division, Dave Donatelli, said during a conference call with press this morning that the vendor is “contemplating spin-down” for the new Symmetrix, though he did not commit to a time frame.

I also asked Donatelli a question I’ve had on my mind for a while with regard to EMC. Back in the fall of 2007, EMC revealed at a customer event that it was developing a universal backup and archiving appliance built on industry-standard components, which would be given a ‘personality’ by EMC’s different software modules. A centralized management GUI for all backup and replication processes was also discussed. The first steps toward this may have come in the form of Avamar / Networker integration; at last year’s EMC World, execs told me they acquired WysDM to make that company’s software a centralized management framework for backup and archiving.

Then came the Clariion CX-4, which added high-availability features and scaled well into Symmetrix range. It wasn’t necessarily cannibalism yet, but it the increasing overlap was notable. As EMC has talked more and more about becoming a software company over the last few years, combined with the backup and archiving appliance plans, and other subtle signs of convergence between the systems like the redesign of disk trays that could fit into either CX or DMX, I began to wonder if EMC wasn’t planning a similar melding and commoditization of primary / secondary storage hardware, with different software to give it different “personalities.”

EMC officials have been on the coy side in talking about this. The picture has gotten a little clearer with the announcement of V-Max, which adds multicore Intel x86 processors, a first, as noted by IDC’s Benjamin Woo, in the high-end disk array space and a first for the Symmetrix line. EMC put a heavy emphasis on the software side of V-Max as well; most of the performance improvements and new features come from a complete reworking of the Enginuity OS software that runs Symmetrix. A software-based approach to pools of devices–i.e. the “VMwareization” of Symm–further commoditizes the hardware, further relies on software to give a machine “personality”…

During today’s Q&A with Donatelli, I asked if that is, in fact, EMC’s plan–if today what we think of as Clariion, Celerra and Symm might one day be distinguished by software rather than different hardware. He said that while CX and V-Max both use x86 processors, they’re different kinds of processors–in fact, different across the different Clariion models as well as different among CX and V-Max. V-Max also uses custom ASICs for its virtual matrix scale-out. “We still see a difference between the high-end world and the midtier world,” he said.

But he didn’t say for how long…

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