EMC users push for better power consumption

EMC announces a 1.8 PB VTL, deduplication for VMware and bare-metal restore for servers as users caution the company to stay focused on everyday problems, such as power consumption.

ORLANDO, Fla. – EMC Corp. took the wraps off several new products at its show in Florida this week, including a giant virtual tape library (VTL) based on the Symmetrix DMX-3, the ability to deduplicate data stored on virtual machines and bare-metal restore software for servers. Users were impressed with the announcements but also urged the company to stay focused on the everyday problems they have, such as power consumption, cooling and storage management.

"They need to find a way to turn down power -- this should be job one for these guys. They are worried about a lot of things, but this is a major problem for us," said a systems architect with a large aerospace and defense contractor who requested anonymity. This organization is building a new data center that will house 6 petabytes (PB) of storage, and has put advanced power and cooling technologies at the top of its design criteria. "Right now, EMC has an expensive consulting service and a power calculator, and that's not enough," this user said.

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EMC's answer, according to CEO, Joe Tucci, is tiered storage. "Nothing helps as much as tiering" when it comes to saving power, he said during a press conference at the show. In other words, users need to classify their data according to usage patterns and move the infrequently accessed information to larger, slow spinning disks that consume less power.

This is all well and good, users said, but more and more data is being kept online, which means more power consumption. Tucci said that "deduplication holds promise" to alleviate this issue and mentioned that the company is working on technology to spin down drives.

However, this is complex technology and may require delicate tuning to achieve true energy savings. For example, difficulty in accurately predicting idle periods can result in disks spinning up soon after they were spun down, resulting in less energy conservation than anticipated. Furthermore, there may be risks that drive mechanics will become less reliable with repeated spinning up and spinning down. "There really isn't a good answer to this problem yet," said Michael Pishko, systems engineer with a large Wall Street bank.

His firm has deployed EMC's Disk Library (DL) at multiple sites to get away from backing up to tape. "We were tired of losing tapes," he said. The latest DL 6000 series that can store up to 1.8 PB of data in one appliance and back up approximately 11 terabytes (TB) of data per hour is right up his alley. "We can consolidate several of our CDLs into this system," he said.

Another technology that should help with energy efficiency is thin provisioning. This lets users provision volumes but only consume capacity based on the amount of data actually written. It gets rid of allocated but unused capacity, saving on buying and powering more storage. EMC Celerra supports thin provisioning today and this feature will be available on the Clariion and DMX in early 2008, the company said.

Simplifying storage management crept up in conversations with users at the show, but with a slightly different angle. As EMC makes strides to simplify the use of its products, some users are worried that they will lose functionality in the process. "We want them to make it easier to manage, but we've developed so many workarounds I couldn't do without those now," said a storage administrator with Verizon Business.

Other news tidbits from the show included a sneak peek of Invista 2.0, the next version of EMC's network-based virtualization product available in June. It will support a greater number of volumes (the actual numbers were not disclosed), increase performance and will be integrated with RecoverPoint, EMC's heterogeneous remote replication technology from its acquisition of Kashya Inc.

"We have not pushed it significantly," Tucci said in response to a question about the lackluster sales of Invista. It's been available for about a year with little to no customer traction. "We remain totally convinced that the best place to virtualize storage is in the network … with Version 2.0 we will be just fine," he said.

Storage Software as a Service (SaaS) is also on the roadmap for later this year when EMC plans to announce its Data Vault offering, an online archiving service for small businesses. In conjunction with this, the company plans to announce a family of new low-end storage arrays, but no details are available, yet.

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