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Small guys rap EMC on innovation

 While EMC generally received high marks in the storage industry for brining thin provisioning, MAID, and solid state disk into its midrange arrays, the CEOs of smaller competitors 3Par and Compellent say they’re not worried about the new Clariion CX-4 features stunting their growth.

3PAR and Compellent completed IPOs last year, and have continued to grow in their early quarters as public companies. 3PAR increased revenues 80 percent last quarter and turned a small profit ($2 million) for the first time. Compellent revenues grew 74 percent since last year and it narrowed its losses to $603,000 – down from $1.9 million last year.

Compellent and 3PAR likely owe some of their success to beating the big guys to the punch with thin provisioning and other features. Now EMC comes along with thin provisioning and raises the bar in the midrange with SSD support and gets the jump with 8-gig FC connectivity. But Compellent CEO Phil Soran points out his company’s Storage Center systems have supported thin provisioning since 2004. He said Compellent has even offered SSDs in “special bid” custom installations.

Soran said EMC’s CX-4 “shows that others have been leading in the innovation space for many years now. It wasn’t long ago that EMC said they don’t recommend thin provisioning, and we’ve had it for almost five years.”

Thin provisioning pioneer 3PAR has had it in its InServ systems since 2002. Now thin provisioning has popped up in Hitachi Data Systems’ USP-V platform, EMC’s SAN and NAS boxes, and IBM’s San Volume Controller (SVC) over the last year. IBM also offers thin provisioning in the XIV systems it will rebrand in the coming months.

But 3PAR CEO Dave Scott says not all thin provision is created equal. When asked during his company’s earnings call last week what impact he thought EMC’s virtual provisioning would have on InServ sales, Scott said “not a lot. It’s becoming clear to customers who do any analysis of the [thin provisioning] capabilities that EMC and Hitachi put together know they don’t reflect the kind of ease of use and automation necessary to implement this efficiently. You end up with what we call chubby provisioning, that is, it enhances operational overhead risk.”

Soran also criticized EMC for have a “model-based architecture” with disparate midrange SAN, enterprise SAN, and NAS systems while competitors such as Compellent, 3PAR and NetApp have one model that doesn’t require rip and replace upgrades. EMC claims that is one path it will not follow its rivals down, although some analysts suspect it might.

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EMC knows a good thing when it sees it, and it has seen it in other products, so now they will incorporate those good ideas into their product line. It is hard to get excited about the new announcements from EMC, they have added features from other innovators, but are pretty much the same as they have always been, a traditional vendor. Not all "Thin Provisioning" is created equal. The two companies quoted in the Soup Blog, 3PAR and Compellent were the first two to create it, and thus far, the only two who do it right. All the others, have created a feature they call "Thin Provisioning", but it is not the same as the terrific technology created by Compellent and 3PAR. All the others are trading on the innovation of these two, so they can "check the box" on the RFP next to the words "Thin Provisioning". Paul Clifford Davenport Group
If you want to get specific thin provisioning was first introduced by StorageTek with its Iceberg Disk Array in 1992. That product morphed into the IBM Ramac Virtual Array in 1995. So much for being exciting new technology!
Paul, How can you, in good conscious post that Compellent and 3PAR created Thin Provisioning? It's been around for a LONG time. You also claim that Compellent does it right. Compellent gear is so full of issues that using TP on their system would destroy performance. They are way too underpowered to be able to support TP with any load on the system.