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EMC exec defends Symmetrix 8000 claims

EMC's recent major upgrade of its Symmetrix storage systems has drawn fire from its competitors in the storage industry, including Sun Microsystems and IBM Corp. saying EMC's claims are overrated. The Symmetrix 8000 stores 19.1 terabytes of data � more than twice what EMC could previously offer on any of its other high-end systems. In addition, EMC claims the Symmetrix 8000 delivers data to users' desktops at three to four times the speed of its predecessor. discussed the details of the Symmetrix upgrades with EMC's senior vice president of product management, Jim Rothnie, and asked him to defend EMC's claim that the Symmetrix 8000 is the best high-end storage device on the market. You say that you're doubling capacity and performance of the Symmetrix 8000? Is this by using double capacity/performance disk drives?

Rothnie: Yes. We're using 50 gigabyte disk drives, that's where the total of 19.1 terabytes comes from. As far as performance goes, we've made improvements in Enginuity [the microcode that runs Symmetrix], moved from the Motorola 68000 series processor to the newer Motorola PowerPC, doubled the bandwidth of the internal connections and architecture to 1.4 gigabytes per second, and doubled the cache size to 32 gigabytes. All this combined makes a much faster machine. Are you the first array vendor to use these new capacity drives?

Rothnie: We are the first, and today, the only [company] using these drives. You stated that you are now OEMing smaller switches from Brocade and Ancor because your "customers value one-stop shopping." If your customers value one-stop shopping, why wouldn't they prefer to buy the server and the operating system from one vendor as well?

Rothnie: The key issue is that they [the storage network components] are all operating in a heterogeneous world within the separate storage entity. The thing that has happened is a separation, much like 15 years ago in the networking industry. It evolved into an entirely separate industry. There really isn't a way to have "one-stop shopping" unless you're willing to accept a captive environment, and most customers aren't willing to do that. You stated that scalability and high availability are the hallmark of your products and that your Celerra File Server encompasses these features. How is Celerra scalable?

Rothnie: The Celerra is a system that has 14 slots for "data movers." The scalability is in that you can plug additional data movers into the Celerra. The Celerra has IP on the front end and Fibre Channel on the back end. When the slots are at full capacity, it has eight times the total throughput of NetApp [from Network Appliance, Inc.], making it the fastest NAS appliance on the market. You have named your microcode, Enginuity, and you refer to it as a special purpose operating system designed so that value-added functionality can be easily integrated into Symmetrix. Can the value-added functionality be easily integrated into your Clariion products as well using the micro code?

Rothnie: No. The Enginuity environment is architectured for the way the Symmetrix is architectured. You can't really port it into the Clariion or anywhere else. We see the Clariion as midrange. The most important thing about it is that it's designed to operate in a SAN as a full-fledged member of the EMC family. It has to be connected to EMC switching products, and then to other servers. It has a better range than of heterogeneous interoperability than anything out there. You stated that you believe at some point, servers will be viewed as peripherals. Where will the operating system and the application software reside? Even with the explosion of data and the huge growth in storage systems, won't the server, operating system and apps still play a very critical role in the future? Wouldn't it make sense for the storage and the server to be an end-to-end solution even if there is a greater requirement for storage?

Rothnie: The operating system and the applications will still reside on the server. The server environments are rapidly heading toward commodity products. In three or four years you'll mostly see Intel-driven servers running Windows 2000. The server will be viewed as quite interchangeable, and none of them will have any disks on them. You state that you were previously focused on enterprise storage, but that you have now moved to the e-Infostructure space. What does this mean?

Rothnie: The term "e-Infostructue" is intended to capture a broader idea than what people think of as a storage area network (SAN). It includes the SAN and all the tools and services around it. We believe that the current connotation is too limited. Your announcements have attracted competition from IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hitachi Data Systems and former EMC ally, Hewlett-Packard (HP). For example, IBM already has launched a counteroffensive with Shark. But, industry insiders say that your current architecture is "aged," and your new design still won't outperform IBM's. Sun aggressively targets analysts to make sure they know they're cutting edge in Storage�-to the point of attacking EMC. Last year, HP dumped EMC so it could sell products under its own name. With attacks on all fronts, strategically how will you fight the competition?

Rothnie: As far as performance is concerned, the Symmetrix 8000, in almost every operating environment, did outperform the [IBM] Shark. It clearly, greatly outruns the Shark. The fact is, Sun's situation with storage is in complete disarray. They have a bad track record in deploying storage on time. Most of Sun's customers are coming to EMC for SAN environments. Since HP "dumped" EMC, HP's revenues in the storage area have been dismal. It's true that these guys are all attacking us, but our revenues continue to rise, and these new products, I think, will extend that trend.

Related stories: IBM, EMC in storage dogfight EMC debuts Symmertix 8000

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