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EMC's Gelsinger: We don't want to sell servers

EMC executives say the storage vendor’s VFCache strategy is to work with server vendors, not to take their business.

During Monday’s VFCache launch, EMC president of information infrastructure products Pat Gelsinger said EMC’s move into server-side flash does not mean it has designs on becoming a server company. It only wants to sell the flash that goes into servers.

“From our side, this is truly cooperation [with server vendors],” Gelsinger said. “We’re not competing with them. There is no coopetition. This is just another card that goes into the server. We’re not in the server business. We’re extending the storage array on the server side and bringing the I/O stack into the server. We’re not going into the server.”

Gelsinger said the VFCache PCIe card is certified to run on servers from Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. There are no reseller or OEM deals with the server vendors for VFCache, although Gelsinger said there may be in the future.

Except for EMC’s close ally Cisco, the other three server vendors also sell storage. It will be interesting to see how they react to VFCache. But this isn’t the first time EMC has extended its technology into the server without actually selling servers. As the parent company of VMware, EMC is already a major player in server technology.

So even if EMC doesn’t want to sell servers, it wants a front-row seat to view the server world from.
“The biggest vulnerability EMC has in competing with the IBMs, HPs and Dells of the world is those other guys have access to the entire stack because they sell the servers and everything in between,” said Arun Taneja, founder of the Taneja Group analyst firm. “VMware gave EMC leverage to the server side and put the rest of the industry on notice – if you want to compete you have to buy stuff from EMC.”

David Flynn, CEO of EMC’s largest server-side flash competitor Fusion-io, maintains that EMC is trying to extend its vendor lock in with VFCache. He wonders why EMC doesn’t only sell its management software and let customers pick their own PCIe cards to place in the server.

While it plays nice with all the top server vendors with VFCache, EMC has made it clear that Micron is its favorite PCIe flash partner. Gelsinger – who asked for a moment of silence Monday for Micron CEO Steve Appleton, who was killed in a plane crash last week – emphasized that Micron is EMC’s preferred partner for VFCache although he acknowledged LSI is also a partner in a multi-vendor arrangement.

“Micron has extraordinary I/O performance,” Gelsinger said. “This is the best technology in the industry for PCIe flash.”

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