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EMC World 2009: Customers look for more information on Symmetrix V-Max

Storage admins will explore EMC's Symmetrix V-Max, and watch for updates on Clariion and solid-state drives at EMC World 2009 this week, although the economy could hurt attendance.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Customers attending the EMC World 2009 conference said they'll be looking for more information about the new Symmetrix V-Max array, and watching for updates on Clariion, VMware integration and solid-state drives (SSDs).

Attendees at the opening reception Sunday night said they were interested in finding out more about the systems EMC has launched since last year's EMC World.

"We're interested in looking at V-Max for its potential integration with VMware," said Danghuy Nguyen, enterprise systems manager at the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp. (NRUCFC) in Herndon, Va. Nguyen said the ability to do virtual provisioning and provision according to policy groups rather than by individual server "could take [server] virtualization to the next level and ease management for administrators."

Steve Hunt, systems architect at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said he's intrigued by Atmos, EMC's object-based scale-out storage system. "We're trying to figure out how to start dealing with objects – with data as something that isn't owned by a particular server," Hunt said.

Nguyen and Hunt said they're also interested in refining data management policies by comparing notes with other users. For Nguyen, those policies would be for archiving data for long-term retention. Hunt is looking at policies to improve tiered storage and day-to-day data management.

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"We've been tiering storage for years, but you're really not dealing with it until you decide what your overall business policies are," Hunt said.

A closer look at modular arrays

Other EMC customers reached by before the show said they're most interested in getting a closer look at V-Max's distributed architecture, with some seeing it as an alternative to deploying multiple smaller modular arrays.

"I want to look under the hood," said Ryan Perkowski, storage manager at a leading credit card issuer in the U.S. who asked that his company not be identified because corporate policy forbids him to represent it in the media. "I have my doubts and suspicions," he said. "With the way they divide up the backplane, I can imagine incurring some level of latency." However, Perkowski said he'd be looking for a deep dive to address his doubts at the show.

Others said they'd like to see a similar overhaul for Clariion.

"I'd like to see it [Clariion] get the same treatment that [Symmetrix] V-Max did in terms of using SSD drives as a 'hot' region and moving lesser-used data out to spinning disk when possible to make the whole thing seem much faster," said Michael Passe, storage manager at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "This probably would use thin provisioning in some way to provide this ability. It may not be this year or next, but I would like to see that type of capability come to [Clariion] CX for some of my more IO-intensive applications as we move away from Symm and toward an all-Clariion shop."

Solid-state drives and data management are also hot topics for storage pros these days. Many are looking at SSDs to address power and cooling limitations, but are waiting for the price of the media to come down.

"I believe there isn't enough competition yet [in this market]," said Kris Knutson, director of infrastructure services at Carfax based in Centreville, Va. "It's coming; I'm just hoping it will come sooner so I don't need new air conditioners in our computer room in three years."

Storage clouds will also appear

Analysts said cloud computing is also likely to figure into EMC's messaging at the show.

"I expect to see [EMC CEO] Joe [Tucci] focus on total information management in the enterprise, and how EMC continues to bring all of their solutions together into a managed whole," said Jeff Boles, senior analyst and director, validation services at Hopkinton, Mass.-based Taneja Group. "A key aspect of that message will likely be their cloud solutions, including service offerings, and how their new technologies are reaching across geographically spread out enterprises."

Benjamin Woo, vice president, enterprise storage systems at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said the cloud would probably be a strong theme, as well as what he called "VCE" – the three-way partnership between VMware Inc., EMC and Cisco Systems Inc.

Economy could hurt attendance

It's unclear how the global economic downturn will affect attendance, but several customers said they'll skip the conference this year because travel budgets have been slashed.

"We're under travel restrictions here -- work only, and even then it has to be approved at a high level," said David Grant, data center manager at Kanata, Ontario-based Mitel Networks Corp., who will be watching from home.

Passe at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center agreed. "I expect lots of shows are seeing a drop in attendance this year."

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