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7 storage questions ahead of Dell Technologies World

We'd like to know where Dell EMC stands on midrange storage, NVMe over fabrics, data protection, hyper-convergence, cloud and containers, among other things.

In the old days before 2017, EMC World was a pure storage extravaganza. Now, it's part of Dell Technologies World, a broader IT conference. While Dell has extended the show beyond just storage, it also adds to the Dell EMC storage story. Much of the IT behemoth's storage is now based on Dell PowerEdge servers, particularly its broad hyper-converged portfolio.

So, there will still be plenty of storage on tap at Dell Technologies World on April 29 in Las Vegas. We'll hear plenty of news on midrange storage, cloud storage, hyper-convergence, storage clouds, VMware storage software, server-based storage and multistorage clouds. Did we mention the cloud?

Going into the show, we have several storage questions we’d like answered.

What's hiding in the middle?

For years, EMC's mantra was the following: Better to have a product overlap than a gap. And EMC had plenty of overlaps. When Dell acquired EMC, the overlaps increased, as Dell EMC kept both vendors' storage products. Midrange storage systems presented the biggest overlap, with at least four primary systems from EMC and Dell. The main systems were EMC Unity and Dell SC -- formerly Compellent. But EMC's all-flash XtremIO and Isilon NAS also fit some midrange needs, and customers are still using the old Dell PS -- formerly EqualLogic -- systems.

Now, Jeff Clarke, vice chairman of operations at Dell EMC, frequently talks about consolidating some of those products -- particularly Unity and SC -- into one midrange storage platform. During several investor events, Clarke promised a new midrange platform by the end of 2019. Clarke said the new midrange system would offer customers an easy migration path from existing Dell EMC midrange arrays.

He also said the new platform would have artificial intelligence and machine learning built into the file system, and it would support NVMe, microservices and storage class memory (SCM) -- all the current storage array buzzwords.

How much will be revealed at Dell Technologies Word 2019 about the new midrange platform? Probably not much. The vendor upgraded its Unity platform in March, adding NVMe support and Intel Skyline Xeon chips. Dell EMC has a bunch of Unity sessions scheduled for the show -- plus some on SC -- so that platform will likely get most of the midrange push. Does that mean the new midrange system is still expected in 2019? If they don't tell us, we'll have to look carefully for hints.

Relevant sessions:

  • "Dell EMC Unity: In Their Own Words -- 3 Customers Discuss Technical & Business Value"
  • "Dell EMC Unity: Performance Best Practices"
  • "Dell EMC Unity: Performance Analysis & Troubleshooting"
  • "Dell EMC SC Series: Performance Analysis & Troubleshooting"
  • "Dell EMC Isilon: What's New In 2019 & Future Directions"
  • "Dell EMC XtremIO X2: New Innovations Update"

How many hyper-converged infrastructure products does a vendor need?

Dell EMC has even more hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) options than midrange storage platforms. There's its flagship VxRail that uses VMware vSAN software on PowerEdge servers with EMC storage services. And there's the XC Series that sells software from VMware's blood rival, Nutanix, thanks to a Dell-Nutanix OEM deal that predates the EMC acquisition. Those two platforms are well-known.

But Dell EMC also sells vSAN Ready Nodes for VMware and VxFlex -- using ScaleIO software -- and VxRack SDDC rack-scale HCI. It also has Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack and Ready Solutions for Microsoft WSSD for those who prefer Hyper-V and Storage Spaces Direct. Considering close to 70% of the HCI market runs on vSAN or Nutanix software, do all those other options have much of a future?

Relevant sessions:

  • "Dell EMC HCI: What's New & What's Trending"
  • "VxRail Performance Best Practices"
  • "VxFlex Family Overview & What's New"
  • "How Hyperconverged Infrastructure Transforms IT & IT Organizations"
  • "XC Family: Best Practices For Running Database Applications On XC Family Hyper-Converged Infrastructure"

How many ways can you spell 'cloud?'

WorldAtlas.com lists Torshavn, in the Faroe Islands, as the cloudiest place on earth. I'll bet WorldAtlas has never sent a correspondent to Dell Technologies World. You want to see clouds? Dell has its own enterprise cloud, Virtustream, and -- particularly VMware -- loves to attach cloud to its product names.

There is object storage for clouds, the aforementioned HCI cloud building blocks, VMware Cloud on AWS for people into cloud-on-cloud, cloud mobility, Cloud Tiering Appliance, Data Domain Cloud Tier, Cloud Data Protection, Cloud Disaster Recovery, Cloud Snapshot Manager, Cloud Data Services, Isilon Cloud for Google Cloud, Dell EMC UnityVSA Cloud, CloudIQ and other storage cloud services. It's enough to make attendees want to run to the pool to soak up some sun. If Dell EMC wants to keep them indoors, it would help if it crafted a coherent cloud strategy this year.

Relevant sessions:

  • "Introducing Dell EMC Cloud Data Storage"
  • "Dell EMC Storage With VMware Cloud On AWS & VMware Cloud Foundation: Virtualized Storage For On-Prem & In The Cloud"
  • "A Peek Into Dell IT's Multi-Cloud Strategy For The Digital Age"
  • "Financial Justification Of The Move To Multi-Cloud"
  • "Dell EMC Cloud Storage Service For Multi-Cloud Volumes, Disaster Recovery & More"
  • "Dell EMC ECS: What's New & What's On The Roadmap"

Can you remind us about your storage class memory time frame?

The PowerMax high-end SAN array built with an NVMe back end dominated storage talk at Dell Technologies World last year. Dell executives said they would add SCM and NVMe over fabrics in 2019. Dell EMC technical honchos repeated that SCM and NVMe-oF time frame to us in a February interview.

We're almost one-third of the way through 2019, so we expect a more concrete time frame for SCM and NVME-oF, especially with most Dell EMC rivals also talking about delivery dates for those features.

Relevant sessions:

  • "Storage & Memory Technology: NVMe, NVMe Over Fabrics & Storage Class Memory"
  • "Dell EMC PowerMax: What's New With PowerMax All Flash NVMe Array & HyperMax OS Performance"
  • "Dell EMC PowerMax: A Deep Dive Into The Award-Winning NVMe Based All Flash Platform"

How devoted are you to backup?

Data protection is a red-hot market these days. Veritas is re-energized as a stand-alone company. Commvault has new leadership and a fresh strategy. And IBM is showing it hasn't forgotten about backup with Spectrum Virtualize. Private companies Actifio, Cohesity, Rubrik and Veeam Software are raising funding dollars faster than they can count them.

Meanwhile, Dell EMC has been quiet on this front. The vendor barely talked about backup at all at Dell Technologies World 2018. What's it doing to help Data Domain hold off the new wave of converged scale-out backup appliances? How will it keep Avamar and NetWorker backup software relevant? And how does all this data protection translate in the data management everyone craves today.

Relevant sessions:

  • "Next Generation Dell EMC Data Protection Software: Architectural Deep Dive, Best Practices, Tips & Tricks For Successful Deployments"
  • "Dell EMC Data Domain: What's New For 2019"
  • "Data Protection Suite: What's New For Avamar in 2019"
  • "Data Protection Suite: What's New For NetWorker in 2019"
  • "Your Data Is Telling You Something: Are You Listening?"
  • "Data Management & Protection In A Multi-Cloud World"

What's your storage strategy for [insert your favorite emerging technology]?

Now that predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, edge computing, blockchain, containers and microservices are all real and storage-hungry, it will be interesting to hear how the world's largest storage vendor will work with them. EMC had taken steps in this direction a few years back, even developing an early driver for persistent Docker containers. But those nonpersistent plans dissolved after the Dell acquisition.

Relevant sessions:

  • "Dell EMC Project Nautilus: Next Generation Storage For Streaming & Analytics"
  • "Dell EMC PowerMax: The Enterprise Platform For Delivering Next-Gen Analytics"
  • "Dell EMC Storage Portfolio: Welcome To The Containerized World!"
  • "Future Trends Of The Connected Business With AI, Blockchain & Edge"
  • "Crossing The Digital Chasm With Artificial Intelligence"
  • "Fellows Unleashed: A View Into The Technology Crystal Ball From Dell Technologies' Leading Technologists"
  • "VMware & Dell At The Edge (compute): VMware's IoT Offering"
  • "Accelerators For AI Usage Cases"
  • "Analytics To Artificial Intelligence, Transforming Dell Technologies With Data"
  • "Bias In AI: Why Blind Acceptance Of Data Leads To Biased Machines"

What do you mean by 'digital transformation?'

At a past EMC World, one customer said, "Whenever I hear digital transformation, it means I'm going to have to spend more money." Does anyone have a better definition?

Relevant sessions:

  • "Future Of Digital Identity In The Era Of Digital Transformation"
  • "General Session: Innovation To Unlock Your Digital Future"
  • "General Session: Optimism & Happiness in the Digital Age"

For more information on Dell Technologies World sessions, you can check out its event website. And don't forget to check back in with us for up-to-date conference coverage once the event kicks off on Monday, April 29.

This was last published in March 2019

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